Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How Parents and Really Busy People Can Steal Time for Writing

A lifetime and one child ago, before I was a mother, I wrote an article that gave parents tips for flash cleaning. "Take just 5 minutes a day for this," "take 10 minutes a day for that," and you'll keep a clean house, I advised.

Man, did my writing mentor set me straight.

If parents took the "10 minutes" for exercise per day, the "15 minutes" for cleaning, the "3 minutes" to spot-clean the fridge, and all of the other brief minutes that articles suggested, they wouldn't have any time left in the day, she said.

And she was right. Oh so right.

So how do parents and other Really Busy People find time to write?:

1. Prewrite - Without a Computer, Paper or Pen

True story:  there was a prisoner of war who held on to hope and sanity FOR YEARS while the prisoners around him lost the will to go on. Although he was isolated in a small, dark room in terrible conditions, his mind wasn't isolated there. It was out on the golf course, where day after day, he mentally practiced his swing and taught himself to get the ball in the hole. He had no concrete ball, club or course to practice on, but upon release, the prisoner found that his "practice" had, in fact, improved his game.

Most writers don't need to physically write to start working on a new piece. So instead of wasting half an hour sitting in front of the blank screen and trying to figure things out once you DO get time, do the thinking during your day. As hectic as parenthood can be, there are some mindless tasks that require little mental power. Like the hour every morning that EmmaRose and I sit on the floor and play "ponies". Or the half hour wasted washing dishes after dinner each night. Or our weekend commutes out of state. These are great times for brainstorming, trying to mentally organize article drafts or writing the ever-challenging first paragraph of a new piece.

2. Set a Daily Goal for Writing Time

Ideally, the same time every day would be set aside for writing. But schedules often change-especially with young children-and that might not be possible. Another option is to make sure that you spend a certain amount of time on writing, at some point every day. I'm setting the bar low. Very low. Thirty-60 minutes of writing time at some point every day. Even when "some point" comes at 1a.m.

3. Write About What You Need to Know

If you're doing the research for yourself anyways, why not turn the information you find into an article or essay? The best thing about this is, if you're a parent writing for parenting magazines, then those readers will probably want the same information and your piece is likely to hit the mark. No need to spend tons of time brainstorming for article ideas that "fit" publications, and no wasting writing time researching topics that don't pertain to you. I plan to turn our recent preschool research into several articles:  picking a preschool (how-to), and getting kids ready for preschool (how-to, personal essay).

4. Be Prepared for Inspiration to Strike

After prewriting and writing continuously for several days, your writing time will become even more effective- because your subconscious will start doing the work for you! When those great ideas and sentences start striking at different - less convenient - points throughout the day, you'll want to have a way to quickly record and store them for later, whether it be a phone, recorder or pen and paper tucked into a purse or diaper bag.

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