Monday, June 29, 2009

The Five-Minute Writing Career*

*that would be five minutes at a time. Read on for clarification

One of our readers asked how much time the Teaching Authors devote to writing, how much to career development, our individual websites, professional reading etc.

I am THE worst person to ask, so of course, I am the one to address this question first!

There are people who are organized. They keep schedules, tidy desks and have all their Christmas presents bought and wrapped by Halloween. These people might be my fellow bloggers.

Alas, I am not one of them.

I am a genetically disorganized and unscheduled person. If you are looking for a pie chart of how much time you should spend brainstorming, writing, designing a website, doing outreach, reading, etc...well, maybe one of my colleagues will provide you with that information.

When I first got serious about writing as a career (as opposed to a whenever-I-felt-like-it-proposition), I met a published writer. I was amazed that not only had she produced three novels in five year, she had two kids under the age of 10! I simply couldn't imagine how she carved out the time.

So I asked her.

She would hide in the bathroom and scribble furiously for a couple of minutes. Apparently her kids understood "Mommy has to go to the bathroom" more than "Mommy is working."

What? I thought you had to write four or five hours without interruption to produce anything. This woman was literally writing five minutes at a time. Then I had a child and discovered what she meant.

My writing day went from five hours a day to however many minutes I can string together, in five or ten or thirty minute increments. My number one priority is writing. Face it, if you aren't writing, you don't have a "career" to develop! If I have a pending school visit/presentation, that takes precedence. If I have a revision deadline, THAT goes to the top of my "to-do" list. Updating my website and promotional materials is relegated to my "spare" time. I make a point to attend at least two workshop/conferences a year (they're tax deductible!) I have addressed professional reading in previous posts.

This summer I had planned to catch up on odds and ends like the website. As per usual, when I actually plan, Life put my plans into a blender. I had eye surgery. My daughter's figure skating practice went from two to four or five hours a day, five days a week. The rink is a zoo with day camps and hockey camps and kids just looking for a place to cool off. Sometimes the only place to sit is the lobby floor. That is if you don't mind being stepped on or becoming the goal net in a roller hockey game. I can work through a fair amount of mayhem, but I have my limits.

If any of this rings true for you, you are not alone. Here are some books written for us, the Chronically Time-Stressed, Overscheduled and On Deadline Writers.

Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett; I'd Rather Be Writing by Marcia Golub; Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz; Page After Page by Heather Sellers.

WHAT I'VE READ SINCE LAST BLOG:(YA Fiction) Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott; (YA Historical fiction) Lost by Jacqueline Davies; (Adult Non-fiction) Boy, Alone by Josh Greenfield


Sarah Campbell said...

How much of your time do you spend reading blogs? LOL.
Even in this day of computers, I find that I get good writing done when I take my notebook along to the park or the doctor's office. I spend time trying to work on a specific problem. I haven't written anything long form yet and I have a feeling it is because I don't put enough sustained time into it.

malissa32 said...

This post is encouraging. I too felt like I had to be this disciplined, all day writer to get anything worth reading down on paper. I will give the "when I can find the time" idea a chance and just start getting down words when I can. Thanks for the inspiration!

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