Monthly Archives: May 2014

How Long Does It Take?

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This is quite the question … how long does it take to do …. what? Write a novel? Finish an essay? Make money? Feel fulfilled?

I know … no one expects a philosophical discussion from a simple question, but words are important to me, and I hate assuming I know what someone “means” when I really am simply imposing my own preconceived notions onto their questions. Anyway …

When it comes to writing — to “being a writer” — I think time is irrelevant. I mean, each project, each assignment, in and of itself defines the time required of it. Let me tell you a story …

When I was in high school, I wrote a lot. I did my regular school stuff, but was also heavily into poetry, short stories, etc. I entered contests. I wrote and compiled three volumes of poetry. I did independent studies on writers and styles and was a voracious reader. I had determined to write the “Great American Novel” of my time by the time I was twenty-five. That project still lies dormant under the years of other projects, and simply living life and accomplishing all the things I feel the need to do to be successful. How long does it take? In my life, that novel has taken more than 35 years, and it sure isn’t going to be published in 2014.

Now, in the meantime, I have done hundreds of other writing projects. I do a lot of pro bono stuff for organizations, churches, etc. I’ve been involved in a few on-line projects. I’ve written numerous “beginnings” of things that may or may not be birthed anytime soon. I’ve written my Mom’s eulogy. I’ve helped write my father-in-law’s death announcement. I’ve written recommendation for tens of students going into college, getting their first job, applying for scholarships. How long does that take? Apparently the first half of a lifetime, but usually not more than a few hours per each project (which figures out to the first half of a lifetime, with my mathematical skills).

When I think about “how long does it take,” I balk at the quantization of time when it comes to writing. I believe you either “are” a writer — or you are not. And if you are a writer, you write always. Sometimes, the ideas come so strong to me that I literally have to stop what I’m doing to jot notes. Sometimes, it’s like pulling teeth to even sit at the computer and attempt to finish a simple blogging entry (which the fighting, for me, actually takes longer because I rationalize through ever.little.thing. I can before finally relinquishing and “just sucking it up and doing it.”)

If the question is, “How long does it take to publish a book?” then the question becomes … OK, not much clearer. When you google the question, the first hit is this place: http://stevelaube.com/how-long-does-it-take-to-get-published/. He gives averages for the time it takes to get a finished manuscript to print in the more “traditional” way of publishing.

But we live in an age where anyone can publish, if they want to put the effort and money into it. Some of my friends publish direct to Amazon https://kdp.amazon.com/community/message.jspa?messageID=35. Others have self published using a variety of sources. Here’s some good strategies from Writer’s Digest:http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-4-best-strategies-for-savvy-self-publishers.

The bottom line is, devote yourself to writing. Every day. Pick a project of passion, something you can hang with. Learn all you can, write all you can, invest in writing friendships that you can use to help encourage you, and serve as “first line” editors you trust. Set deadlines (projects and contests can help here), and just get it done. Don’t worry about “how much time.” The question for me is always, “Do I want to write?”

This weekend, I had an old friend ask me, “So, what writing have you been working on?”

I had to truthfully say, “Absolutely nothing.” I barely consider myself a writer most days.

He was saddened by that. “You should really be writing.”

I know … I know. It’s like the person who wants to get into shape, and knows all the right answers and strategies, but just can’t pull off the discipline they need. That’s where I am right now.

And if I don’t figure the motivation formula for it all, my answer for the question “How long does it take” will be forever.

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Where do you find the time?

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It’s Memorial Day weekend here where I live.

For our family, that means packing up the family trailer, dusting off all the summer stuff, making sure we have sufficient amounts of junk food and stuff we don’t eat on a regular basis, and heading off to a local campground for the weekend. Close enough that the DH can still drive back to work, but far enough away from the every day that it kinda feels like a vacation.

For our family, THIS is the “kick-off” to summer, which means a different schedule, a different pace, days that are (in theory) full of discretionary time for whatever activity we fancy.

In theory.

Summer should be a time when I “get a lot of writing done.” Notice most of the words in that phrase are fully loaded with whatever meaning and weight I attribute to them. What is “a lot”? What is “writing done”? What is “writing,” and what constitutes a level of accomplishment that makes me feel like I’ve used my time wisely for whatever creative endeavor I choose? *Sigh* Not so simple when I choose to over think the thing, just to avoid the actual act.

I’m sitting on the playground side of our little campground. There are there children playing nearby on the merry-go-round. They obviously have some type of prior relationship, because one little girl is both storyteller, self-proclaimed “captain,” and obviously thinks herself boss. Her shrill little voice seems to direct the other children, some older than she, as she attempts to control and direct the activity around her. Weirdly, the other kids follow her direction, even though there is no outside force pushing them to do so. They just follow.

I have a voice in my head like that little girl. She tends to tell me what to do and when to do it whenever external forces relent a bit and I believe I have found time to “write.” She wants to be captain, and she shrieks out directions for me … do this, don’t do this, what about this, why haven’t you this, you’ll never this … over and over and over again. Somehow, I have relented and given this “little girl” the power over me to keep me from standing up and doing that very thing which I so desire to do.

Where do I find the time to write?

I choose to take control of that voice. I remember that I have been given a certain amount of time. I can choose exactly what I do with that amount of time, however small it is.

I have kids. True, they are older now, but they still depend on me for a lot, and for that I am grateful. My time with them is so very short, and while it sounds cliché, the truth of the matter is those kids grow rapidly and before you know it, they are out making their way in this life. When they were younger, I had time to write whenever they went to bed, or were playing with their friends, or were at some extracurricular class. We have homeschooled their entire lives, which sets a different dynamic when it comes to “available time,” but it seems like I still found time to at least journal during that stage. Now, I must make a conscious effort to corral my run-away schedule and beat myself into submission if I want to get anything down on paper.

This year, in addition to our regular schedule, we have kids coming home for the summer from Oklahoma and China. There’s a graduation to implement (and along with that, a rocking open house!), and then a month later, my first daughter gets married (which, I am finding, is a lot different from your first son getting married, when it comes to details). Life flies at an incessant speed, and while I only work part-time, I do not have extended hours away in an office to work on projects. My writing takes a back seat to everyone else’s “stuff,” mostly because they (and to honest, me) don’t view it as a “real” pursuit. They’re encouraging, sure. But to be honest? The “tyranny of the urgent” almost always wins.(http://www.navfusion. com/assets/Tyranny%20of%20the%20Urgent%20[Hummel].pdf) 

So, I find myself “finding time” whenever I can get it. Sometimes, it’s like this morning. I’m up an hour before everyone else, sitting in the sunshine enjoying a “free wi-fi” weekend at the campground. I’ll knock out this essay before we go to our pancake breakfast, pack everyone up for a day trip, pick up my elderly dad and head to Ohio to celebrate my great-nephew’s graduation.

Sometimes, I force myself to sit down at my computer and write nonsense until something with some substance comes to the surface.

Sometimes, for weeks on end, I’m lucky to produce a simple journal entry.

Other times, like nanowrimo, or when one of my amazing creative friends has a project for me to consult on or edit (which is a weird thing … when I “have” to edit, it seems to spark me to write more … I know, it’s paradoxical, but true), I literally tell the family I will be writing for “this amount of time” and I closet myself away until the project is done.

And if I were totally truthful, I go for long periods NOT writing at all. Once, it was for nearly two years. Life just got the best of me, the little girl voice pushed me here and there, and I gave up. It was easier to let her boss me around than to take control of my life. A lot of people fall there, you know. But at the end of the day, we truly are a lot more in control of our situation and circumstance than we want to take responsibility for. Just saying …

So if you want to write, you have to write. Carry an “old school” notebook and pen. Always travel with your laptop. Carry one of those little spiral notebooks in your purse or pocket or car, just to jot things down. You might hear the little girl say it’s a waste of time, and you’re not REALLY writing … tell her to shut up.

And chose to find the time. I believe most of us have good stories to tell. It often seems to me good storytelling is becoming a lost art. Sitting around the campfire last night, I laughed and listened to some good stories (most of which I would not be allowed to share here), and relished the community and friendship I found.I find time for that, because it’s important.

That’s what writing is often for me, too. Bringing along a few of my friends, sitting at the campfire of the blogging world, and sharing stories, ideas, and life.

And I find for it, because despite what the little girl might say, it’s important, too.

 

Writing Blog Tour … what???

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So, I have these friends … I actually have a lot of friends who find a creative outlet through writing. The explosion of the blog-a-sphere has allowed many of my uber-talented friends to have a platform with which to express that creativity.

One said friend is a very, very “old” friend … not age-wise. but length wise … we were college roommates for a couple of summers and then some … was asked by another friend to do a “writing blog tour.”

To be honest, the thought of it freaked me out a bit.

See, I fancy myself as “a writer.” But truth be told “a writer” by very definition … writes. And while I have been told I have a way with words … and I’ve done a couple of things that wowed and inspirited “close” friends … but truthfully? As messed up as this idea is, I feel like I’ll only be a “real” writer when I make money doing it, you know?

Yeah, yeah … the monetization of the creative and all. I know, I know … I’ve told many people to NOT pay attention to that .. but in my own little world, I struggle with it all. Anyway … enough psychoanalysis. Back to the writing tour …

So awesome “old friend” Lisa (you can check her out either at: http://mirkwoodreflections.blogspot.com/2014/05/my-writing-process-blog-tour.html or http://cornerstonehomelearning.blogspot.com/2014/05/my-writing-process-blog-tour.html“When do you find the time?”) asked me to do this writing blog tour “thingy.”

It’s pretty simple: answer the following four questions about my writing process:

“Where do you find the time?”
“How long does it take?”
“Where do you get your ideas?”
“Isn’t it hard?”

SIMPLE, right??  *Sigh*

No … NOT simple! Because, to answer these questions, I have to take a good, long, hard look at myself and what I do … and if I even have the right to call myself a writer anymore because quite frankly, my life is a bit chaotic, and I barely write anything anymore unless it’s curriculum for the classes I teach, or brief one-shot comments on Facebook.

So, I decided I’d break these four question apart. That way, I’d eek out at least four (counting this one, five) posts concerning why I write, and what I do in the process.

OK, so tomorrow (or maybe the next day … I’ve got stuff to do tomorrow), I’ll be commenting on “Where do I find the time to write?” That should be a short post … seeing, I never find time to write …