readers imagine authors pounding away
uninterrupted at their computers for hours, and then taking long walks
on the beach, city streets, or woodland trails for renewed inspiration.
A writer’s life must be solitary, introspective, and perhaps a bit
tragic. Although some writers probably enjoy that lifestyle, most of us
juggle another job besides family and household responsibilities.
I fall into this latter
category. In addition to writing each day, I
earn a living as a part-time sales rep for the largest candy maker in
the country. It’s a great company to work for, with supportive fellow
employees and understanding supervisors. But nevertheless, I’m often
worn ragged—not from the physical labor of lifting cases of chocolate,
but from mentally changing hats all day.
To keep my book moving forward,
I never let my story get away from
me. During my morning coffee I make notes, jot character transitions,
or adjust the plot outline to accommodate scenes that took on lives of
their own. While sitting in my car or eating lunch in a food court, I
write dialogue in longhand for the current chapter. Being alone yet
surrounded by people helps my characters to “speak” for themselves.
While driving in between sales calls, I sometimes pull into driveways
to jot down ideas before they slip away. I’ve often wondered if anyone
has noticed me sitting in front of the house, writing fast and furious
on a legal tablet. Even while standing in the grocery line, I’m usually
thinking about my story so that when I sit down to write I don’t stare
at a blank computer screen.
To those of you who might wish
to add writing to your day job and
family responsibilities, I offer five rules for accomplishing your
desires and still having time for those you love . . . including
#1 Make a weekly
calendar and stick to it. If you have a
dentist appointment, daughter’s recital, neighborhood cookout, or
anything you don’t want to miss, write it on the calendar in red ink.
And barring an emergency, allow nothing to usurp the event. Even weekly
recurring events like church services or exercise classes should be
written on your weekly planner. Then schedule writing “slots” in the
same way and stick to them. And don’t allow Internet surfing or e-mail
to steal your valuable time.
#2 Prioritize your
tasks. I work in sales four days a
week—the rest of the time is mine to schedule. Since half an hour
devotional time is important to me, I skip the newspaper until the
evening and read it while watching TV, when I’m too tired for anything
else. Make sure writing is part of every day. Whether it’s for hour
before work, while riding the train or during your lunch break, write a
few paragraphs longhand or on your laptop. Regarding your social life .
. . pick and choose your activities carefully. Don’t feel you must say
yes to every invitation, volunteer project, or committee meeting. Learn
to say no unless you truly wish to devote the time and energy.
but only if it’s productive.
The only time I dust is during long phone calls. I check voicemail
while walking the dog. I shop and do other errands on my way home from
work to free up weekend time for writing. Don’t make the mistake of
plotting a scene during your son’s ballgame if he expects you to watch
him play. You will fail at both tasks. Allow some downtime every now
and then to curl up and watch a sappy movie, read someone else’s book,
or call up a friend to chat. If you’re feeling stressed, recharge your
#4 Lower your
standards. I can live with weedy flowerbeds as
long as my bathrooms are clean. I don’t like clutter, but dust doesn’t
bother me. I take store-bought brownies to parties so I can have time
to write stories about women who love to cook. You can’t do it all.
Repeat that as a mantra every morning. Give up the notion you can work
two jobs and still compete with the Food Channel gurus. But if cooking
is your pleasure, find another area to be mediocre in and don’t
#5 Release the outcome.
Put your future in God’s hands
instead of looking too far into the future. If you dwell on how much
you need to accomplish by the end of the week, the month, or the year,
you’ll get discouraged. Like every monumental project we tackle,
whether building our own houses or hiking the Appalachian Trail, if we
fully understood how arduous the task is we would never begin. Create a
schedule for yourself that accomplishes your goals in small
increments—such as writing one chapter per week—and stick to it. Never
compare yourself to others. Pray for guidance and then listen to your
intuition. This is God talking to you. Invite Him to take the helm of
your life. If your goals are part of God’s plan, then you cannot fail .
. . whether it’s climbing Mount Everest, learning to speak Japanese, or
finishing your first book.