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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Making Non-Writing Time Work for You

I don’t know about the rest of you, but my biggest writing challenge, even though I am a stay-at-home mom is lack of time. I’m always wishing there was one more hour in each day for writing. If only I could get hold of some of that high speed internet juice our local cable company uses as an advertising gimmick, I’d be churning out the novels in record time. Sad but true, I cannot make a day longer nor can I approach superhero speeds as I go about my routine. But there are some things I can do to milk each minute for its optimal writing potential.

A couple of years ago, I made a commitment to exercise five times a week to improve my health and keep the width of my butt from expanding exponentially, which it would do if left on its own. While I walk, if I’m not socializing with the other ladies (yes, I do that on occasion), I’m working out the next scene in my WIP, contemplating why my plot hit a brick wall, or I’m storing sensory details for future use. Some writers who exercise even attach their laptops to their treadmills and write while burning calories. It can be done.

If you do nothing else while you exercise, take in the details around you in the gym or on the walking path at your local park. What do the runners sound like as they lap you yet again? Do they huff and puff up the hill, but their stride and breathing evens out on the flat stretches? What are the bird and insect sounds you hear? They’ll be different depending on the time of year due to bird migrations and insect life cycles. In Georgia, this morning, the temperature hit the low fifties, the sun was bright in a deep blue sky, and I heard crickets in the tall grass. This summer, when I was sweltering in the heat and humidity, I heard cicadas in the trees. What about the squirrels scrambling up tree trunks? One had a scraggly tail. Was that the scree-ee of a hawk? Brown leaves crunch and crackle underfoot, but the bright yellow ones, newly blown off a nearby tulip poplar crush with barely a sound. While walking, you can use a digital recorder so you won’t forget the details you might want to use at some point in some book. Don’t worry about people thinking you’re weird as you speak into your recorder. I cannot tell you how many people I see with Blue Tooth gear in their ears looking like they’re talking to themselves while walking, shopping, or driving. No one thinks they’re insane.

One advantage to thinking through the scenes I plan to write while I’m walking is that when I get home to my office, I’m ready to make the most of the time I do have to type uninterrupted.

Carpool Lane
Ahh, the joys of picking a child up from middle school and having to arrive forty minutes prior to the bell, so as to be near the front of the line. Achieving a spot at the front not only ensures that I get dancer daughter to ballet on time, but it also gives me a block of minutes that I can use in a writing related activity. Often, I print out a scene or chapter that I need to revise. Revising hard copy is great in the car. If I don’t have hard copy to work on, I take out my spiral notebook and work on the next scene in my WIP. Other writing moms I know use alpha smarts or laptops to do the same thing. Do turn off the cell phone, though! Make the most of this windfall.

Most of us go through some sort of ritual before hitting the sack. Why not add in writing one more page or one more paragraph to your WIP, after flossing your teeth and moisturizing your face? I have to credit writer Stephanie Bond for this suggestion. She mentioned it in one of the workshops she gave at the Moonlight and Magnolias Conference, and it made sense to me. Plus, it helps eliminate the guilt you might be experiencing if you have a day where you had to be away from the computer. You can console yourself with writing a little something before going to sleep.

How about you? Are there places in your day where you can eek out more writing time? What are they? Any tips you’d like to share?
Maureen Hardegree writes southern short stories for Belle Books' Mossy Creek and Sweet Tea series. Look for her newest short story, A Tale of Two Kitties in the seventh Mossy Creek book out this winter Critters of Mossy Creek.

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At 2:03 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Mo, what great suggestions! There are some studies that show repetitive physical movement like walking stimulate the creative activity of the brain. I no longer go outside walking much, but I use a swing glider to keep up my exercise, and I find myself mulling over story lines, with flashes of insight popping in.

I used to keep a notebook and flashlight by the bed, but I've lost that habit. It would be good to jump-start me in the morning. And for a while, I used the wind-down time before going to sleep to hand-write my plan of the next day's writing. In the morning, it helped me focus and get started, and I think it gave my brain a chance to dwell on the thoughts while I slept.

At 2:18 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

I love your idea of jotting down your next day's writing plan the night before. I'll have to try it!

At 2:19 PM, Blogger Prisakiss said...

Mo, you're right about using downtime to keep the creative juices flowing. I find myself using "cleaning time" in much the same way. I've done some good brainstorming, or scene building, while vacuuming, washing dishes or scrubbing bathrooms and other places I normally don't care to clean. :-)

My girls tease me about the big purses I like to carry. But truth be told, they give me room to carry a notebook, or some manuscript pages, or a good book (for inspiration).

In these busy days we find ourselves living, it's imperative that we find these little pockets of time to claim as our own.


At 6:07 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Maureen, I'm almost always thinking of my plot--when I'm at Curves, when I'm shopping, waiting in lines, before I fall asleep. Almost nothing can keep me from thinking!

At 6:14 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

You know, I found it really important to re-claim "non-writing" time as just that--time to concentrate on my family and other obligations without letting those pesky characters butt in all the time. I was feeling pretty guilty about not giving my girls enough of my total attention, but since I've made a conscious effort to separate my writing and my "other" life, it's been better for both.

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

I like the idea of writing a writing plan down the night before. I try to write on my breaks and lunch at work, but without a real plan I tend to get off task.

I do think about my story while I am working and I carry index cards with me so that when something comes to me I can write it down.

I just need to make better use of the time when I really want to veg out in front of the television because I am too tired to move!

At 7:42 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

You bring up an important point, we do need to be fully engaged with our families when we have time with them. Once my daughter gets in the van and we're on our way to ballet, I'm not plotting. We talk about her day at school, etc. Balance is important! :)

At 7:43 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Another plus to the big purse? Weapon--if its as heavy as mine! LOL

At 7:44 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I can picture you on the treadmill at Curves with a faraway look in your eyes!

At 7:48 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I veg out in front of the t.v., too. My family watches Dancing with the Stars, ER, and when we can Ace of Cakes on the Food Network. After a busy day of walking,writing,carpooling,and sewing, I need some veg out time!

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

Mo - you're so right about how to squeeze out a little more from each day. Great suggestions.

I like that you jot down your next day's writing plan the night before because I think it makes you wake up thinking about your goal.



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