Monday, August 13, 2012

Integrating Writing into a Busy Schedule: One Writer's Story

My life has always been about the word busy. Being busy with so many things often keeps me away from writing creatively. In 2012, the word busy has literally taken on a life of its own. Among other things, my Ph.D. work, my teaching load, and my editorial work keep me plenty busy. After struggling to write well academically, to teach students to write well, and to assist clients with their stories, I have had no get up and go to delve into my own creative spaces.

In July, I tried to give myself time to think about my own stories and was failing miserably until the end of July when I learned of Esquire's short short fiction contest. On a whim, I thought, Surely, I can put together 79 words that don't suck too badly, right?

It took some time to write the piece, for as we all know, the shorter a piece, the more important each word becomes. In the writing of that first piece, a fire was lit inside me to write more. So, I did.

[my 79-worders]

Since July 28, I've written one 79-worder a day. That might not seem like a lot, but in the act of writing these pieces, my creativity has grown. I remember that I am, indeed, a writer, and that I revel in characters and story ideas and conflict. Already, I have ideas for three or four longer works and several key points for the development of my third Double Inkwell mystery. All from a few 79-worders.

It doesn't hurt that these short pieces have also forced me to think about word economy and how to select the right words or develop a sentence in a particular way. I've also had to think about where to start the story, how to start the story, and what key parts are necessary to have the piece make sense and develop within the reader's mind. These are all things that writers constantly think about when writing. It's been good stretching my creative muscles and remembering the importance of questioning these things.

Just as important as the above positive attributes to writing the 79-worders, I have realized how important being creative is to my overall well being. When I write creatively, I feel alive, grounded in something important to me, and that in turn sparks me to move and groove in all my other endeavors.

And all it took was one 79-word submission to reconnect me to my creativity.

The Esquire contest runs until September 1, so consider submitting. Seventy-nine words might provide sparks for your own writing endeavors.


How are you able to keep writing in your busy schedule? What activities do you perform to keep your creative spirit alive in your hectic life?

~~~~~~~~~~

Shon Bacon is an author, doctoral candidate, editor, and educator. She has published both creatively and academically. Shon also interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. Her second mystery, Into the Web, was released April 2012, and, recently, she's been published in the short story collection, The Corner Cafe. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University ... and trying to find the time to WRITE.

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24 comments :

  1. I found that prioritising my writing ahead of email and Internet "stuff" was really effective. Ideally I would schedule my writing as the very first thing I do, but that's not always possible or practical with two small children. But it's amazing how much one can accomplish if the Internet hasn't first sucked an hour out of one's day.

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  2. Oh Shon, this comes at such a good time for me. You've caught me with my writing pants down! First it was all the family at my summer home, that finally made me surrender my own writing so that I could at least struggle through my paid editing (I love them! I asked them to come! But if they could only stay quiet until 4 pm!!).

    Then it's been clearing out my parents' condo that finally sold, and sifting through/disposing of a lifetime of memories and furniture—two weeks, full days of back-breaking work, no internet. Now it's those same long days, only devoted to the paid editing again—I'm booked a couple of months in advance at present and can't afford to get behind without ticking everybody off.

    I have my sights set on Thursday. The condo will be done, my editing schedule will be back on track, and I can re-immerse myself in my next novel! When you're in a groove, as I was with this novel, it's so stressful to stop everything and deal with a major life event. Now I hear stress shrinks your brain—ACK! I can't be having that!

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  3. I have the same challenge. This year has been one of the busiest ever and my writing has greatly suffered. Even though I have many releases this year I'm behind on my writing for next years release (eek!) and the time I made for writing before has shrunk thanks to life squeezing in. Thanks for the tips and sharing that I'm not the only jammed packed with busy writer out there.

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  4. A story in 79 words??? I am impressed. I totally agree about the need to do creative writing every day. I have been making myself do a little bit every day on a new book. There is such a deep satisfaction in getting back to "story". That is so different from writing a thousand words of nonfiction.

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  5. Thank you for this, Shon! My writing always falls by the wayside as I work on edits for others and mundane daily chores. I'm going to let go of the frustration that builds up in me when I don't answer my creative call and welcome writing back into my daily life. Great post!

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  6. Elle, you know, I am quickly realizing (should have BEEN realized) how much time is sucked away from Internet use. I could probably run a third world country if I didn't spend so much time online doing "stuff" (I don't know even know what that STUFF is now, LOL.).

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  7. Today, I am going to try something different. I have one urgent matter to attend to this morning and then before I start my daily work I am going to sit for one hour and work on one of my own projects.

    A friend of mine is doing this and she says that it gets her creative juices flowing for the writing assignments that bring in the pay. Hopefully, the same will hold true for me!

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  8. LOL

    NO, Kathryn, you definitely can't allow stress to shrink the brain. OMG, if that's the case, I fear the size of my brain now! One thing I'm working on (and it's a continuous "work on" process) is not beating myself up when I can't write. I mean there are only 24 hours in a day, and once you subtract for sleep and eating and the paid job(s) and those life events we can't anticipate, sometimes, there isn't much time left.

    We can't beat ourselves up when these "no time" moments arrive. We just have to be prepared for when the time DOES come so that we can make it useful time.

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  9. LM, I would bet that most writers are busy writers. If we're not writing on a SLEW of projects, we're editing others' work or are holding down a 9-to-5 (or two jobs) or adding mate and children to the mix or ... and the list goes on.

    We often see writing as such a solitary act, and I think it's good to remind writers that they are not alone.

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  10. Maryann, now that isn't to say the 79-words are good, but they are there. LOL.

    You know, typically, I'm not the person that says you should write every day. However, I'm starting to see the benefit of it--not just in creative writing but in dissertation writing, too. Aside from the fact that daily writing helps to get a story or project completed faster, there is the benefit that it keeps you connected to the fact that you HAVE to write!

    I notice that the more time I put between me and my dissertation writing, for example, the harder it is for me to get back into the groove and the more stressed I become in having to write it. I would suspect that if I wrote a little each day, I would feel more connected, more able to complete the task.

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  11. Thanks, Linda!

    And you know, writing is there, smiling, sweet, just waiting for us to open the door and bring it back in. That's the coolness of it. LOL. We just need to give it a little bit of our time.

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  12. Sushiboofay, GO FOR IT! I think sometimes we get caught up in thinking about ALL the other things we could be doing with that one hour we might decide to devote to writing. We start compartmentalizing "worth" and deem writing as less worthy as other things that need to be done. We definitely need to stop that and give writing its due.

    Good luck in getting that hour in!

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  13. Yes, Internet does take up way too much time for me. My problem is whenever I do put my writing first, that's when an important email comes through that I wished I'd seen earlier.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

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  14. I get that, too, Morgan, those things that POP UP just when you sit yourself down to write. I used to, and I need to incorporate this back into my process, make my writing time a SPECIAL time. It's something that makes me happy, so setting the mood and removing as many potential disturbances as possible seem like important things to do to ensure the work gets DONE.

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  15. If stress shrinks your brain, then I'm almost to the point of needing to be watered every week. A seventy-nine word story every day sounds mind boggling right now. Keep up the good work! :)

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  16. I've caught whiffs of this on Facebook from other writers. Exactly 79 words, eh? It sounds like a kick. I love contests anyway. Why exactly 79 words, did they say?

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  17. silfert, I'm with you on needing to be watered! lol My poor brain needs growth and stimulation!

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  18. Dani, I believe Esquire is celebrating its 79th anniversary. My eyes bugged out initially when I saw 79 words. LOL

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  19. Ah, that makes sense. I'm wondering how we can turn this into a contest. 100 Good Words or something like that.

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  20. Dani, I'm sure there is, especially if we could find some cool reason for the number choice!

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  21. I like the idea of writing a 79 word story a day. You could put together a pretty rad book of stories eventually.

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  22. Shonell, I like this shorter piece writing idea of yours (well, of Esquire's) because of the impact it has on the value of each word. I think I'll use it as an exercise in minimalizing the number of words to get the meaning across in fewer words. Thanks for the nudge!

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  23. It’s been a great exercise, girlseeksplace. The pieces I’m posting now on my site are actually a part of a 17-part story. It’s like an episodic micro-story.

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  24. Yay, Sherrey! Definitely share any pieces you write. Would love to read them. I already see that writing these is making me look at how I write my longer works, especially in regards to word economy.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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