Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Squeezing time until it squeals

My writing garret
As a full-time writer, full-time grandmother, and part-time caregiver to my 3-year-old granddaughter, time to write undisturbed is a precious and rare commodity. I live with my oldest daughter, her husband, and their little girl, Molly. I enjoy being able to watch her grow up, but I also have five other grandchildren whom I love to visit when time allows. So with my daughter going to college and my son-in-law working, it's tough to find the time to retire to my garret to languish in front of my computer while I wait for inspiration to grace me with its presence.

I should probably insert this disclaimer: Inspiration rarely graces me with its presence, particularly when I want it to. As with all writers, great thoughts occur to me just as I drift off to sleep, step into the shower, or while I'm in the middle of Walmart or stuck at a stoplight. So I've learned to make the most of my time spent with Molly and during those other endeavors to capture thoughts and not waste any of the time I do have during the day to tend to my writing duties.

Let's face it, even when I do sit at my desk, I'm not writing non-stop (thanks to Facebook, email, checking the news, etc.) so why do I assume I can't write while tending to Molly? A good share of our writing goes on in our heads before it ever reaches a computer, so it's more a matter of finding ways to capture those thoughts than it is bemoaning that we're not at our desks, fingers on the keyboard, spilling great thoughts onto the computer monitor.Yes, it may be sporadic, but those minutes here and there add up, and I often find I've accomplished more on my book during a day spent cleaning the house and chasing a 3-year-old around than I do when I'm at my desk.

We creative folks often think we should be doing more, and doing it better, than anyone else. While we might need to work harder to compete in this insanely tough career we're pursuing, we can work just as well and as efficiently even when we're not at our desks. Here are a few things I've found that help me squeeze time (until it squeals) throughout a day when I'm busy doing other things. They are no doubt familiar (and might be something you already do), but I think they bear reviewing.
  • A small tablet and pen in every room I wander into throughout the day means I'm never without the means to jot down a thought. (It beats scribbling on toilet paper, old receipts, and coupons.) At the end of the day, I tear out the pages and type them into an "idea sheet" I keep on my computer. It usually takes all of ten minutes. Too many notebooks? Put a pen and small tablet in your pocket and you're set to go no matter where you wander. 
  • The same can be done in my car and my purse. Fair warning Walmart and red lights: No longer do you hold the power to rob me of valuable inspiration! (Valuable time, yes, but inspiration? No.)
  • If I find myself (gasp!) without a tablet and/or pen, I say the thought aloud several times. Yes, it garners a few strange glances, but I've found it's easier to recall an idea if I've heard it, rather than just thought it. Weird, I know, but it works for me. And If I'm shopping with someone else, I tell them my idea, ask them to commit it to memory, and then two of us have heard it. Then if we've both forgotten it, I have someone else to blame. Handy. 
  • A small handheld recorder or even today's phones can record thoughts when we're not able to jot down something. 
Let's remember that for centuries books have been written using nothing more than a quill and whatever passed for paper back then. Many great books were penned (and I do mean "penned," not typed or spoken into a computer) during treacherous war years, long imprisonments, even during times of plague. Talk about inconvenient. We're spoiled when you think about it.

And finally, let's keep in mind that if we write just one page a day for a year, at the end of those twelve months, we'll still have written a 365-page book!
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