I can bring home the bacon (at least from the grocery store), and I can fry it up in the pan. I can…well, never mind. You all remember the rest.
Most of us handle the daily stuff just find. What gets tricky, though, is keeping the writing, or a specific kind of writing, at the top of the to-do list. For the past few years, I’ve been handling the fiction very well. I’ve made steady progress–got a book ready for submission and started researching and brainstorming the next. I loved it.
Then I started writing nonfiction. I also love this part of my writing life. It uses a different part of my brain, it goes much more quickly than the fiction (which makes for many more instant-gratification moments), and–with it–I’m getting published. Always a plus.
When I got the contract for this latest project, The Critiquer’s Survival Guide for Writer’s Digest, I faced a realization. I might not be going back to work full-time, in an office or cubicle, from nine to five, but I was back to work. The deadline is not impossible, but it’s tight, and signing that contract was a serious (albeit ecstatically happy!) commitment.
And because of that commitment, I have a new challenge: to make time for my fiction. I refuse to push it aside, lose track of my characters, or give up the sheer joy I get from writing it.
There are many variations on my theme:
- Full-time workers writing at the end of a long, hard day
- Parents fitting in a few minutes of writing while a baby naps or Sesame Street is on TV
- Journalists making space and time for that dream novel
- Series writers scheduling time to draft (or just propose) the next book, while writing another and revising a third (Hi, Terri!)
- Every other writer with a challenge I haven’t specifically listed here
I don’t know one writer who has it easy, who doesn’t struggle with this juggling act. LIfe happens, and–wonderful as it often is–it does give us too many reasons and excuses to turn away from our writing.
Here are some things I’ve been mulling on over the past couple of weeks, reminders to myself about how I canmove foward on all parts of my writing path–nonfiction and fiction. Thought I’d share.
- Put your work on the calendar. If you schedule the time, it will come. Block out specific time slots for your writing–whatever kind you want and need to do. Work hard NOT to schedule anything that’s a conflict.
- Write a little bit, on everything, every day that you can. Fifteen minutes may seem like nothing, but it’s more than zero (see, I can do math). One of the biggest steps you can take for your writing is to keep it in the front of your mind. Every day that you stay away from it is another chunk of time that it will take you to get back up to speed on your story.
- Talk to other writers. I know, for some of us, sharing the details of a story before we’ve reached a certain point is hard, even scary. You don’t have to take it that far. Just have a conversation, discuss your progress or your struggle. Connect. It will remind you that you are a writer, and that will make you act like one.
- Reward yourself. Chocolate. A new book. These days, I’m using writing as my reward. When I use my main writing hours to be productive on the nonfiction, I get to spend my evening time with the fiction. The balance of time is definitely skewed toward the nonfiction, but that’s how it needs to be right now. But this method is keeping my fiction world alive.
Finally, I’ve given myself a mantra or a visualization or a statement–whatever you like to call it. I wrote it on a small piece of paper and stuck it to the bottom of my monitor, where I can see it everytime I sit at my desk to work. Three short words. It says simply: Room for Both.
What balance are you trying to achieve on your writing path? Do you have tricks or tips, or another mantra, to share? Drop into the comments and let us know.