I’ve been working on upping my writing productivity this summer. It’s a necessary focus, what with completing draft 1 of my novel, posting fifteen blog posts and two newsletters a month, and managing social media for two websites. If I want to continue on that ambitious path, I need to be super-organized, and I need to feel confident that I can hit my goals monthly, weekly and daily. So at the start of the summer I re-read a book that inspired me to better productivity last fall: Write Better, Faster by Monica Leonelle.
On Sunday, I was given the opportunity to perform my writing aloud for Writers Read at The Cell theater in New York City. It was a fantastic experience. Reading my work aloud felt both new and not-new; while I’ve never read my writing for a paying audience (and live Facebook/podcast viewers), I’ve had practice reading for small groups of fellow writers, and I’ve certainly spent enough time on stage as a musician and a conductor.
I was initially much more nervous about meeting the other writers than I was about speaking, but those nerves were calmed almost the moment I walked in the door for rehearsal. There was no feeling of competition. I felt completely supported by the dozen fellow writers, who all gave and received praise with extreme grace and mutual respect. Although there was a unifying theme for the performance, all of the writing styles were enjoyably diverse. It was an honor to be a member of that group for an afternoon.
I’m hoping to post the video once it becomes available on YouTube, but for now, I’d like to share my essay below. The theme was “The Great Outdoors,” and the piece had to be read in under five minutes, so it’s rather short. Both the theme and the word count limit were a challenge for me, so I felt great pride that the essay was accepted.
Last week I wrote about my current fiction project, Blizzard; this week I’m so, super excited to announce my current nonfiction project, The Creativity Perspective!
The website has been live for about two weeks and six posts so far. It has a complete menu of pages describing the project, and a logo I just love:
What Is The Creativity Perspective?
In brief (since you can head over to The Creativity Perspective right now, or at the end of this post, and see it all for yourself) I’m embarking on a project that will educate both myself and my readers about creativity. Specifically, I believe that creativity is universally accessible, teachable, grow-able, and vital to everyday life; these beliefs are the jumping-off point for the project. [Read more…]
One of my goals this summer, besides finishing the draft of my next historical novel, is to blog about it. I got to the next phase of my nonfiction project this past week by launching the website (I’ll be writing about and promoting that in the next post), so I’m starting to shift my Words From The Sowul focus a bit; I’d like to write more about fiction here, since I will have a new space to write about my nonfiction. It’s the best of both worlds, for those readers who’d like to follow both blogs!
Since I’ve written very little about Blizzard (working title) here except for the historical topic, today’s post will be an overview of the book. This is the first time I’m sharing any of this information with anyone except my agent. I tend to keep my fiction pretty close to the chest until I’m several drafts in, but I’m excited about this one and I feel ready to let go a little. (I’m inspired by my friend Sara Letourneau in this realm; she frequently blogs about her current draft progress and the characters she’s working on, and I admire these posts so much that I’m taking the plunge myself. Thanks, Sara!) [Read more…]
Yesterday I went to the library for a glorious two hours and worked on my writing plans for summer. I love the feeling of the whole summer spreading out before me, ready to be filled with words to write and even more words to read! It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
For those of you who wonder how a mother of an active three-year-old with limited summer daycare is able to commit to big writing projects, here’s how I make it work:
- I get up early. In my twenties, I thought the summer and the weekends meant I was “allowed” to sleep in. But now I know how much more productive and happy my days are if I get started before my family is awake. I can set my alarm a little later than I do during the school year, but I’m still going to be up at 5:45. Years of teaching and using the early-morning time slot for writing makes that time feel reasonable to me. I won’t need to adjust my sleep schedule for summer; I’ll still be going to bed at close to the same time, but it’s rare that I find a reason to stay up late anyway. (Watching more TV is never a good reason in my book.)
- I use nap time. My son still takes a decent-length nap in the afternoon. This is partly because he doesn’t sleep very long overnight, only about 9 hours, but I’m not complaining because I love that afternoon break. More important than committing to write during naps is having a routine in place. I always start off with some yoga or meditation to help me transition into the writing mentality. I don’t need that transition when I work first thing in the morning, but if I don’t do it during nap time, I procrastinate.
- I don’t plan everything. I schedule more minor writing-related tasks (i.e. promoting blog links on Twitter) for anytime I can fit them in. They’re floating boxes in my planner; if I see a pocket of time when Edwin is happily playing by himself, I’ll grab my laptop.
- I use the “pomodoro” technique. I write for a set amount of time, and then I’m done. In the mornings, it’ll be a 40 minute block; in the afternoons, it’ll be a 20 on one project and a 40 on the other. I used to measure by word count, but I found I’m more productive with using time, at least for the “just get it done” draft. It also helps with any mental complaining when I look at my schedule and realize I only have to work for a set time every day, and it’s not even close to the amount of time I spend at work during the school year.
- I plan ahead. It’s really, really hard to write a first draft when you’re not entirely sure where the story should go. Plot outlining is a must… but when I’m first starting a draft, I don’t like to commit myself to a specific outline. I want the ability to create and discover ideas as I write. So I only outline about 10 chapters in advance. In Scrivener, which is where I do my novel-writing, you can make a little “notecard” to represent each chapter. I write a plot summary for each chapter on the notecard, and then when I’m drafting, I have some rough ideas to start with. I still have the freedom to change, but I don’t have to face the fear of a completely blank page.