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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Working in Writing While Working this Week


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I am finding time for alliteration even while working a full-time job! I woke up this morning with a goal in mind: find as many ways to work in writing this week. I have been in training for my new job the last two weeks and while I have been able to write a little, I am far from my ideal writing habit.

I haven’t been too hard on myself, as I needed to give myself time to adjust to a new job, but as I’m starting the third week, I have decided to “buckle down” and go with a test run of some ideas I have had.

This is a brief outline of my writing plan:

Podcasts

Every morning this week, I am going to listen to a podcast on the commute to work. I downloaded enough episodes to get me through this week. The podcast I am listening to this week is The Odyssey. It appeared on a list of useful podcasts for writers, so I decided to give it a go. I listened to the first episode this morning and I am pleasantly surprised by how informative it was. The episode was an excerpt of an author’s writing workshop, and he provided lots of tips for writers. These tips included how to describe characters without their descriptions seeming too heavy-handed and the importance of setting in a story.

Re-Thinking Lunch Breaks

I am currently writing this post on my lunch break outside of a McDonald’s. I’m the type of person who needs to leave work on my lunch break just for a change of atmosphere, so I was on the lookout for public WiFi. Conveniently, there is a McDonald’s a quarter mile away from work, so I grabbed a snack from the drive-thru and set up with my laptop in the comfort of my car. There is also a Starbucks nearby, so I have another close location for quick blog posts.

It is my goal this week to do some sort of writing (blogging, journaling, creative writing, etc.), even if it is a haiku, on every lunch break.

Multi-Tasking

As I have returned to work, I am not able to go on nice, long walks during the day with my beloved dog. Instead, I walk him in the mornings and late afternoons (Alex walks him during his lunch break). I have realized that those half hour to hour long walking sessions are also a convenient time for me to check out other people’s blogs and network with other writers. Therefore, I have decided I am going to use those walking times to get inspired by all the bloggers out there. I might even try reading books at this time, although I have never been big on reading long texts electronically.


I am giving this week a trial run with these goals to see the best areas for fitting in writing and writing-related tasks into my busy schedule. I will post how this week goes and will also share any tips on what I learn.

Jobs, Dogs, and Plots: Reevaluating My Writing Schedule

Queso!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I find that life often calls for a reevaluation of my writing schedule. This week has proven to be the case and for two great reasons.

The first is that Alex and I adopted a dog from the local shelter. We have been talking about doing so for going on a year now and finally felt it was a good time. He was a stray, and even though he was brought to the shelter wearing a collar, no one claimed him after several days. The staff there called him Cheese-It because of his orange coloring, and at the suggestion of a friend, we have tweaked that name to Queso. A ridiculous name and yet also fitting for his goofy personality!

I am sure that every dog owner says this, but he is perfect (really!). He is chill, quiet, friendly with our two cats, house-trained, the smartest dog ever (he is already learning “sit” and “down”), and so on. I’m surprised my poor friends and family are even answering my texts anymore since I have bombarded them with cute pictures non-stop.

This week was my last week of unemployment (another hooray!), and so I was able to spend the whole week with Queso, helping him get adjusted to his new home. He is a huge fan of extremely squeaky toys – the squeakier the better – and loves being brushed, which is good since he is “a bit” of a shedder. Due to this influx of squeaky-toy-time in my schedule and also my new-found addiction to finding ways to remove dog hair from virtually every object in the home, I have not been able to write as much as I would like.

The second reason I need to reevaluate my writing schedule is that, as I mentioned, this week was my last week staying home. I am excited to be starting my new job on Monday which will require an interesting schedule of 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM some days and 9:30 PM – 6:30 PM other days (no weekends though, thankfully). With this new schedule, I will need to do some heavy structuring to make sure I get in enough writing in to remain sane.

I am still working on some ideas, but I am thinking of writing during my lunch break since I will be getting a solid hour every day. I will also be getting home before five three days a week, which will give me time to write in the late afternoon. I have been playing with the idea of posting segments of the same short story throughout the week as a way to divide up writing into more manageable chunks along with more posts about my writing process and experiences.

Time will tell in regards to the best way to adjust my writing schedule, and I will be sure to post updates on any revelations I come to. In the meantime, I welcome any suggestions readers may have for writing while caring for pets and/or working irregular hours.

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!