Tag Archives: time management

Writing and Juggling

By Kristi Helvig

Kristi HelvigIn light of the upcoming launch for my sci-fi debut, BURN OUT, someone asked me in an interview about how I managed to balance my work as a psychologist, my writing obligations, and parenting two young children. I laughed because ‘balanced’ is the last word I’d use to describe myself right now. Coinciding with my book launch is the due date for edits on Book 2. In the midst of said edits and book launch is my youngest child’s birthday. To give you an idea of how crazed I’ve been, when I asked what she wanted for her birthday, she said, “For you to stay off your computer the whole day.” (Cue massive maternal guilt).

Under these two deadlines, I’ve turned from the super-involved parent who takes their kids to parks and musuems to the one who mutters “yeah, sure” when they call out from the other room asking if they can take a knife, scissors, and crazy-glue upstairs for ‘a project.’ After several days spent editing on the couch in sweatpants last week, my husband almost burst into song when I announced I was going to shower. Okay, he actually did burst into song, and that song was “Hallelujah.” I wish I was kidding.

As writers, we’re always juggling. Whether it’s time spent promoting vs. writing, day job vs. writing, laundry vs. writing, etc., it’s hard to hit that sweet spot where we feel balanced. Though I have no magic answers for this, the following things have helped me along the way.

Helvig_BURN OUT Cover1)  Prioritize the tasks at hand. My motto: deadlines and family first, everything else where it fits. I still make time to walk the dog, volunteer in the kids’ classrooms, and do yoga because those things matter to me—plus yoga helps to offset the vast quantities of chocolate I eat while editing. Sadly, laundry hasn’t seemed to fit anywhere lately. I was going to include a picture of the current state of our laundry basket, or rather the mountain of clothes that ate our basket, but it’s just too embarrassing. Even with writing related tasks, I’m a firm believer in old-school ‘to-do’ lists and arrange things by dates of importance. There is something satisfying about crossing things off of lists.

2)  Enlist help. My family has fair warning when I’m entering the Deadline Zone—just like the Twilight Zone but without the cool background music. My awesomely supportive hubby will take the kids out for outings so I can have quiet writing time, and make dinners, etc. Then we’ll switch when he’s under a time crunch. My oldest is slowly taking on some household chores, though even he doesn’t see the appeal of laundry. Even when it’s not a matter of deadlines, there is always some sort of chaos in the schedule, so it’s important to have a plan in place to manage it. Juggling is easiest when there are more hands to handle the balls.

3) Schedule non-juggling time. Even if it’s just an afternoon at the movies with a friend or a weekend away in the mountains with family, it’s so important to take time away from the insanity. It makes all the times when you are juggling more bearable.

In the end, I think it’s impossible to be perfectly balanced all of the time. If you know otherwise, please tell me your secret! I’ve come to accept that there will be times, like now, where I’m barely hanging on, and that’s okay. Things seem to go in cycles and there’s comfort in the knowledge that in a few weeks time, I’m going to be a showering and laundry machine. Unless someone wants to come do my laundry—I’m totally open to that.

What are your tips for maintaining balance in your life? Anyone else’s laundry basket qualify as a Colorado Fourteener?

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Kristi Helvig is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist turned sci-fi/fantasy author. She muses about Star Trek, space monkeys, and other assorted topics at her website. Kristi resides in sunny Colorado with her hubby, two kiddos, and behaviorally-challenged dogs. Follow her on Twitter or find her on Facebook. Her publisher, Egmont USA, is giving away 5 finished copies of BURN OUT on Goodreads through April 17th.

Work Management

I started off my February post here by mentioning I’d been busy lately. In fact, I had to check because I started off this post in almost the exact same way.

Oops.

However, it’s less me running in the same rut than that things haven’t really let up yet. Happily, last Friday I finished the draft of Rogue’s Paradise, which is due to my editor 3/15. It’s out with the crit partners (CPs) right now. Once I finished that, I turned to line edits on Going Under. My editor asked for those by 3/9 and I negotiated for 3/12. Those are almost done and need just one more pass – something I’ll do as soon as I complete this post. Then I’ll turn to polishing Rogue’s Paradise, using the approach I detailed in my November post, Easy Steps to Polish that Draft, and incorporating comments from my CPs.

Amusingly (and with perfect timing), another editor sent the developmental edits for The Tears of the Rose, that second Twelve Kingdoms  book I mentioned in that polishing post – and those arrived Friday afternoon, hours after I finished Paradise. (I was dreading the eventuality that those edits would arrive before I had the opportunity to clear my head space of these other two books.) The other aspect of this auspicious timing is that I can do the edits on Tears and then go straight into writing book 3 of that trilogy, The Talon of the Hawk, which is due 6/1.

Thankfully, also, the sixth and final episode of my serial novel, Master of the Opera, comes out 3/20 – so my promo efforts for that will be over. Gives me a bit of breathing room before the 5/27 release of the first Twelve Kingdoms book, The Mark of the Tala.

See what I mean?

But I took the weekend to chill. We drove to Tucson for my mother’s birthday and I spent a lot of time hanging out, chatting, and reading for pleasure. My mom worried that I was tired and I was. But the rest helped and now I’m ready to get back at it. She wanted me to take it easier than I am.

I can’t.

That’s the thing about deadlines. If you don’t work on stuff, it doesn’t go away. It just stacks up and makes the work even more difficult later. Yes – in the future I’ll make sure not to stack my writing deadlines together so tightly. For now, however, I need to get through them, and keep myself sane and healthy while doing so.

My husband pointed out to me that the issue isn’t time management. Earl Nightingale takes the position that the concept of “time management” is worthless because time is beyond our control. Time flows as it flows, whether we attempt to manage that or not.

What IS within our control is the work we do. That is, I need to manage the work within the time that I have. One solution, I’ve decided, with the man’s input, is to resist the urge to multitask. One thing at a time. And when I rest, I rest. An hour or two of solid relaxation is far better than five hours of working social media while answering emails and watching a movie.

That’s my plan. Anyone else have good suggestions for work management?

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Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial

Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns;  the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, including the newest, Five Golden Rings, which came out as part of the erotic holiday anthology, Season of Seduction, in late November; and a  contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, will hit the shelves starting in May 2014. A spin-off story from this series, Negotiation, appears in the recently-released Thunder on the Battlefield anthology.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Action Plans for the Scattered and Unmotivated

by Kerry Schafer

Last month I shared some of my thoughts about intentions, suggesting that it’s a good idea to have some and see where they take you. And then I tacked a little afterthought on the end, saying how next time we’d talk about Action Plans.

I still maintain that intentions are lovely and wonderful things, even though well meaning people say the road to hell is paved with them. I suspect that the road to paradise is probably paved with them too, although nobody ever seems to mention that.

Back to my point, which is that we want to give those intentions a little boost so that they are more likely to take us to the good place, and not lead us astray into darkness and possibly fire and brimstone.

Warning: If you’re looking for one of those super organized, highly structured, do-all-of-the-things-on-this-list-and-you-will-surely-conquer-the-world posts, you’re in the wrong spot. This isn’t even Action Plans 101. I’m offering up a few random ideas for those of us who organize by sticky notes on the kitchen table, or in our heads while resting our eyes on the couch.

1. Publicly announce whatever it is you said you were going to do.

Case in point – at the end of my last blog post here, I said I would write this time about action plans. If I hadn’t done this, I might easily have opted for something involving fluffy cats and maybe a random penguin or two, because I’m tired and feeling unfocused and the last thing I want to do right now is remind myself that I need a new Action Plan. But I do, and here we are. This is one of the things that makes Nanowrimo so successful, I think. After you’ve announced to everybody who knows and loves you, along with a bunch of strangers who don’t care at all and even a few people who hate you, that you’re going to do something – write a book, query an agent, self publish, whatever – there is a motivating force to keeping your word.

2. Write it on a calendar.

Don’t have a calendar? Get one. Or use the calendar on your smart phone or your computer. Get the kids to make you one. This, for the scattered and unmotivated, is one of the simplest and best motivational and organizational tools out there. Of course, simply scrawling “write a novel”  or “get published” on the first available date may not be of much use, although I think even that would be of some use. There is something about actually scheduling writing time, or query time, or a word count goal, that bumps it up the ranks of your to do list. It’s like magic. Write it down – Monday – 9 am buy groceries, 10:30 am dentist appointment, 3 pm write 1000 words – and all of a sudden your writing time jumps from something you’d like to do if you have time, to something that you plan to do.

3. Take a small step now that will commit you to further action later.

I’m talking about one of those moments where you open your mouth (or put your fingers on the keys) and commit yourself to something. Usually the commitment part only takes a few minutes, but has far reaching consequences, sort of like getting married in Vegas, only in a good way. Or that minute at a school meeting where you raise your hand and volunteer to organize the potluck. If you’re having trouble getting your butt in the chair to write words, buddy up with a friend. Agree to meet up for writing sprints, at 5 am, or 10 pm, or whatever fits in your schedule. That way, when the alarm goes off and you reach out to push snooze, you’ll be struck by the guilt of knowing that someone you care about is climbing out of a nice warm bed somewhere else so she can meet up with you. Guilt is a wonderful nap ruiner. Join a writing group that expects pages to critique. Create a contest with a friend to see who gets the most (well researched and solidly crafted) queries out into the world by a particular time frame.

As Action Plans go, this is the minimalist version. Search the net and you’ll find all sorts of involved and in depth road maps to success. These make my head hurt, and I suspect I’m not the only one. So this is the extent of my contribution to the subject. Hey, every little bit helps, right?

Now – it’s time for you to step up to the plate. What action plan step are you prepared to commit to today?

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Kerry Schafer’s first novel, Between, was published in February 2012 and the sequel, Wakeworld, is slated to hit shelves and e-readers on February 14, 2013. Kerry is both a licensed mental health counselor and an RN, and loves to incorporate psychological and medical disorders into her fantasy books. You can find out more on her website, www.kerryschafer.com, or find her on Twitter as @kerryschafer or on her Facebook page Kerry Schafer Books.

Why Time Off Isn’t Time Lost

Literary Agent, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, writing, writers life, publishingby Jeffe Kennedy

I’ve been pushing hard lately.

“Lately” meaning about the last year and a half. I’ve talked about it a fair amount on my personal blog and on a panel or two. Mainly what happened was that I signed with an agent, who was fabulous enough to get me several book deals, and I ended up scheduling myself with a novel deadline about every three months.

What with a full-time, career-type job, it’s been a bit tight.

Not that I mind! My new mantra is “Good Problems To Have.”

*goodproblemstohave* *goodproblemstohave* *goodproblemstohave*

What it’s meant for my daily life is that I’ve been writing in the neighborhood of 2,000 words a day. In 2013 I wrote just shy of 500,000 words. 2,821 words short, to be exact. Which kind of burned my ass to miss that milestone by so little, but my stepson got married on New Year’s Eve and I needed to be part of that.

And, really, it didn’t matter. My overall effort mattered. A round number is prettier, but ultimately meaningless.

The last ten days have been a mess for me. I traveled for my day job to do a weekend-long training session. Very intensive, no time to write. I was able to get through the galley proofs of my book coming out in May, The Mark of the Tala, but that was pretty much it. Upon my return, I got hit with developmental edits for Going Under, the first book in my new erotic romance trilogy. As we all know, editing is nothing like producing word count.

Then my agent, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, pictured above on the left with my friend, aspiring writer Anna Philpot, came to visit for four days. She spoke to my local RWA chapter in New Mexico. We had a great time and had many excellent conversations about trends in the industry and my career, all important stuff.

But I got nothing done. Nothing *writing* done, that is.

So, today I’m back at it, staring at the next novel deadline of March 15. On one hand, it feels like I lost time. My spreadsheet certainly thinks so, with my blinking counter showing me I’m over a week behind on my predicted progress. On the other, however, I’m feeling rejuvenated.

It’s counter-intuitive, because I’ve been going pretty much non-stop. The key, however, is that I haven’t been drafting. I’ve been learning new things and talking to people, going to fun places and *gasp* socializing.

Turns out it was good for me.

While my spreadsheets and I tend to believe that real progress is measured only by those steadily increasing word count numbers, that’s simply not true. Many steps forward are intangible and can be measured only by the long-term results. That training for the day job gave me a certification for instructional design that I can use for teaching writing workshops, too. Spending that extensive time with Pam has given me much food for thought and a better idea of how to chart my future.

Time well-used.

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Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial

Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns;  the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, including the newest, Five Golden Rings, which came out as part of the erotic holiday anthology, Season of Seduction, in late November; and a  contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, will hit the shelves starting in May 2014. A spin-off story from this series, Negotiation, appears in the recently-released Thunder on the Battlefield anthology.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Too Busy to Write Blog for RMFW

By Terri Benson

Terri BensonYou’re too busy to write? Wrong.

I know, we’re all busy. Life gets in the way of letting us become the truly great writers we know we are. Kids are sick, the boss needs you to work overtime, you’re tired, the sun is shining and you need to get out and exercise. The number of reasons you’re too busy is infinite – or are they excuses?

To be a writer, you must write. A lot. And not just when you have all the time in the world. This is advice for me, as much as for anyone else. It’s so easy to tell myself that I need a long open period to write. That I can’t just pick up where I left off and go. But if I have to, I can. And so can you.

It will take some effort, no doubt. We’ll have to set the alarm clock a little earlier. Write instead of soaking in the tub with the newest best seller. Let the kids watch that video they really want to instead of playing a game with them. Take the teens to the library and let them do research or homework for an hour or two while you write. Ignore the piles of laundry as long as everyone has a clean change of underwear and socks. Record the game and watch it later (refuse to answer the phone until you have a chance to watch so no one spoils it for you) – you’ll enjoy it just as much. Plan a date night with yourself – go somewhere besides home and write, with or without other writers. Let the family order pizza and spend the time you would have been cooking, writing.

Benson_An Unsinkable LoveCarve out those precious moments to write in, no matter how small. Make the most of the time by being ready to write. Know where you’re going to write. Have your laptop or tablet charged, or paper and pens handy. Don’t get sidetracked by research, or try to edit as you go. Just write. Word after word. Page after page.

If you’re not in the process of writing a full manuscript, work on a short story, an essay, an article, a poem. You can get published and paid for those, too, you know. If you are working on a book, set goals for yourself – number of words/pages/chapters you can realistically write, how many hours a day/week/month you can set aside – and stick to them. Give yourself a reward when you reach them – and maybe the family, too (see next paragraph).

Talk with the family and make sure they understand how important it is that you have this time for yourself. Set rules for interruptions (i.e. amount of blood spilled that qualifies as an emergency, or specify that lost keys or shoes do not qualify as an emergency). Don’t give in to little issues that erode these rules – this is important and they need to understand that. Remind them that Stephen King and Nora Roberts make a lot of money writing, and you might, too, if they’ll just leave you the heck alone.

The next time you find yourself thinking “I’m too busy to write,” say, OUTLOUD, “No, I’ll make time, because this is important to me.” And do it.

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As a life-long writer, Terri Benson has one published novel (An Unsinkable Love/Lyrical Press), award winning short stories, and over a hundred articles – many award winning – in local and regional magazines and on-line e-zines. She has been a member of RMFW for the last few years, and her employer provides the location for the Western Slope events. She is currently on the RMFW Publicity Committee, promoting Western Slope events and assisting with articles for the newsletter and blog as needed.

For more information about Terri and her novel, visit her website.

Why I Have Failed To Write a Word in 2014

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

Aaron_Michael_RitcheyI am the problem.

Not the clock. Not the industry. Not my critique group. Not my readers. Not even my stalker fans. Wait, I don’t have stalker fans. Dang.

No, I am the problem. When I don’t write, I am the problem?

First of all, I forget so easily most everything good about the writing life. I only focus on the difficulties. I know I suck, the criticisms sting, the despair drowns me, the disappointment destroys, the rejection! Rejection. Rejection. Eloi, Eloi! Lama sabachthani!

So far in 2014, I have not written a single word of fiction and for me that is a long time because I’m a daily writer. If I don’t write daily, I fall out of the habit, and getting back into the habit takes blood, my dearies, lots of blood. And I know I have to do some writing soon because I have a new book coming out in 2014, and I have several mewling projects that need my attention.

But I’ve been so busy.

Again, I am the problem. One of my favorite excuses not to write is time. Oh, I’m so busy. I have so much going on. How can I fit it all in?

That is me lying to myself, which I love to do. My friend says he wastes his life in ten minutes increments looking at drivel on the internet. Add up those ten minute increments? Six of them gives you an hour? Do you know what you can do in an hour? I can type a thousand words, easy. I can edit ten pages. I can outline a book. One hour is a long time. How else would I want to spend any free hour I have? Doing something that gives my life meaning? Or looking at kitty pictures on Facebook? Though I do like me a good kitten pic, I’ll tell ya what.

We all have the same twenty-four hours. People can do some amazing stuff with their minutes, and why not me? It’s all about priorities and scheduling. Normally, I schedule in what’s important first, and then let the rest of my day take shape. For years, I got up early to write. Getting up early is stealing time from God.

But now? I sleep in. I read. I watch T.V. I stare out the window into the darkness. I think Kafka-esque thoughts.

I am the problem. What really gets me is the self-doubt. Stephen King said that self-doubt kills both books and writers. This is me, raising my hand.

Ritchey_LLTSK_Cover for ARCI have the notion that I will never succeed, that I will remain stalkerless, that I know exactly how my writing career is going to look, and it doesn’t include huge contracts, adoring fans, and mimosas. I assume that whatever I write won’t sell, that I’ll die nameless, and this entire endeavor will be a monumental waste of time. I might as well embrace the obesity epidemic, turn on the T.V., permanently, and just huddle up in my cocoon of Dr. Who and chili-flavored Fritos and wait for heart disease and diabetes to come and get busy on my ass.

Every day in 2014 that is how I’ve woken up. What am I doing writing books? Why am I even trying? What kind of an idiot am I?

Then I think about my next book, Long Live the Suicide King. It’s a story about a seventeen-year-old kid who quits doing drugs and gets suicidal, but the more suicidal he gets, the more interesting his life becomes. It’s a story about hope. About meaning. It’s darkly funny, reads fast, and has some definite crime novel aspects to it. It’s a project I adore, and it truly is an Aaron Michael Ritchey novel.

It was a book I was born to bring into the world.

In 2014, I’ve forgotten why I write, so I haven’t been motivated to get up at the buttcrack of dawn to work. It’s our “whys” that drive us. We all write for different reasons. For me, writing is an act of supreme courage. When I write, it’s me spitting in the face of death and despair. When I don’t write, it’s the other way around. Yeah, lugies in the eye.

The hero in my new book is certain he knows how his life will turn out, which is one of the reason he wants to die. But he’s foolish. In the end, none of know what the future holds. Lots of writers commit suicide certain they were kidding themselves about their talent, the power of their story, the righteousness of their cause. I don’t want to be another dead writer.

While I’m alive, I will write. I can blame the clock, the industry, my childhood of neglect and afternoon sitcoms, but the reality is, I have the power, I make the choice.

And today, I choose to pursue this impossible, frustrating, windmill of a dream. I think I’ll go and write a little fiction right now.

I’m doing a little giveaway for both the hopeless and the hopeful. If you’d like to win a one-of-kind Advanced Reader Copy of Long Live the Suicide King, leave a comment about why you write. What keeps you going?

Comments left on this post through Friday midnight Mountain Time will be considered. The winner will be announced on the blog on Saturday. This giveaway is for U.S. residents only.

Thanks all!

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Aaron Michael Ritchey’s first novel, The Never Prayer, was published in March of 2012 to a fanfare of sparkling reviews including an almost win in the RMFW Gold contest. Since then he’s been paid to write steampunk, cyberpunk, and sci-fi western short stories, two of which will appear in a new fiction magazine, Fiction Vale. His next novel, Long Live the Suicide King, will give hope to the masses in April of 2014. As a former story addict and television connoisseur, he lives in Colorado with his wife and two goddesses posing as his daughters.

For more about Aaron, his books, and how to overcome artistic angst, visit his website. He’s on Facebook as Aaron Michael Ritchey and he tweets as @aaronmritchey.