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.

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My First Vlog! SZWordeatery Episode 1

I decided to start a vlog where I could talk about all of my favorite things and weekly experiences in one place. Here’s Episode 1 with a recap below!

// Eat //

I recommended Paola Parson’s loveandcupcakesblog Instagram for gorgeous and alluring foodporn.

I shared my Instagram handle, pterostigma.

I visited Brentwood ice cream shop Sweet Rose Creamery and recommended the summer corn and dairy-free horchata scoops. Delish!

News: I joined the Food Riot team as a Contributing Writer, and I have a new gluten-free recipe for Chococonut Bacon Bombs on my food blog, Little PorkPie.

// Write //

I shared three time management tips for writers:

  • Use Google Calendar to organize your time and keep track of deadlines.
  • Write during your lunch break to alleviate some time-related stress.
  • Cut out as much television as possible for better productivity. It doesn’t hurt as much as you might think.

News: I’m on the last chapter of revisions for the first book of my YA Fantasy series, Aurelia and the House of Dire.

// Read //

I’m currently reading A Game of Thrones. The book and the series follow each other impressively closely so far.

News: The Kickstarter page for the first volume of my horror graphic novel, Beatrice is Dead, will be up in August!

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On Being Completely Overwhelmed

It hit me last Friday, approaching a weekend that would begin the screaming vortex that is my spring and summer schedule, coincidentally starting with a trip to Magic Mountain…land of screaming vortexes. For whatever reason–birthdays, BBQ’s, fairs, trips, the rush of pre-vacation requests at work–these seasons are always jam-packed. I had to calendar lunch with a friend because almost every other weekend in May was booked. Calendaring a lunch! I felt like Charlotte Pickles. I lifted my head from my smartphone (no Bluetooth, I’m not there yet)  after reserving his time slot and faced the colossal tidal wave rearing in front of me. My head went light as I braced myself. Stress swept my legs and took me under, shooting me into a riptide that won’t let out until early November.

I usually embrace the chaos of the warmer seasons. It’s usually all fun and games. This year, it’s fun and games that have to be balanced with the numerous writing projects I’ve taken on.

Last week, I took a break from my MS. I had just finished a review that focused on scribbling questions as I read it again from start to finish. Identifying plot holes and areas in need of improvement, looking forward to the next three books in the series and writing down themes that would have to carry through the entire set, noting key events that would have to take place. Coming out of that review, I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me. The kind of work that requires closed doors, no interruptions and real digging. I would have to answer all of these questions and fill in all of these holes. I would have to make this next draft the final one before sending the MS to beta readers. I spent the weekend celebrating my boyfriend’s birthday and cowering from Monday’s threatening fist.

I also have the graphic novel. I’m writing flash fiction horror stories to expand the world of Beatrice is Dead, telling backstories of some supporting characters and making an effort to get people excited about the actual book in progress. These stories are being illustrated by Robert Burrows, the graphic novel’s artist. My next story is due to him mid-month. I’m also researching marketing, providing merchandise copy, looking into requirements for conventions.

And this one may seem like a throw-away, but it’s important to me: writing short stories for submission to fiction magazines and journals. I need this aspect of the writing process. I need rejection and acceptance to feel challenged. It’s an integral part of my process and also a big part of working on my craft. Just let me reach into my exploding pockets to find time for it.

Work has been insane. My lunches are often working lunches, so I don’t have that hour to work on short stories as I did before.

I have this blog.

Yeah. Overwhelmed.

I will say this. I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy with my life, or felt this mentally sound since I was a kid. I don’t feel like a wistful sad-sack waiting for my dreams to come true–I finally feel like I’m actively pursuing them.

Weekend Abandon

Short StoryI won’t lie to you. I haven’t been productive since Friday afternoon. My weekends often degenerate in Dionysian abandon with field trips, barbecues, dog park adventures, clubbing, etc. This weekend, my short story was ignored as I watched a movie (“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”) on Friday, attended Cinespia‘s screening of “Psycho” at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Saturday, and took a trip to the Natural History Museum for the new dino exhibit on Sunday. I also spent much of Sunday evening prostrate on the couch, ironing out the wrinkles in my brain with bad television.

I did digest a healthy chunk of “Stephen King | On Writing” in the midst of all this. The book is studded with post-its; it was a real eye-opener. Sometimes, deep down, you know what you’re doing wrong, but you need someone else to say it, point blank, before you make a real change. That’s what this book did for me. I just needed someone to tell me to please can the adverbs. It taught me much more than that and I’ll refer to my many thoughts on Mr. King’s suggestions (and pleas) in later posts.

Starving Artist Works the Hardest

I remember some unemployed, but privileged, slam poet reciting that line during an open mic. Yes, “starving artist works the hardest”…because nothing is quite as easy as coming home from a long, high-stress day at work, feeding the pets, making dinner, tidying up, exercising and then wrenching yourself off the couch and away from whatever crap t.v. show your overworked brain is thankful to be watching so you can spend the last hour you have to yourself pouring all of your mental and emotional focus into your art.