Writing While Working: Updates

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Today is my third day of incorporating writing into my work day (in the morning before work, during my lunch break and after work). I wanted to post an update about how this week was going and some of my feedback for trying out this schedule.

My day starts at 7:00 AM on Tuesdays, and so yesterday, I found myself walking Queso in the cold darkness of 5:00 AM, wrapped in a blue blanket while scrolling through blogs on my phone. I did have to think that this image is how an urban legend would come about – a shivering, pale woman enshrouded in blankets, calling out, “Qu-e-e-e-soooo!” is seen roaming around a country yard before dawn . . . Nonetheless, this time is perfect for both making sure I get to hang out with my dog before work and also replying to blog comments and getting new ideas for writing. These morning times are actually one of my favorite parts of the day, as everything is so quiet and peaceful. We even have roosters nearby, so it makes me feel like I am a writer in the countryside (oh wait, I am!).

Later, on the drive to work, I turned on another fifteen minute episode of the Odyssey podcast. This one was the second episode in the series and was given by Jeff VanderMeer. He mused on why fantasy is important. I really wish I would have discovered podcasts earlier in my life, as they are great ways of passing the time on long road trips, or daily commutes like my 45 minute one. If you’re interested in checking out the podcast I’m listening to this week, the link is here.

This morning (Wednesday) I pulled up podcast number three on the drive, which I enjoyed the most so far. This podcast included an excerpt from the speaker Gardner Dozois who discussed tips for sending in work to editors. He included suggestions like not giving a synopsis in your cover letter, which surprised me, but he pointed out that a work should speak for itself in terms of theme and synopsis. He also stressed the importance of remaining professional rather than falling into the idiosyncratic writer stereotype, as most people can’t pull that off well. An encouraging point he shared was that work is sometimes thrown into the “rejected” pile not necessarily because the editor doesn’t like the writing but because it doesn’t fit the current market.

It is now lunch time, and I have rushed over to the Starbucks right down the road from work to whip out my laptop and type up this post. When I hurry, I can make that hour long lunch break seem longer than it is. This week, I have definitely gotten a wake-up call in terms of how much time I spend procrastinating or not being conscious enough of timewasters.

Another exciting bit of news I did want to share is that my blog is up to 100 followers at the moment! This may not seem like a lot, but it is amazing to have any readers whatsoever out there. I am ecstatic that there are people (like you!) who have read posts of mine and shared their own writing with me as well. Even having one person read something I have written is a big deal for this formally shy writer. Thank you to everyone reading; I am learning lots through my experiences with you all and have been so encouraged to continue living my life of writing!

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Resources for Beginning Writers

As a beginning writer (“beginning” in terms of starting to prioritize my writing and learning to practice self-discipline), I have accumulated a pool of resources which have helped – and continue to help – me at various stages of my writing process.

This list is a conglomeration of online resources as well as tangible resources, both of which I find incredibly useful to keep focused and build my writing habit.

1. Gotham Writers’ Workshop: Writing Fiction

This book provides an invaluable introduction to the process of writing fiction. Each chapter is written by a different author and focuses on various elements of the craft of writing fiction such as plot, character, point-of-view, and dialogue.

An interesting addition to the book is the inclusion of Raymond Chandler’s short story “The Cathedral.” This story is referenced throughout the book and provides a framework for citing specific examples of each chapter’s focus. In addition to “The Cathedral,” the authors reference many, many other famous works to explain strategies for taking your writing to the next level.

2. Submittable.com

If you read my previous post about Submittable, you already know I am a huge fan of this submissions management platform. For writers who submit their work to various online magazines and literary journals (publications which may also appear in print), Submittable is an easy way to keep track of all of their submissions. In fact, many online publications require writers to submit their work solely through the system, as it allows them to keep track of submission pools with ease.

The “Discover” feature allows writers to view publications currently accepting submissions and clearly lists any associated submission fees and deadlines. Finding publications with an open submission window and which also accept your type of writing used to take hours, but Submittable lets you filter publications and find the right ones quickly.

3. Planners

Yes, writers are creative, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be organized. I faithfully use my planner to establish daily/weekly/monthly writing goals and record my progress towards meeting those goals. The link above is for the exact planner I use, although I picked mine up at Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago.

Of course, you will want to choose a planner that works for your lifestyle. I recommend the above planner because it has weekly and monthly views (each month is tabbed separately), and there is also a nice little bonus in the back which includes space for project planning and keeping lists of books to read.

If using a planner isn’t your typical style, don’t be put off by the idea if it sounds too intense. Goal-setting via a planner can be as simple as making a list in the morning of all the things you wish to accomplish on a certain day (ex. writing a blog post, finishing editing a story, writing for twenty minutes, etc.) and then reviewing the list that evening to see what actually got done. When I started doing this, I was shocked to see how many tasks I let fall to the wayside, which invariably snowballed into me failing at my ultimate goal, to write more. But now, I am able to hold myself accountable for completing the majority of my daily tasks.

4. Yoga

No, you haven’t accidentally crossed over into a fitness blog. Yoga with Adriene is a popular YouTube channel that lets you choose a specific lesson for that day. Yoga has, oddly, helped me focus on my writing by teaching me to relax my mind and body so that I am in a clear headspace to be creative. Something I bring up frequently when talking about my writing is how anxiety interferes with my creative writing process, and that is something that took me years to realize.

Taking an online yoga lesson like the one above is great for stretching your limbs after several hours of sitting. It also gives your mind a break from your work in progress while stilling those nagging worries that creep up as you’re trying to finish a story. I also enjoy going to an in-person yoga class in my town. If you’re new to yoga, keep in mind that often, these classes are only ten dollars or so and it isn’t unusual for several other yoga beginners to be there as well, so it is definitely work checking out.

5. Meetup.com

If you are looking to network with local writers in your area, Meetup is a fantastic way to do so. Other writers can serve as accountability partners or even writing resources themselves. It is free to create an account, and you can search for writing groups in your area. Many groups are free to join whereas some may have a small fee (about five dollars a month) to cover membership costs. Even the small town I live in has several Meetup groups nearby.

Most groups I’ve participated in have met at coffee shops and other lowkey places. You’ll want to choose a writing group that is your style, whether you’re looking solely for company while all working on your own projects or if you are looking for groups which critique one another’s work and offer suggestions in a more formal style.

These resources have all helped kickstart my writing this past year. I hope you find some of them useful in your own writing journey, too. Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to leave a comment below to share your own resources that have guided your writing!

How I’ve Designed My Writing Schedule to Fit My Life


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One of the things we often talk about in the writing groups I attend is what a typical writing day looks like for each of us. Everyone seems eager to learn about other people’s habits and their strategies for getting the most writing done. If there is one common motivating factor I have uncovered through my discussions with other beginning writers, it is that we all feel like we could be writing more.

I have tried out a plethora of suggestions for writing times (i.e., writing early in the morning before work, writing on your lunch break, writing thirty minutes every day, etc.). What I’ve come to learn during all of these trial periods is that no one else’s schedule actually works for me. Of course, I have learned useful tips from others, but it is impossible for me to follow someone else’s writing strategy precisely, and I am sure they would have the same difficulty in following mine. What’s more is that a schedule that once worked for me in the past may not work for me at the present moment and vice versa.

So why is it so hard for me to stick to the same writing schedule?

My Sleep Habits Change

I have unearthed several of my own reasons that I find it difficult to keep the same writing schedule throughout the years. One of the main reasons is due to my age, and by default, my sleep schedule: I am not the night owl that I used to be. While I’m not lucky enough to be at retirement age quite yet, at nearly thirty I am also not young enough to pull the all-nighters that I once could when I was in my early twenties. It is hard to believe I could regularly write for hours past midnight or stay up all night finishing a college paper. These days, by nine or ten o’clock p.m., my brain is done for the day.

I’ve found that at this time in my life, writing earlier in the day is the way to go. My mind is fresher and I am able to focus even better than I could when I would over-caffeinate myself to stay up throughout the night in my younger days. However, this morning schedule would not have worked in that earlier time in my life, either. Trying to wake up to write before an 8:00 a.m. class would have been a fate worse than death back then.

Work is a Four Letter Word

My writing schedule also revolves around my work schedule. Work is a huge factor in limiting my writing time. One of the things I noticed after tracking my writing each day for a few weeks is that most of my writing ends up being done on the weekends. There is so much going on during a work day (week days, in my case), that I don’t usually have the time or energy to write after work. And that is okay!

There is a lot of information out there in writing communities stressing the importance of writing each day, but for me personally, that is not my most productive schedule. I’d rather write a couple hours straight for one day when I am relaxed and rested than try to squeeze in one painful, sleep-deprived hour late in the evening after work for Monday through Friday.

That being said, on those week nights where I do have some free time (the laundry pile has miraculously disappeared, there are no appointments, and so on), I make an effort to put in some time writing rather than watching a third hour of Blue Planet II (as wonderful as the show might be…).

Social Obligations

Yes, even writers are expected to participate in social situations. My writing schedule will vary depending on my family’s and friends’ circumstances as well. For example, if I know I have a wedding to attend, then I can be pretty certain trying to write between meal courses is fairly out of the question, and I’ll need to try to get in a good writing session before that date. Same thing for vacations or birthdays. I have learned to accept those days as work-free days and plan my writing around them to make up for lost time.

So what is my “typical” writing schedule at the moment? It varies. I try to fit in at least two evenings of writing weeknights after work. Usually, that time will be after dinner, around 7:30 PM onward. On the weekend, I like to start writing earlier in the day when the house is quiet and my mind is clear. I might pull out my laptop while I am drinking that first cup of coffee and eating a little breakfast around 9:00 or 10:00 AM. I often return to writing during those weekend evenings as well for a few hours, sometimes to edit what I started earlier in the day or to continue with a first draft.

Especially over the last year and a half, I have begun carving out dedicated times to write. I make sure to let people know that I am trying to finish a piece of writing or working on something specific so that they know I am not free at that time. Headphones help me focus and drown out background noise, or sometimes, even closing the bedroom door gives me the solitude I need to concentrate. I’ve learned that no matter where or when I am writing, I have to give my writing one hundred percent of my focus for those precious hours; otherwise, I will never finish anything.

As I mentioned earlier, I know my own shifting schedule wouldn’t work for everyone. I would love to know your own writing habits and suggestions, so please leave a comment, and I’ll get back to you!