Friday, July 3, 2009

Ha Ha Ha! Who Said I Could Give Time Management Tips?!?!

Happy Poetry Friday!

There will be a short quiz...and a poem at the end for dessert.

For many years I went to meetings that helped me figure out how an artist goes about being an artist. Even though I had never been published, I told them that I was a children’s book writer. They believed me. Their belief in me helped me believe it. (For a while I wore a pinafore to those meetings. It made me look a little like Alice in Wonderland. I figured that’s what a children’s book author would wear.)

One of the most valuable moments of my writing career happened during a meeting. There were six of us that night: a sculptor, a screen writer, a painter, a violinist, an interior decorator, a muralist and me.

I said, “Everything in my life has a voice— work, family, volunteer activities, doctor appointments, pets. But my writing is mute. It doesn’t have anyone to lobby for it.”

The next day, the violinist telephoned. “I really need your help,” she said, sounding desperate. “Can you give me an hour?”

I groaned silently…but because she was a good friend, I began mentally re-arranging my day to fit her in. “Yes, of course I can,” I said.

“Good,” she said. “Because this is your writing speaking.” Then she hung up.

That phone call was a gift. It made me see how quickly I relinquish my own plans, and that I had no priorities—everything that came my way was of equal weight.

It took me years to figure out what's really important to me--where I want to spend my energy. So, today, what are my priorities? Health. Family. Writing. Everything else has to wait in line behind these. Do I honor them perfectly? Well...let's just say I like the motto "progress, not perfection."

And what about email? Eeek!

Remember when emails were amazing cotton candy cloud messages floating in the window? Now they seem like a never-ending pile of gooey noodles. What’s a writer to do?

I tried keeping track of how many in what category came in every week—but I kept stopping to read them or wander downstairs to get another diet soda (without aspartame)…

So for now, I remind myself that I never crossed my heart and promised I’d respond to every email. What's their priority it isn’t always mine, so…I delete.

But do you want to know the single action that helps me focus, laser-like on my writing? It's packing up my laptop and writing in a coffee house. It's funny--when I'm at home, I have to have complete silence in order to write, but in a coffee house, no matter what music is playing or what they’re talking about at the next table, I order herbal tea, put my head down, and write like a demon.

So...if you're trying to figure how how to make time to write, think about the following:
~ What are your top three priorities?
~ Do you act as if you once promised a fairy godmother that you'd respond to every single solitary email?
~ Leave the house.

And now for the quiz (answers below):
1) Do you need to dress like Alice In Wonderland in order to write for children?
2) If the phone rings, should you answer it?
3) Emails has six letters. What's another, related six-letter word?
4) When writing in a coffee house, what’s the most important thing to remember?

1) During the four-year apprenticeship, yes. After that it’s optional. (Extra points for men.)
2) Yes—it could be your writing calling.
3) Delete.
4) Order herbal tea.

Speaking of tea, here’s today’s poem:

by April Halprin Wayland

Poem me, please!

Write me small things
to perch on this page:
cluster of birds
chirping hearts heard
wild feathered words.

Write me small things
to flavor this page:
thought squares you’ve found,
words tightly wound,
tea bags of sound.

Poem me, please!

© April Halprin Wayland

(It struck me funny to write a blog post about time management when I balked for so long about writing a blog because I had too much to do already. But to my amazement, this blog has fired me up because we have deadlines! And it's inspired poems! What a gift! Who would’ve guessed?)

images in this post:

leaping dancer by April Halprin Wayland


Marsha Maung said...

Love this! very well written! but i don't have a problem writing at home because kids are school for most parts of the day. and they're know not to disturb me when the door is closed. that's mommy's working hours. i check on them and they check on me sometimes....but yeah, i don't need starbucks....just yet! :-)

Joyce said...

"This is your writing calling." I love it! Thanks for charging me up this morning, April.

Joyce Sidman

malissa32 said...

love this posting! need to look at my top three priorities. i just told myself the other day that nowhere on my to-do list does it say browse the internet all day! thanks for the inspiration!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thanks for your comments! One thing I didn't say about coffee house writing was that after all those years of writing in a quiet house, i hadn't realized how lonely I was--despite lots of friends and other activities. When I write in a coffee house, there's something more that happens. It's that swirl of humanity, the energy of others that fuels me and feeds me, too.

Carmela Martino said...

Hmm, April, your comment about feeling lonely while writing at home made me wonder--maybe one of the reasons reading email is so tempting is because it relieves some of the loneliness.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Yes, yes!!!--that's exactly what feeds it, Carmela. At least for me.

Sarah Stevenson said...

The story about the phone call is priceless. What a wake-up call--literally. I definitely have the problem of maybe not quite respecting my writing time enough, not valuing it as I should.

Kim Winters said...

Love this post, April. It was just what I needed to read today. Thanks for putting the process in perspective.