Monday, October 1, 2012

My So-Called Writing Life

This past week, the Teaching Authors have been visiting the subject of best practices when it comes to our writing schedules.  Anyone looking to this post for tips on how to lead a productive and/or well-organized writing life had best look elsewhere.  If you'd like to make yourself feel better about your own work habits... read on.

I am an unabashed night owl.  My dad says that I was born in California four decades ago and never quite got my body clock on EST.  My most productive writing time (even when I lived in California, I must admit) has always happened between the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.  However, when I got married, I began waking with my husband at 5:30 a.m.  Our children are also early risers.  Bye-bye productive writing time.  Some nights I will try to take a brief nap at my kids' bedtime and then get up and work.  More often than not, given the busy-ness of our days, I wind up sleeping straight through.

My day job is a writing job, so there's always the matter of getting my paid work done first.  Typically I get up, get the kids ready, and drive the morning carpool before I get down to business.  On a good day, I will then spend half an hour on the elliptical with a book (or at least a few Days of Our Lives outlines -- there's always soap reading to get out of the way).  Then I plop my laptop in my lap, snuggle with the puppy, and start writing -- or at least make a stab at it.

My current job function is "scriptwriter," and I usually write one complete script each week.  (Every few weeks, there will be two.)  I have seven days to complete the week's assignment(s), so if I write and edit an act per day in a typical week, I'm in fine shape.  In practice, I usually spend at least a day reading and a day at the end of the process on editing and polishing.  We write from detailed outlines, and some scripts go much more quickly than others.  Also, if I could force myself to ditch my habit of Internet surfing every time I get stuck (approximately every five minutes), I would add an additional two hours of productive time to each day.

Afternoons are for kids' activities and homework.  This semester I also teach three mornings of the week, as well as one evening.  Besides the scriptwriting, I have to squeeze in time for lesson planning and, of course, grading essays (for example, 40 this weekend).  Every other Sunday night I also remember in the nick of time (at least so far) that I have a blog post to write.    

Now, scriptwriting is by far the least onerous and time-consuming paid writing job I've had in a decade.  But it has been so long since I've made my own writing a regular practice, I am having a hard time finding my groove again.  While in theory I think it would be better to work for an hour every day, I seem to do much better with larger chunks less frequently.  I had a vacation week a few weeks ago and did pound out lots of pages.  That felt good.  But it's like exercise -- the feel-good result is only so motivating in comparison to the difficulty and discomfort of the undertaking.

A fellow scriptwriter told me that she spends four hours every week working in a quiet room with a friend who's studying.  I have noticed that I am much more productive when someone in the room can see how much I'm goofing off. :)  I do think Carmela's on to something with her writing buddy idea.  Now I just need to find mine! -- Jeanne Marie
Don't forget to enter our Guest Teaching Author Book Giveaway to win an autographed copy of FORGET ME NOT by the fabulous Carolee Dean.
This week's reading recommendations:
Patrick (grade K): anything Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold
Kate (grade 2): The Bell Bandit by Jacqueline Davies
me: Capture the Flag by Kate Messner


Carmela Martino said...

Wow, JM, grading 40 essays in one weekend. Yikes!
Don't be so hard on yourself--writing 1-2 scripts/week while teaching and raising young children is amazingly productive in my book. You ARE writing; unfortunately, it's not necessarily what you want to be writing for yourself. Hang in there!

Linda B said...

You sound very busy, but I also find I waste time, as you said, like surfing the net, or just getting distracted by something else I found to read, etc. I liked hearing about your process-always interesting to hear about others.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Dear JM...I'll bet there's a line of readers who'll volunteer to be your writing buddy! I'm among them :-)

Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford said...

Carmela, 40 essays is nothing compared to the 130 my husband brings home from a day's work -- but (this being another 40-essay weekend), it still feels like a lot of work.

April, really, will you be my writing buddy? I love you!

Linda, you may feel that you waste time, but you are my productivity idol.