~13 Ways to Make More Time to Write~

happy-writer

I was supposed to do this post last month, but I procrastinated. Such a horrible, nasty habit, wouldn’t you say?

But not so fast . . . .

Procrastination does have its place, just as other “bad habits” have their place. In fact, I use some of them on a daily basis in order to pursue my writing full-throttle.  Like a wild-haired insane person who has ingested massive quantities of caffeine, I hone in on my goal and evoke the darkest powers of evasion, procrastination, delegation, and superstition to move me giant steps forward every day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying my life is the model life of the writer that you should seek. I wouldn’t wish single parent-dom on anyone, especially with four kids, a puppy and a rat. Some days I think if I turned my life into a reality show, I’d be an overnight kajillionaire. Because, wow . . . we have craziness up the wazoo here. But alas, I know my place in this world is as a writer and not a television star. Which is a good thing, because I’d be pissed if I had to wake up and put makeup on everyday before I left my bedroom.

So, the way I see it, if a single mom of four can make time to write, so can you. Below are a few ideas of how you can build your life more around your writing. Some of the ideas may seem CRAZY to you, but just remember, they are merely meant to get you thinking about what the truly important things are in your life, and where your passion for writing will stand in the midst of it all. Because it is up to you.

 

13 Ways to MAKE Time to Write

 

#13. You know all those awesome tv shows you watch? Don’t. Watch. Them.

Seriously, don’t. My suggestion is to just get rid of cable altogether. I haven’t had cable since 2006 and I rarely regret it. We do have Netflix, but it is strictly for children’s programming. I used to get sucked into watching about three hours of television a day, if not more, which not only drains the vibrancy of your imagination (not to mention your relationships with those around you, IMO), but it also clogs your mind space from being as full of ideas that are authentically you. TV exists for one reason and one reason alone: to hold you and your precious creative brain hostage in its world, slowly lessening your ability to use your own imagination. Sure, there are some good shows out there. Some people think crack and heroin are good, too. They’re supposed to be! They are designed this way to keep you at their whim, whether your local drug dealer or your local television broadcaster, it is a conspiracy to make you their mind slave. No, I haven’t once seen Game of Thrones (though I’d like to read the book) or Breaking Bad or The Waking Dead, or any of those other shows people talk about all of the time. But I did write three novels and a few short stories last year. Imagine how much writing you could get done in that [insert your number here] hours a day?

 

#12. Cultivate “Bad” Habits: Procrastinate, ignore, and shift responsibilities to others (a.k.a. delegate.)

Chores. Errands. Duties. Housework. Evil, yet necessary, deeds that must be done sometimes. The key word here is sometimes. Here’s where some of those “bad habits” pay off.  Here are three examples in snapshots from a day in my life:

a. Baby goes down for a nap and I notice the house is messy. Clean?

Um, no. This is the perfect opportunity for me to get some uninterrupted writing in. House cleaning can wait. My house is rarely spotless. If I cleaned my house like Carol Brady, I’d never get any writing done. Ever. Besides, geniuses thrive in clutter. 😉

b. Kids come home from school.

Me: “Time to clean!”

Kids: “Ugh, do we have to?”

Me: “If you want to play outside with your friends today.”

There, see? That was easy. Delegation is important, not only for me, but for them, because honestly, they need to clean up after themselves anyway. It’s part of growing up and learning how to be self-sufficient. (Gosh I love it when my justifications are actually true!) But seriously, this is one I’ve had to work on. Since I am somewhat of a perfectionist (aka slight control freak), I like things done the “right” way (my way), which is rarely how my children do anything as far as chores are concerned. So, I’ve had to tame my inner critic and outer perfectionist and learn to let some things slide.

and c. Kids are finally in bed and sink is full of dishes. Do dishes?

Not usually, especially now, since we don’t have a working dishwasher. Most nights, I compromise by rinsing and holding in the sink until morning. Remember, I’m a single parent so I can do this without getting yelled at, or my partner feeling like he has to pick up my slack. 😉 It’s just an example. But, I do this because my prime writing time is in the evening. Usually, I can get the dishes done in the morning when the kids are getting ready for school, this way I reserve my prime writing time (which happens to coincide with “primetime” tv, fyi) for writing and writing alone. Every minute counts.

 

 

#11. Quit your day job (or cut back your hours) and trust life while you pursue your dream.

This one for me was not actually by direct choice, but rather, through a series of choices I made in my past when I was in the midst of mental illness and addiction. That is a story for another time, but I will say this: it worked for J.K. Rowling, and look at her now. And because I love her and her story so much, I’m going to toss in my favorite inspiring quote from her: (found on Wikipedia. Click HERE for her full story.)

‘Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as “the biggest failure I knew”. Her marriage had failed, she was jobless with a dependent child, but she described her failure as liberating:

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
– J. K. Rowling, “The fringe benefits of failure”, 2008

Yes, it’s possible. You will not die from being poor. Yes, it kind of sucks, but you can make the best of it. At least you’d get to do what you love. No, you don’t need all the fancy luxuries that “everyone else” has that you are working your fingers to the bone for. Some of you may be steaming at the ears right now reading this because you are thinking, “yeah right,” but to those of you, I say; I do it every single day. The list of things I do not have that “everyone else” has is extensive. By the US government’s standards, I am well below the poverty line, yet, I am still wealthier than 80% of the world. Every day I try to focus on gratitude for what I have, because there are a million people who would trade places with me in a heartbeat.

(A little Addendum here: In no way I am saying you should be content with living your life in the poor house. I am saying a temporary setback may occur once you switch your focus solely or mainly to writing. I firmly believe that a writer who pursues his or her craft with vigor and perseverance and determination can be, and will be successful, even financially. It happens every day. But it does take time.)

 

#10. Move your laptop to the dining room, or other heavily traveled area of your home.

When I first moved into the apartment I’m in now, I had my writing desk in my bedroom. This did not work. If I wanted to write, I had to isolate myself from my children. So, I moved my desk to my dining area, and now, my kids have gotten used to it being “mommy’s spot,” and I have gotten used to fine-tuning my multi-tasking skills. Every spare minute I have, I’m at my computer. From where I sit, I have a clear view of everything going on in my living room and I am right next to the kitchen. While the kids are doing homework and I’m waiting for the oven to heat up or water to boil, I can steal a few minutes at my desk to work on a scene. Like I said, every minute counts. Plus, if your writing space is hidden away–out of sight, out of mind–you are less likely to write as often as you would if it were right there staring you down with its beady little seductress eyes. “Come to me, write with me,” it says. Make the siren a visible ali.

 

#9. Invest in a good set of headphones.

Three words: Horrible Children’s Programming.

Sure, Baby Einstein is brilliant, and so is Sesame Street. But Barney makes me want to claw my own ears off. Of course my toddler loves him. But I can make Barney work to my advantage. I know when Barney is on, my son is glued for thirty minutes. And since I am in straight view of him in his playpen while he watches it, I can put on my headphones and write. When I am writing, not only do I not want that interrupting my mental mojo, but I also love listening to music that inspires the mood of whatever it is I’m working on. Usually, it’s electronic music of some sort, most of the time without words. I can be visually in my children’s world, but audio-ly, I can check out momentarily, when I need the musical motivation to carry me onward.

 

x#8. Get a writing calendar.

If you are not in the habit of writing every day, this might help you get there. It did for me. Put a big red ‘X’ on the calendar for every day that you write. Seeing that visually will set your mind in motion to want to be able to put that X there every day. Set yourself a goal of at least five or ten minutes a day, and I promise you, you’ll realize that time magically seems to extend. Build up to making a goal of a red X every day for a month. Once you have that goal met, aim for a year. (This idea was inspired by Jerry Seinfeld, btw. Thanks, Jerry!)

 

#7. Stay up late, get up early, give in to exhaustion.

Hey, I didn’t say I was giving you a recipe for good health here; that’s in my other blog (which you can get to HERE).

In this blog though, we are talking about sacrifice for the sake of the beautiful, somewhat elusive and occasionally intangible obsession with the written word. A.k.a., grabbing that writing bull by the horns and claiming your title as word-slinging badass. If you wish to claim this title, sometimes, it is necessary to sacrifice sleep. You may find, as I did, that once you follow your writing bliss and make it more of a priority in your life, it’s much like falling in love. You find you need less sleep. Your mind wants to wake up and move on with your awesome project. It wants to unravel that juicy little plot it has begun to feast on. It wants to see how things are going to unfold today. It craves those moments when tears and sweat mold you and your craft into someone and something to be proud of. Because I believe anyone who sacrifices for the sake of creation, will be rewarded, not only for an amazing finished product, but a work of art others will love as well.

Of course, if you are like me, your body will tell you when enough is enough. After a string of nights where I was sacrificing a little too much sleep, barely skimming by with five hours for a week straight, I hit a wall and I was in bed half the day, exhausted to the point of near uselessness. So, listen to your body ultimately. When it whispers softly for sleep, tell it to wait just a bit longer sometimes. But if it’s screaming at you, by all means, SLEEP! You’ll be more productive after some rest.

suffer now

 

#6. Cut back on your alcohol consumption.

I used to think I was a great writer under the influence of alcohol. Years later, in sobriety, I can barely read that drunken chicken scratch in my old journals. It’s junk, for real. Sure, there have been a lot of great writers who drank heavily, but I wonder what the extent of their brilliance would have been if they were clear-headed? When you write sober (or less-drunk?) you can put things together more clearly, you’ll have less editing to do later, and you won’t pass out early when you could still be up getting a little more writing time in.

 

#5. Cut back on your caffeine consumption.

A little caffeine is good. A lot is counterproductive. Too much caffeine can make you grumpy and groggy, and that is not a good condition to be in for maximum writing potential.

 

#4. Take your electronic writing device (or pen and paper) with you everywhere you have to go that requires waiting.

There’s no better way to pass the time in the dentist office while you wait for your kids. It may be just twenty or thirty minutes, but that is enough time to get in a page or two of a chapter, maybe more, depending on how fast you type and how much on fire you are. Like I said, every minute counts.

 

just-say-no

#3. Just say NO.

Cut back on all of those extra things you do because you can’t say no. Like, when people ask you if you want to be the planner for their neighbor’s son’s bar mitzvah . . . . Don’t feel bad about saying no. You can tell them why or not tell them. Just say you have plans or a prior commitment; because that’s what this is. You are making a commitment to yourself, the badass word-slinging writer. You are going to do this thing, and you are not going to let your neighbor’s son’s bar mitzvah or you cousin’s girlfriend’s brother in law’s daughter’s quinceanera stand in your way.

 

#2. Keep yourself motivated.

If you are encouraged, inspired, and influenced by positivity around you, it is amazing how your life will seemingly open itself up to allow you time for more of the things that bring you joy. If writing brings you joy, then the pursuit of more of it will also bring you joy. Surround yourself with people that inspire and encourage you. Post pictures and quotes in your writing space and around your home that inspire you to follow your bliss. Read works by authors you admire to keep your creative juices flowing.

 

#1. Limit your social media.

Can I get an Amen? This is perhaps the thing I struggle with most. Social Media for the writer trying to “make it,” is another necessary evil. But it’s not really necessary if we are on it so much we aren’t even writing, is it? Try limiting your Facebook and other social media as much as possible. Don’t get caught in the snare. And definitely don’t play those time-sucking games. And for goodness sake, stop sending me requests for them 😉

So, stop making excuses. If you need to name check 11 Lame excuse for not writing, Click HERE.

Until next time, you word-slinging badasses . . .

Write on! 😀

 

 

 

 

 

~Making Your Characters Real People~

Flesh

Recently, a friend of mine confessed to having a bit of trouble with one of her characters. This one was more complex than most of her others, and at first he seemed to elude her. Why is this the case for some characters?

In my opinion, these are the ones that are begging you to dig deeper. Just like in real life, some people are very surface-level, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of people. You could easily write about them in first-person if you wanted to without much prodding at all.

But then, there are those like Logan’s character, Keith, (in her upcoming novel, Stockholm Sexy), whose ‘personhood’ isn’t fully visible on the surface level. In first drafts of Stockholm Sexy, Keith’s character was flat and boring, but not because he was a boring character. He’s quite the opposite.

When Logan came to me and asked my opinion on fleshing him out, I told her to “interview” him. Invite him over for dinner, out for drinks, etc., and write about the experience. Her reaction was priceless. Basically it was, “Okay, I’ll do this, but don’t tell anyone.” She felt like the exercise was a bit on the lame side, but I assured her it has helped me get to know a few of my more elusive characters in the past and I swear by it’s effectiveness.

Since Logan is so close to the story, it was hard for her to be objective about this interview and the questions to ask Keith, so she asked me for my help with some. Having her tell me a bit of surface-level traits and facts about Keith, I tailored a twenty-questions interview for him. She was able to answer the questions quickly and was very happy with the results. She felt like it really helped her to better know his backstory, and to make him more real to her, which in turn, will bring him to life in the story.

It was actually her idea for me to blog about this. I’m glad she suggested it though, because it’s true; I do see a lot of characters, especially in self-published work, that seriously need some fleshing out. Either the authors are afraid to put in the elbow grease to bring their characters to life, they feel like they have to pump out ten novels this year, or maybe they just don’t realize their characters are flat. Whatever the case, I invite you to at least try this. Choose a character and make it your aim to know all those juicy details. You’ll see results, I promise.

I’m posting the interview below that I put together for Logan’s character, Keith. If you have a hard time doing your own questions, maybe have an author friend put some together for you.

Quote from Logan: “If you have a fellow author ask the questions they are new to you and the character in your head, and it’s like they have to react in ways you’ve never seen before, direct and it is revealing!”

So, here they are, the interview questions for “Keith” from Stockholm Sexy:

(Keep in mind this list is catered to a specific character type. Your list should be created with what you or someone else knows about your character in mind.)

20 Questions for Keith

Keith, the nature of the questions that follow may be somewhat uncomfortable for you. Please understand that I am only trying to get to know you as a person, and if at any time you feel you cannot or do not want to answer the questions, please just state so. But please, for the sake of the story, try to be as forthcoming as possible.

1. Give me one word to describe your home life as a child.

2. Did/do you have brothers/sisters?

3. Were any of you abused?

4. If the answer to number three was yes, could you describe the nature of the abuse?

5. Was there ever any incest between you and your brother(s) and sister(s)?

6. Did your parents have a good relationship?

7. Were there drugs and alcohol in your home as a child?

8. At what age did you start experimenting with drugs and alcohol?

9. How was school? Did you do well? Graduate? Go to college?

10. When did you start having sex? What was your sex life like as a teen?

11. Have you ever raped anyone?

12. Have you ever gotten anyone pregnant? If so, what happened to the baby?

13. What would you say was the single biggest motivator in your parent’s lives?

14. What is the biggest motivator in your life?

15. Have you ever killed anyone?

16. If the answer to the previous question was ‘yes,’ when did you first kill someone?

17. Have you ever felt guilty about killing anyone?

18. What are your three biggest regrets in life?

19. If you could live someone else’s life, no questions asked, what would that life be? What would your profession be? Who would you be married to? Would you have children? What kind of parent would you be?

20. Three things you are afraid of:

So, there you have it. Logan asked me if I wanted to see the answers and I told her no. I think it will be fun to read the book and see how many of these I can figure out on my own, don’t you? If you’d like to stop by and check out Logan’s Blog and stay updated about the forthcoming release of Stockholm Sexy, click HERE.

Don’t be afraid to put in the time and effort to get to know your characters. You won’t regret it. In fact, you’ll find it is very rewarding, not only for you, but for your story, and ultimately, for your reader. As the late great Ernest Hemingway so brilliantly put it: “When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

Until next time, writerly friends . . .

Write on! 😀

Ashes to Stardust

stardust

There’s a woman somewhere who sometimes wishes she still smoked, so she could stare at the stars. Because ever since she quit, she hasn’t once just sat on her back porch and stared off into the night sky.

There’s something so delicious and lovely and humbling about sitting beneath the stars, she thinks, realizing how small you are, yet a part of this great, unfathomable vastness we call existence.

Sometimes, she needs to be reminded of before . . . .

Many a high, drunken night she sat, contemplating her place in it all.

What am I doing?

Where do I belong?

Where am I going?

Does any of this matter?

Inhale

I love smoking and I’ll never quit, she remembers thinking, pretty much every time she lit up. She’s sure it was for that reason, mainly. Smoking meant she could just sit and do nothing, with the excuse of doing something—smoking. It gave her an excuse to realize her oneness with existence. It gave her reason to sit and contemplate her complex humanity and her mortality and stupidity of doing a thing like smoking.

What a disgusting, filthy habit. One reserved for those of us who like it dirty and rough, those of us who like to live on the edge a bit, walk on the wild side, look life in the eye and tell it to go fuck itself.

Exhale

She loved to smoke.

But then, she was six months pregnant and hiding with her one cigarette a day, waiting until that time at night with the sky and the moon to light up, because the moon wouldn’t judge her and the stars would keep her secret.

But the guilt wouldn’t let up. With every inhale she saw in her mind’s eye, her little starlet breathing in the darkness . . . . Until he became her star, her oneness, her time with the magic of life and existence, and she didn’t even have to go outside anymore. She didn’t even need a lighter.

So now, you will not see her on the back porch, cross-legged in baggy jeans, flicking ashes into the night air. You won’t see her blowing clouds of wishes for immortality into the abyss we call Universe. You will not see her take the last drag and flick the tiny butt kamikaze-style through the air, to be obliterated on contact with someone else’s patio fern. You will not hear the wretched hacking of that chick next door who plays her music too loud and had blue hair yesterday (pink today.) You will not wonder how she goes about living her kamikaze life, filtering in the men, the booze, the crutches one by one, in and out like the white smoke from her cigarette–whole and unlit one minute, used up, stamped out, and tossed away the next. You won’t find her mumbling forgotten Psalms to the Constellation Sasha-the-Stripper, as she decides to define her life as nothing but meaningless stardust. You will not see her vanish in the daylight, nor linger beneath her own eclipse, to see if anyone notices or cares, discovering they don’t.

She no longer exists.

In the light of the moon, she disappeared, in a puff of smoke she arose, a transmuted embodiment, a living ghost, and only a burning ember, soon to be extinguished, remained.

 

Hello, my name is Christina, and I’m addicted to Facebook.

facebook-addiction-1

Some of you may laugh. But I am willing to bet many of you share in this affliction. In fact, studies show that as many as one in five Facebook users are addicted. (Note: I just made that shit up because it sounded good)

But to be honest, I hate to love Facebook.

We had a falling out two years ago. I was spending so much time on Facebook, that I was entirely neglecting almost every aspect of my life. At that time, being in a Twelve Steps program for alcoholism and drug abuse, I recognized the signs of addiction but blew it off at first. Because—hello—it’s Facebook. I’m not selling my body for “Likes” or shooting memes in my veins here, so really, how bad could it be?

Well, it was bad. My relationships were horrible, I was completely obsessed with the number of friends I had (which was a lowly 600 something at that point), and I was a horrible parent who played “Farmville” instead of helping my kids with their homework.

Yes, Facebook was ruling my life.

It sounds completely ridiculous, doesn’t it? Like the people at the Narcotics Anonymous meetings I’ve been to who said they were in there because they were addicted to Marijauna, and I’m like, “Seriously?”

But I’ll tell you what, Marijauna is a drug, too, and just because it doesn’t usually screw lives up like other drugs, it can, and it can lead to other things. It all depends on the person. Some people can puff a joint every once in a while, just like some people can get on Facebook once every couple days for an hour and get off, no sweat.

I’m not one of them.

The day I closed down my FB account is a day I’ll never forget. It took me an hour just to push one button. I cried. Sweat poured from me in various places. I almost had heart failure. In all honesty, it felt like going to rehab. That feeling that you get when you know your life is about to change and you’re not going to have that distraction—that crutch anymore. Fortunately for me and a lot of people, though FB can be psychologically addictive, it isn’t actually physically addictive (yet—just give the ‘burg some time), so it is easier to recover from FB addiction than it is from drugs and alcohol.

But not much.

I did feel freer, lighter, really, but it took a couple days. For the first day, I was depressed.

“WTF do I do with my time now? I haven’t a clue.”

Oh.

Right…

Yes, I do have children.

Yeah, I suppose they have needs.

Funny how the “empty” space fills so quickly and perfectly with filling things, or should I say “fulfilling” things.

I didn’t get on FB or any other social media for two years; I found myself; I bonded with my children; I saw God in His underwear; I wrote two novels. It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have junk filling up your time.

Fast forward two years to post novel-writing time.

Some Voice of Reason says that magic word to me: “Platform”

Voice of Reason: “If you want to get an agent/publisher/readers, etc., you have to have platform.”

Me: “WTF is a platform? Like, I have to build something?”

VOR: “No, it’s a following. Social media and networking, you know, friends, followers, etcetera…?”

Me: “You’re fucking telling me I have to get on FB aren’t you?”

VOR: “Yes.”

Me: *calls sponsor*

VOR: “I’m sorry, but it’s a necessary part of building your writer platform. Google it.”

Me: *Googles ‘Writer Platform’ while tattling to sponsor about VOR*

VOR: “Look, do whatcha want, but don’t come crying to me when you can’t get an agent/publisher or readers because no one knows who the fuck you are.”

Me: *slams imaginary phone down on receiver* (yes, I am old school in this role play, cuz that tis how I ‘role’)

Me: “Okay, VOR. Fine. I will get a FB. But I will NOT be happy about it.”

So, here I am now, on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, GoodReads, WordPress, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest. I keep up with all the wannabes as best I can, but it’s me and FB that have to hide our relationship from the masses. For the purpose of this confession, I will reveal to you the true nature of our love affair. We pretty much do it anywhere:

Waiting for kids in school parking lot: Check FB.

Long check-out line: Check FB.

Eating any meal: Check FB.

Church: Um…. Forgive me…?

Stop light: Check FB.

Cooking: Check FB while waiting for water to boil.

Bathroom: We are not even going there.

Bed: Check FB one last time before going to sleep.

Wake up in middle of night: Check FB and find him sleeping on the couch. Beg him to come back to bed.

I’m not as bad as I used to be though. I help my kids with their homework and whatnot. I don’t play any of those stupid FB games. But I feel it draining the life right out of me, kinda like those two and a half bad marriages (don’t ask.)

So, I’ve brought you here to witness this, in case FB decides to do anything rash when I say these words.

Ok, here goes . . . .

Facebook, you know I love you, but . . .

I think we should spend some time apart.

*shields face from cyber shrapnel*

*peeks out from behind hands to find FB doing absolutely nothing but sitting there, staring at me*

Oh. Well then. Now that it’s all on the table, let me just say that I think we should spend a month apart. Or like a couple wee—days. Three days. Got it?

*FB shrugs*

Oh, don’t even act like you don’t care, FB.

*slams laptop screen down*

*fights back tears, stuffs mouth with Tagalongs*

And so it shall be, *holds right palm up in air*, that on March 4, 2014, I do hereby solemnly swear not to get on FB for any reason for three whole days.

I shall let you know how this transpires. It could get ugly. It could definitely get ugly.

And in case you yourself need a good “out” of your unhealthy relationship with Facebook, please do read my post,

25 Ways to Make Sure Everyone of Facebook Hates Your Guts

I hope it helps.

Until next time, word nerds and other peeps…

Write on!

And just say no to Facebook!

 

UPDATE: If you’d like to read about my life after recovery from Facebook addiction, you may do so right >HERE<

XOXOXOX