Find the time

When I read author Ashley Ream’s article for Writer’s Digest last week — “How to Write a Book When You’re Really, Really Busy” — I was inspired. Ream says from the very beginning of her article that she has a life and isn’t afraid to live it.  During the writing of her latest book, she was working full time and taking college classes, and on top of that uncovered time for friends and family and TV. At first I thought wow, yeah, I want to know her secret for finding time to write with such a hectic schedule.

Her secret turned out to be a calendar — only, not the sort of thing I expected. I was thinking something more along the lines of a play-by-play, as in, “5:00: Home; 5:05: Write for two hours; 7:05: Microwave dinner; 7:10: Eat dinner while watching ‘Mythbusters’ on DVR,” etc. Instead she offered a spreadsheet outlining the days she spent writing and the days she had off over the course of four months. I admit I was impressed that she wrote over 100,000 words over four months when some weeks she had as many as six days off. On the other hand, she didn’t say when she slept.

She said she watched “a number of ‘Mythbusters,’ episodes” and I’m thinking, what, like four or five over 22 weeks? Did she have a Netflix marathon on one of her off days? I record seven shows each week, and that’s after canceling my subscription to Glee. Excuses, I know. But TV is part of my life, people, and watching Awake or reruns of Family Guy or NCIS very often is the only time my husband and I have together. Do other novelists schedule “together time” with family, and then, after an hour, shut themselves into a room to write 2,000 words? That after spending nine hours a day away from home, in addition to all the other stuff that gets in the way of having a writing agenda?

I’m just asking because I’ve written four books — each over the span of one month — November, during National Novel Writing Month. In actuality, it was more like 20 days for each; the other 10 days I did other stuff — stuff pertaining to having a life. So I know what it’s like to shut myself off from my husband and family and friends while writing a book. I just don’t get how authors can do it for more than 20 days at a time.

At the beginning of this blog entry, I said the Writer’s Digest article inspired me. I thought Ream’s spreadsheet actually seemed pretty achievable and thought if she can accomplish all that with so many days off from writing each week, so can I. I’ve been in the midst of editing my second book (the first I’ve tried to edit) for over two years. Now in the third practical draft I’ve reached that point in my book where I need to totally rewrite the next three or four chapters. Knowing I have to return to the writing phase after so long in the editing (or evasion) phase is overwhelming. Still, I managed to work on this book every day this week, so far. The last couple of days I’ve been outlining the chapters I need to rewrite, and it’s been a big help seeing line for line how my story will unfold and what questions pop up that I need to answer in order for my story to be realistic. I realized in rereading the second half of this book just how bad it is. I’m in my third draft, and my book really sucks, but I think the ideas I have for improvement actually will make it really great. The problem now is just finding the time to make it happen.

The reason why I’ve been able to work on my book each day this week is because I didn’t do anything else. I went to work, I came home (okay, yes, I watched TV), I heated up leftovers for dinner, I talked to my husband on the phone while he drove home from work, I worked on my book for an hour or so, and I slept 6-7 hours a night.

Then I berate Ream for not presenting us with a more clean-cut example of how and when she wrote 2,000 words on any given day, but, you know what, she probably doesn’t know any more than I do how she manages to accomplish anything from one day to the next. She writes two to five days a week, and over the course of 22 weeks, she wrote and edited more than a hundred thousand words (320 pages).

Is she really asking so much from the rest of us that we maybe save those seven recorded TV shows for a Saturday TiVo marathon and, on the other days, write a novel?

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