Friday, November 30, 2012

Learning When NOT to Write: A Reality Check


Today, I am not doing what I planned to do on this blog. That is, I am not posting what I planned to post, which was a look at how we can energize ourselves to write when we're busy. Obviously, if you have read this blog often, you know I'm busy, often too busy (I confess). So I do have some thoughts to share about keeping your energy up and taking care of yourself so you have the power of creativity behind you, even when you have a busy schedule.

But there are times when you just have to recognize you can't do it all.

And that's my personal lesson for this month, which maybe you can sympathize with. I started out the month planning to get 50,000 words written on a novel in progress that I want to finish in draft by the end of this year. And if all things had been equal, I could have done it.

This month, all things have been decidedly unequal. Drastically so. There is just too much going on in my life to meet that goal. And I've decided, after a talk with my best friend who kindly gave me a reality check, that it is entirely okay to let go of the 50k word count goal for the moment. It means I won't be winning Nanowrimo this year. But it also means I can put more energy into being there for a friend recovering from surgery, as well as supporting my young nephew who is currently in the hospital. It means I can better guard my energy levels given that this is an absolutely insane season of deadlines at my day job. It means I can concentrate on the writing class I offered to teach without burning myself out.

Yeah, I have to admit it: the Chipper Muse can't do it all. So, I'm giving myself a break and not writing this week. It's not the end of the world. So, for those of you in this boat too, like my Twitter friend Derek (@wrytersblockDH) who said to me: "It's the mental energy to write after a 12-hour door-to-door day I can't find," I say this:

The writing life is life, not an event. We are still writers, even when life demands that we not write at the moment.

Next week, I hope to be back with a look at how I energize myself to write. But hey, if it doesn't work out for me to do this series of posts until January, that's okay. I'm learning when not to write.

Do you ever find yourself in this position? How do you reconcile your hunger to write with your need to rest, spend time with others, and take care of yourself? Share, please!

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Writing with Thankfulness

AI am so thankful I am a writer. There is no doubt in my mind that writing is something I was created to do and made for, because I love doing it. And of course, with this being Thanksgiving week, I began thinking about how thankfulness and writing go together. They do, you know.

Here's how I think about it:

I'm thankful for the challenges of writing. Aren't you? Sure, writing is a demanding profession. It requires us to continually strive to learn more and be better at what we do. It's not something you can succeed in for very long if you are lazy. Those challenges can remind us of how important it is to pursue the things that we are passionate about, even when they're hard at times. So... Thank you, God, the universe, and life, for that.

I'm thankful that the writing community is one of the warmest, most helpful communities I've ever belonged to. Sure, there are a few curmudgeons out there. There are some bad critiquers and some jealous people in the community. But by and large, most writers I've met, no matter what level of skill they're at or how successful they may be, are glad to take a little time to answer questions, offer suggestions, encourage you when you're down, and giving you accountability when you need it to boost your word count on days that are hard for you. I've made some great writer friends in person at critique groups, online on blogs, and through Twitter. To all of you... Thank you for your support.

I'm thankful that I don't have to define success in writing as only a book deal. Sure, I want a book deal. We all want to be published. But a popular blog is success, because you're reaching your audience. Having opportunities to guest post for other blogs is success, because somebody likes you and what you have to say well enough to give you space in their world to speak. Success is writing more good words than bad words, more in word count that you usually do in a day, better quality than your past work. Success in writing takes on many forms. For that... I say thank you.

And finally, I'm thankful that a good attitude can help you write better, write more words, and write with more joy. When I'm feeling content and thankful, it is somehow easier to be creative as well as to sit for longer at the keyboard and type. This is also true when I feel rested and centered. That state of mind is energizing for my writing, and I'm thankful for that. In fact, I'm going to share about this in a blog series starting next week, because I know that finding and maintaining the energy to write when we're busy is crucial for a lot of us, and sometimes it seems hard to find. I have some ideas about that, and I want to share them with you.

Now, let me ask you: What are you thankful for these days? Share anything, of course, because I love good news. But I'd especially love to know what writerly things you are thankful for.

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Help! I Can't Find Time to Write

For the past two weeks, this blog has been focused on finding time to write. My buddy, James Garcia Jr., shared how he finds time to write, and I shared some great blog links from other writers who have some good time management tips. (Links to both posts are below.)

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
Today, I thought I'd take a look at the things that busy writers can do when they feel like they can't find time to write...because I think a lot of us feel that way. Sometimes it's as though the whole world conspires against us to keep us from putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. There is definitely a battle that happens for each of us, no matter who we are, to do what we feel most passionate about in the midst of situations that want to drag us away from our life's calling, whatever it may be.

For me, I work a day job where I write and edit all day long. As a copywriter for a nonprofit, I'm busy penning words for other people. That can be tiring if I allow it to be. Part of my personal battle is to maintain balance and keep myself refreshed and in a good place mentally daily, so that I have the energy to write my own work in the evenings.

But even when I take care of myself, life has a way of getting in the way. At the moment, I have set the goal of finishing Nanowrimo with 50,000 words by November 30, to finish my novel draft by end of December, and to edit and get it out to publishers/agents in March. This is a reasonable goal for where I'm at in my novel right now. Yet life has rolled in with an outpatient procedure for me that pushed some of my other projects into backlog, a broken cell phone that took hours to resolve, unexpected day job deadlines that required me to put in extra hours, a trip to the ER with a sick friend, a planned outpatient procedure for that friend, some freelance deadlines that I expected to have met by now...

You get it. I'm not complaining. I'm just saying that even the best of planners are forced to pants sometimes because life is fond of forcing you to pants. And I mean in every area of your life, not just writing.

So, how do we resist the tide that pulls us away from our writing shore?

  1. It starts with attitude and determination. Do we want to write so much that we can't let it go? Hunger to write is vital. And it's something we have to maintain daily. If you're reading this blog, you probably consider yourself a writer. So, take a little time each day to think about your passion for writing. Remind yourself how much you love it, why you want to do it, where you want to end up, and how it felt the last time you wrote something that made you feel proud and satisfied with your gift. Let that drive you to find time to write today. And then repeat the process tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow.
  2. Know what you do with your time. We all find time to do things we don't necessarily have to do, like watching TV or getting up for a second cup of coffee. And it is all too easy to waste time without even thinking about it. Half the battle is just to be aware of where your time is being spent. Get into the habit of asking yourself what you want to do with your next hour. Check in mentally with your daily goals every so often and ask yourself what really needs to get done today and what can wait until tomorrow. When I make that evaluation, I often realize that tomorrow is an even better day to get that errand done, so I really do have time to write today.
  3. Be prepared to write anytime, anywhere. I have a friend, Kristin Nador, whose blog title is Write Anywhere. I'll link to her blog below. Her idea is to write in different places as a challenge to herself, but you can adopt the idea as a tool to fitting in time to write in a busy schedule. I do it by taking at least a small pad of paper with me everywhere I go, plus I carry a flash drive with copies of my current projects on it. If it's a slow hour at work, out comes the flash drive. If I get an idea while driving, I jot it down at the next stop light. You can even use your smart phone to capture notes or an actual piece of writing and then email it to yourself.
  4. Don't beat yourself up if all you could do was fit in 15 minutes, or 100 words. Personally, I've had to learn to pace myself. Writing a novel is a long-term goal. Short-term goals of finishing a chapter a week or 1500 words a day may be helpful, but there will be days when you can't make it happen. Instead of looking at it negatively, look at it positively. On a particularly tough day, if you managed to get 500 words down in spite of everything that conspired against you, it's an achievement. Enjoy it as a victory, because it is. And the positive outlook will help you be energized to write the next day.
Well, those are some things that are working for me. Have you tried any of these ideas before? How well have they worked for you? Let me know in the comments below, or chat with me on The Chipper Muse on Facebook or Twitter about it. I'd love to hear from you!

Links I mentioned above:
Managing Your Time When You're Busy
Finding Time to Write: Guest Post by James Garcia Jr.
Kristin Nador Writes Anywhere blog

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Managing Your Time When You're Busy

I hate time management. I mean, I love the idea of it. I love being organized. The part I hate is trying to make it work in a chaotic, unpredictable world of suddenly sick friends, unexpected and immediate new work deadlines, accidentally broken cell phones, long lines at the voting booth, Nanowrimo word count deficits that are compounding worse than the national debt...

In other words, life is a bitch sometimes, and this week in particular she has been super mean to me. I can barely figure out if I'm coming and going, and yet I have a blog post due today. Yeah, sure, I can just not post, but I care about being consistent. So, I'm doing what any self-respecting blogger/writer would do after a week like I've had...

I've looked up what other people are saying about time management and I'm sharing their links.

The truth is, I'm not sure I have enough wisdom myself to share with you yet on managing your time for writing. I kind of suck at it, and I need to get better at this skill as much as anyone does. So, barring my own insights, I can at least share the wisdom of others. Here are some cool things I've found so far, and I hope you have fun exploring the links and maybe meeting a new blogger because of it:

  1. Over at Writing Is Hard Work, busy teacher Roger Colby is offering some of his tips for surviving National Novel Writing Month (the said Nanowrimo that is kicking my butt at the moment). His first post is about time management, and he is busy enough that I'm embarrassed at my own lack of productivity. Read his Compartmentalizing post, and then check out the rest of his Nanowrimo series.
  2. Nanowrimo's website has a post on time management for college students who are writing. I'm not in college, but I like the post's title, which is about the "preservation of sanity." That's about where I am right now. Barely holding on to quirky so as not to pass into crazy bastard territory, a la Sheldon of the Big Bang Theory. That post is here, if you'd like to remind yourself that no matter how busy you are, you don't have a essay due on top of it. Unless, of course, you do have an essay due today, in which case I extend my sympathies.
  3. If you're a software nut, you might look into RescueTime, which supposedly helps you to manage your writing time better. I haven't tried it. I won't recommend it. But it's interesting to know that it's out there. If you've tried RescueTime before or if you decide to try it now, let me know in the comments what you think of it. I'm curious to know how effective it is.
  4. BookBaby has a blog post on time management for writers on a deadline. And let's face it, who isn't on a deadline? If the deadline isn't for your writing, it's for something else, like fitting your writing into a certain time slot before you have to go to work, the doctor, etc.
  5. Rebecca Bradley shares her tips for time management, including what to do with the kids (if you have them). I don't. I'm glad about that. I think I'd probably forget them at the library for hours, or something equally un-mom-like. She also recommends cutting out unnecessary TV, which of course can be extended to cutting out anything that we don't really need to be doing and that we're using just as time-fillers.
That's the best I can do in the limited time I have this morning to get this post live. On the other hand, that's pretty good information to get you started, and I came up with it in 20 minutes. Proof positive that I can, in fact, manage my time and get some writing done fast, if I set my mind to it.

So, what's my excuse? And what is yours? Something to think about, isn't it?

How do you manage your time? And have you found any resources that help you stay on track when you're busy or when life throws you the unexpected? Please share below! And don't forget to check out how fellow writer James Garcia Jr. manages his busy schedule and writes novels at the same time, in his post Finding Time to Write. This guy is actually making it happen, and we can learn from his advice. Plus, he has a new book that you might want to check out. So, give it a read if you haven't already.

See you next week, and if you're Nanowrimo-ing like I am, best wishes to you, and may your word count increase exponentially!

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Finding Time to Write: Guest Post by James Garcia Jr.

Hello. I write vampires. I currently write them with a Christian slant. Are you still with me? Good. How about you? Chances are that if you are visiting today, you’re a writer, too. Or perhaps you’re a reader. Most likely, you’re a little bit of both. And although there may be a few among you who are lucky enough to be able to write until your heart is content, chances are you are struggling to find the time to write. This is what has brought me to you today.
Guest blogger and fellow author, James Garcia Jr.
He's cool, folks!

How do you find the time to write?

Do you carry a notebook with you at all times? Are you jotting ideas and plot twists down on bar napkins, the Life Section of the newspaper, or the back of the grocery list while you wait in line at the checkout? In order to write, one has to make a conscious effort to fit it in.

I like to shock people by telling them that it took me twenty years to write my first novel. It’s a true statement. Believe me, I was there. I wrote while in college, but family and careers pushed that to the back burner, as they say. Eventually, I realized the regret that I was facing were I never to write again, so I dusted off that manuscript and got it done. Much can be said about it being God’s good timing and I believe it was; however, there was also some maturity that I needed to have before I could continue. In those early days, if I didn’t have a couple of hours to write, I simply shut it down and refused to even begin. Twenty years later, if I had forty minutes I could be found scribbling furiously. I’m guessing many of you are like that.

These days, I get up at 3 AM in order to be at the office by 4 AM. I work as an Administrative Supervisor for Sun-Maid Growers of California. Are you familiar with the lady on the red box of raisins? That’s us. I work 5 days a week and about 11 hours each day. Being that I’m pushing 44 years old, most days you can find me in the garage on my treadmill for an hour. Beyond that, we all have our chores, etc., to handle each day. As you can well imagine, that doesn’t leave me with very much time to write, promote, blog, and check in on any of the seemingly hundreds of social networking sites. I’m on nearly all of them. I see you are too. It’s a lot, isn’t it?

Having listed all of that, you might be asking when I find time to write. That’s easy, I don’t; certainly not regularly. I believe the first rule of writing is to write every day; however, with my schedule, I would be able to do little else. So, what I do is let my mind work all the time: picture a staff of men in my head, constantly working plots, characters, etc., and waiting until they’ve got something good before putting forth their proposal. Usually I take on a writing project every year and a half or so. By then, I typically know what the story is and where it ends up.

Jimmy'a book is now available!
I find I outline a bit more with each project, so I’m somewhere between a pantser and a plotter at the moment, but for the most part, much of the story is already written in my head. On a day-to-day basis, I let my mind gestate the next chapter while in the shower, driving to and from work, in those moments before sleep takes me away, and every free moment in between. The next day at the computer I simply write down everything I “saw” the day before. When I’m done, I leave the computer and the process starts all over again. It’s working for me so far. How about you and your process? Is it quirky like mine? I’d love to hear it. I’d also like to thank our gracious host, Michele, for granting me this opportunity to share with her readers.

Whether you like vampires or horror at all, I’d really like to thank you for taking the time to hear me out. I’d love for you to stop by any number of my sites and say hello. If you do like to sit on the edge of your seat without having to be grossed out by the ugly side of horror, I may have a book or two for you. More importantly, however, I’d really just like to encourage you that dreams do still come true. If writing is your dream, please write—anyway you can. You’re going to hate yourself one day if you don’t.

James Garcia Jr. was born in the Central California town of Hanford. He moved up the road to Kingsburg with his family as a child. After graduating KHS, he attended Reedley College where he met his wife. They, along with their teenage sons, still make their home in Kingsburg, which is also the setting of James’ vampire series. Dance on Fire was published in 2010 and its sequel Dance on Fire: Flash Point was published Halloween 2012. James is an Administrative Supervisor for Sun-Maid Growers of California. You can find him online at his blog, Dance On Fire; his Facebook fan page; his Google+ page; and on Twitter as @danceauthor. His books are available on Amazon