A Writer’s Interdependency

A year ago I posted about support systems. I think we all appreciate a little encouragement from time to time. It’s both comforting and reassuring, but on occasion there’s more to the shoring up than we may realize.

I believe there are times when we can look back and recognize that the help we’ve received is more like a sturdy snake rail fence or a well constructed log building. We’re not just propped up and supported by helpful friends, but are embedded right into a mutually beneficial structure.

Published authors see it all the time. Each person or agency encountered throughout the publication process is integral to the others. There are the writers who craft stories, editors who help improve them, agents who find homes for them, illustrators and printers, publicists, booksellers and readers, all who have a vital role to play, and are interdependent on the others for their success.

Our original Cariboo cabin, circa 1949, as it looks today. (Click to enlarge)

I’ve always admired old Cariboo fences and log cabins. Sound construction principles help them endure. Makes me think our traditional publishing methods probably will, too.

What’s your opinion?

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“He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”
[Luke 6:48 NIV]

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Time Management Strategies for Writers

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the problem of making time for writing. We’re inclined to think we face the same kind of time constraints as agents except the workload originates from a different source. Balancing demands against time seems to be a constant challenge.

The complaint that crops up most often is there isn’t enough time to devote to writing because things like jobs, housework, family needs, community and sport activities, or church commitments create unavoidable interruptions.IMGP8530_2

To which I toss out the unpopular response, hogwash! Okay, I know that’s an antiquated expression, but you get my point. I know from experience if it’s important enough to you, you can make time for it.

So how do full time writers get their writing done and still manage to balance the task with everything else? After all, those twenty-four hours only stretch so far.

Here are four time management strategies to consider:

1. Organization — If you left the nine-to-five job behind and are writing from home, you may have left your desk appointment calendar behind, too. You need that calendar! There is always going to be shopping to do, library books to return and soccer games (substitute concerts, PTA meetings, doctor’s appointments, fishing trips or whatever) to attend. Life doesn’t stop just because you’ve decided to write. To create extra time you have to organize those things that eat into it. Make a list of the week’s usual activities, broken down into daily objectives. Instead of running out every time you think of something, consolidate the trips. Shuffle the not-so-vital errands to fit in around the time sensitive ones so you can accomplish them all in one efficient circuit. If you still have a day job, plan to combine as many errands as possible with your drive to and from work or on a single weekend outing. And if housework is a bane, remember that dust won’t eat the finish off your furniture. If it bothers you, enlist the help of a family member or indulge in an occasional half-day of maid service.

2. Prioritization — My husband has a favourite saying: “No is an acceptable answer.” Although men aren’t immune to it, women seem particularly prone to the Super Person complex—the need to be the perfect mother, wife, housekeeper, neighbour and employee. You have to accept that you cannot be all things to all people. Occasionally no IS an acceptable answer. Passing up a nomination or request to be the secretary of the condo management board, little league coach, or Sunday School teacher to ensure you have an extra hour or two for your writing is something you can do without guilt if you’ve taken your turn at accepting such responsibilities in the past. You should be able to say, “I’m sorry, but I have an extra work commitment this year and I can’t take on anything else.”

3. Commitment — There are three things to remember here.

  • First, you won’t give yourself permission to make time for writing if you consider it a hobby that doesn’t deserve your full commitment. Making excuses for why you spend time writing stories indicates a self-esteem problem. The truth is if you don’t believe your writing is a worthwhile endeavour, nobody else is going to either. Your attitude will determine how you convey your need for time, space and privacy to friends and family and how well they respect that need. The effort you dedicate to your task, arranging for childcare if necessary, letting phone calls go to voice mail, refusing to respond to interruptions that aren’t emergencies, are all indications of how seriously you take your commitment.
  • Then there’s procrastination. You can plan to write, set up a dedicated work space, read how-to books, do online research and networking, spend hours creating contest contributions and blog posts, and end the week (or month, or year) having written little if anything on your intended manuscript. It all feels like necessary preparation for the project, but in reality it is procrastination in disguise. If commitment doesn’t lead to action it’s misdirected.
  • And third is the fact that once you are working with an agent or editor you will no longer have the luxury of making excuses. Establish good work habits now because when that day comes you will be writing on a schedule and to deadlines regardless of Aunt Dody’s annual visit or the baby’s colic.

4. Persistence — There will always be something that nudges you to put down your pen and abandon your projects. Whether it’s the much-maligned Muse with its infamous writer’s block, harsh critiques or enough rejection letters to paper the bottom of a lifetime of canary cages, it’s easy to let doubt creep in and wipe away publication dreams. When you are tempted to quit is the very time you must force yourself to persevere. Every published author will tell you that persistence is the key to success.

To fulfill your writing dreams you first have to decide not to let obstacles thwart you. You can’t wait until a more convenient time in your life. If you really want to write, utilize time management skills and get on with it.

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Contemplating the Must-Haves of a Writing Website

In Nathan Bransford’s absence this week, his guest bloggers have been providing commentary on a variety of topics. Today Jordan McCollum wrote about “The Top 7 Things Every Aspiring Author’s Website Must Have.” I read it with interest, made a comment and slipped away to attend to non-computer things. But it wasn’t long before I was back at my computer.

 

Too many points in Jordan’s post niggled at me. According to her, the seven must-haves include a blog, social media, search engine presence, professional looking design, an ‘about’ page, a sample of the author’s work, and a contact page. I ticked off all the points and realized that my web presence is lacking most key features.

 

The only place it conforms is in having an ‘about’ page — but even that doesn’t provide a lot of information because when I first began blogging I was venturing into the public eye very cautiously and using my pseudonym. By using “Careann” I deliberately nullified the possibility of anyone finding me with a search for “Carol Garvin”. In fact, using my name in a search engine is likely to locate an artist and realtor in Florida!

 

Careann’s Musings was intended to be an informal personal blog. However if, as a writer, I put time and writing energy into it but gain none of the benefits, the value of my effort is minimized. So you’ll begin noticing subtle changes here as I uncloak the real me and provide opportunities for better visibility and networking. The new look will be gradual but it’s leading towards achieving more of those must-haves.

Grumbling Big Time

I’m having trouble digesting that the blogosphere is still reverberating with reactions to #queryfail and the resulting backlash dubbed #agentfail. I’m not linking to these because I think it’s time the venting stopped.

 

It seems like everyone has an opinion on why writers are so angry at agents — Nathan Bransford, Jennifer Jackson, Johnathan Lyons, Victoria Strauss, Ginger Clark, Jessica Faust, Janet Reid, and Rachelle Gardner to name just a few of the more visible ones. Most express surprise at the intensity of the anger. I suspect there is truth in one agent’s assumption that it stems from the frustration of unsuccessful writers whose efforts at publication have been thwarted by rejections from those who are seen as the gatekeepers of the industry.

 

As a writer, however, I’m embarrassed at the whining, ranting and nastiness that has erupted. There are frustrations in any business. Anyone who has done her homework knows the pathway to publication isn’t a freeway. Complaining about the bumps is neither productive nor respectful of those who are trying to pave the way for us. I think, as writers, our energy is better spent focusing on what we do best – writing — and not in trying to tell agents how to do their job.

 

One reader on Gretchen McNeil’s blog commented, “You expect professionalism, give it.”  Well said!

Writers Have Their Own Version of Time

Here I am, sprawled across the couch, ignoring all the obvious chores in favour of writing. Writers do that regularly. After all, we have to capture the ideas when they present themselves. If we press the mental “pause” button long enough to put creativity on hold in favour of extracting dog hairs from under the coffee table, or ironing the seams of our underwear, novels might never get written.

 

Oh, I know there are some tasks that can’t be ignored indefinitely but real writers become adept at identifying priorities and rationalizing. Baking double chocolate brownies to feed the muse is a priority; cleaning windows so the sun can shine through and show up all the dust inside is not. You learn to take advantage of occasional periods of mental stagnation to multi-task your way through the unavoidable demands. It’s amazing how quickly the dishwasher can be unloaded when you’re racing against the predictable arrival of the garbage truck and the trash still sits at the kitchen door.

 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll post this and then go move all the clocks ahead one hour. Daylight Saving Time arrives tonight. Tomorrow I’ll have to figure out how to compensate for that lost time.