In addition, Surrender at the Border had just been published and I was caught up in promoting it. I was continually asked about the “next Border book.” Pressure was on. I tried to start a “next one,” even seeing a series take shape. Ideas weren’t the problem. The writing had slowed to a trickle.
Not only was my career taking a hit, so was my well-being. I had to write somehow if I was to weather these storms. After struggling, I found sanity in thirty minutes a day. Here’s what I’ve learned.
- Commit to thirty minutes a day. It has to be every day. The same time every day is better, morning works best for me. Thirty minutes is doable even on the most hectic day. After a while, conditioning takes over and makes the time more productive.
- Those focused thirty minutes keeps the momentum going. After my writing session, the story stays in my head for the rest of the day and my imagination keeps working on it even when I’m away from the page.
- Be realistic. Thirty minutes a day is not going to get a novel written in six months. Or even a year. I had be okay with the knowledge that progress would be slow.
- I can’t beat myself up if something else happens in my thirty minutes. Interruptions are inevitable. No recriminations and try again.
- When I hit a snag with the writing, I do a little exercise I call “noddling” or brainstorming on the page. It’s okay to use my thirty minutes for this exercise. I happened on to this when I was in edits with Surrender and carried it into my next project. With a fresh page, I put down anything that comes in my mind concerning the story. Possible directions for the plot. Questioning characters’ motivations. Why is this important to my character? Based on what she’s already done, what does her gut tell her to do? How does it conflict with the hero? What would she write in her journal? (I just thought that one up, but I’m so keeping it).
- With thirty minutes, I don’t have time to reread everything. At the beginning of a writing session, I’m tempted to read a whole chapter or more to get back into the flow. With only thirty minutes, I limit myself to reading the previous two or three paragraphs to get myself back in.
- A daily quota helps, but I’m not a slave to it. I accept whatever I get done, finding satisfaction in knowing I’m pushing forward and not staying still.
- Go someplace different. When there are too many distractions at home, I go somewhere else for my thirty minutes. My day job is at a college library so I frequently use a study room for my writing time. There’s the added benefit of conditioning. Sitting in a new place alerts my brain that this is work time.
- Everyone knows which thirty minutes is mine. So if I don’t answer the phone or answer any questions, my family knows why. It’s only thirty minutes even if it’s an emergency.
- There’s nothing more satisfying to a writer than progress, so every time I finish a section or a chapter, no matter how long it took, I take pride that I actually finished something.