4 Ugly Truths about Writers and Time Management

Making Time for Writing

In Episode 1 of SZWordeatery, I offered a few tips on time management for writers and admitted that I don’t always take my own advice. We’re all human; sometimes we spend two hours we didn’t have on a quest to read everything the internet has to offer on the life of Bill Watterson because some article stirred up our Calvin and Hobbes obsession.

But we also work against our better judgment to get the job done. Let’s admit to some truths about the dirty deeds we do for our all-consuming need to write. These are the accidental/inevitable ink-stains on the tidy, white life-coaching package.

1. We make unhealthy choices.

Hungry-Writer

We discover that a 6 o’clock grande cappuccino can power us through a full evening of writing and keep us from crashing as a result of the three cups we had earlier in the day.

We also find that, with those three cups+cappuccino, we can be productive, functioning members of society on four hours of sleep.

We realize that food isn’t necessary when we’re caught up in a flight of inspiration. Why is it dark outside? Didn’t I just eat breakfast a minute ago?

2. Our brains throw tantrums at the worst times.

Bad-Idea-Good-Idea-Writing

No matter how well we plan out our day, our brain might want reading when we want writing. It may not want to do anything at all.

We can’t force great ideas whenever it’s convenient to us. We can only force bad ideas and hope to find a gem in the trash heap.

Sometimes knowing we have a deadline just around the corner is enough to make our brains go into a vegetative state.

3. Life gets in the way of writing/Writing gets in the way of life.

Life-Conflicts-Writing

After a full work week of sleep deprivation and caffeine overdosing, we crash and burn hard when we finally have a full weekend to focus on getting things done.

Family and friends need us when we need solitude.

Dirty dishes walk out of our sinks to slap us after a week of neglect.

We either don’t make time for exercise and end up looking like we were shot out to space and forgotten there, or we do make time for it but all the while cursing our bodily needs for taking us away from our work.

4. We make painful sacrifices.

Saying-Goodbye

To make more time, we give up other hobbies and dreams we loved almost equally, but not equally enough.

We forget what it means to have a free day to ourselves; we calendar relaxation. Activities we used to do for fun become integrated into our work lives–they become blog topics, articles, and pictorial marketing tools.

Time with friends and family is the hardest sacrifice we make. We lose loved ones.

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It’s funny how once you decide to make the time to write and make it a priority, you forget how to live without that time. No, you don’t just forget–you simply cannot do without. When I decided I would make time for writing, I didn’t realize this activity would effectively eat up my life.

This all might sound daunting to someone still on the fence about putting writing first, but here’s another truth:

I never feel like I’m missing out.

When I write, I’m complete and so satisfied with what I’m doing that I don’t feel too bad about declining that invitation to go somewhere fun on a whim.  I may grumble about deadlines, but I actually get a thrill from the challenge. Losing people is hard, but giving up or compromising your dreams for someone else is soul-deadening.

It’s not for everyone. You have to love it in order to endure. Listen to Dr. Kelso; remember that nothing in this world worth having comes easy.

Roll Call! First Quarter Reading List

Book Meme Abibliophobia

I do not have this fear. Is there a phobia for the fear of having too many books on one’s reading list to fit into a single lifetime?

Here’s my reading list roll call for the year so far (heaven help me it’s bound to expand by the second):

The Halloween Tree Bradbury

The Halloween Tree, Ray Bradbury

I’m saving this one for October reading. I saw the television adaptation ages ago as a kid and was thoroughly creeped out. It was one of those television shows I randomly stumbled upon, so I only recently realized it was based on a book–and by Ray Bradbury no less. Shame on me!

The Halloween Tree is a spooky tale about a group of boys who have to search the past for their friend who is whisked away by a dark force on Halloween. Traveling on the tail of a kite on the hunt for their friend, the kids learn the true meaning of Halloween.

A Game of Thrones Martin

A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin

This is something I should have read last year. I’m possibly spoiled by the HBO series. But I’ve heard enough times that the book is better than the series (and I am obsessed with the series) so I think I need to stop kidding myself and get to reading these books.

If you live in a hole and know nothing about A Game of Thrones, it’s a sprawling fantasy with political feuding, dragons, magic, dragons, epic battles, romance, dragons and dragons.

Best of Roald Dahl

The Best of Roald Dahl, by Roald Dahl

I need more children’s books in my life and who better to turn to than Roald Dahl, writer of one of my favorite children’s books of all time, Matilda. By getting The Best of Roald Dahl, I feel I’m ordering a delicious burrito full of ingredients I’m sure to love.

If you haven’t read any Roald Dahl, I’d suggest starting with Matilda, of course, and James and the Giant Peach–oh! and The Witches…and don’t forget The BFG!

Days of Magic Barker

Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War, Clive Barker

I read the first Abarat book early last year and it’s time to get to the second. I have a reason for biding my time on this one. I went a little faint when fellow blogger Jacqui Talbot informed me that Barker has not finished writing the series and has, in fact, taken ten years to write the three books that have been released. So I’m taking my time as well, hoping to catch up right when the next book is published.

The Books of Abarat series is Young Adult fantasy that takes place in a strange and wonderful world and features a plucky and interesting protagonist, Candy Quackenbush. Here’s my book review of the first book of the series.

The Tooth Fairy Joyce

The Tooth Fairy, Graham Joyce

This one was recommended to me by a friend who is convinced I will enjoy it, perhaps because of my morbid taste and love of YA books. I’m actually clueless about this author and have never heard of this book. I’m kind of excited about going into a book blind.

Tell the Wolves Brunt

Tell the Wolves I’m Home, Carol Rifka Brunt

I’m a sucker for coming of age stories and (artfully) plop a shy female protagonist into the book and I’m a goner. I think I first heard about Tell the Wolves I’m Home on one of the many websites I, the co-dependant book addict, visit to receive encouragement for my addiction. And I guess the novel has received much acclaim so that’s not a bad thing.

I bet this book is going to make me cry.

Small Gods Pratchett

Small Gods, Terry Pratchett

After reading Good Omens many moons ago, I decided I had to read a Neil Gaiman authored book and a Terry Pratchett authored book. I read American Gods and now it’s Pratchett’s turn. Reading Terry Pratchett is long overdue.

Almost everything on my list so far feels long overdue.

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What do you absolutely have to read this year?

Top Three Scary Childhood Books

I’ve always loved Halloween. One year, my parents bought one of those ambient Halloween soundtracks to give our house a little mood when kids ran up our crooked stone stairs with their bulging bags. I took the tape and hid under the covers in my room, listening to the howling wolves, cackling witches and creaking doors lilting out of the stereo speakers.

Some of my favorite shows as a kid included Tales from the Crypt, Freddy’s Nightmares and tamer programming like reruns of the Twilight Zone. The first movie I remember seeing in a theater was Creepshow 2 when I was four years old (my parents weren’t restrictive about those things).

To this day, I find horror movies and the genre as a whole oddly comforting. Most Fridays, I’ll pour myself a glass of wine and watch horror movies (bad and good) until I fall asleep. It stirs up a cozy nostalgia. Halloween is when that feeling is at its peak.

In celebration of the holiday, I present you with three of my most beloved scary childhood books (actually, they’re all series).

The Witch Saga Series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

For a good year—smack-dab in the middle of my pre-teens—I only read books about witches. Perhaps I thought if I read enough of them, I’d become one. A girl can only hope. So when I stumbled upon Witch’s Sister at the South Pasadena Library when I was about 12, it was as if the book had been waiting for me. What can I say? It was magic.

The Witch Saga is a six-book series following Lynn Morley and her friend Mouse as they investigate, and are plotted against by, Lynn’s neighbor Mrs. Tuggle, a witch. Their families and lives are compromised by Mrs. Tuggle, but Lynn and Mouse are the only ones who see through her act. Naylor really knows how to employ that trope of adult disbelief in the tales of children and the frustration accompanied by it. I remember fuming about nobody believing Lynn.

I wanted to be Lynn Morley but I was much more like her meek friend, Mouse. And I still wonder how Mrs. Tuggle’s witchy brew tasted. I always wished I could try it, dangerous as it was. I drank a Chinese medicinal tea once and that’s probably as close to the flavor I imagined—licorice, ginseng, twigs and mushrooms—as I’ll ever get. Mrs. Tuggle wasn’t the kind of witch I wanted to be, but she was delightfully dark and wicked.

The books dealt with some issues even darker than witches, like divorce and suicide. I like a young adult book that isn’t afraid to broach serious topics.

Oh, and the main character’s mother is a writer. I remember a scene in the book wherein Mrs. Morley suffers from writer’s block induced ennui.

(P.S. I was also obsessed with Naylor’s Alice series.)

Goosebumps, by R.L. Stine

At the same time I was buying tons of Goosebumps books, I was an avid fan of Are You Afraid of the Dark? Remember that series? I know you do! Okay, maybe only if you grew up in America or Canada in the 90’s. Anyway, Goosebumps was a series of horror stories for young adults. They were short, easy to read, and just plain chilling.

Stine is still writing these books. I felt old when I looked at the list of books in the series and saw that the ones I read are now called “Classic” Goosebumps. I don’t want that word associated with anything produced during my lifetime. I guess I can allow that Welcome to Deadhouse is classic in that a good scare will never be outdated.

Say Cheese and DieWelcome to Camp Nightmare…so good!

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, by Alvin Schwartz 

This is kind of bittersweet. The art in this book made it a thing to be prized among elementary school kids. Stephen Gammel’s art and Schwartz’s stories combined embodied our nightmares in an addictive way.

The publisher of this book recently decided to change the illustrations. I don’t know what they were thinking, but it makes me appreciate that I grew up with the originals.

Random story: I was one of a few kids chosen to read a tale from this book to the younger kids at my elementary school for Halloween and I did a terrible job. I was assigned to a story that relied on a blood-curdling scream for a climactic end. Me…quiet and anti-social, trying to force out a believable scream. It was the worst.

What were some of your favorite scary stories as a kid?