Sunday, October 18, 2009

Finding Time

The irony that this post is late, is not lost on me. But I took the time this morning to have brunch with writer friends as prescribed in my Finding Balance blog. So, things got backed up.
The Finding Balance blog showed me that finding time is a difficult thing for writers to do. There are so many other pressing things--family, work, house cleaning, blogging, promo--how do you find the time to write?
I think what really happens is that we get caught up in the idea that it is all or nothing. That writing is not worthwhile unless we spit out at least ten pages at a time. That cleaning house isn't any good unless we move all the furniture and clean from floor to ceiling. That diet and exercise isn't going to work unless we run three hours a day and cut our calories to 900 a day. We have fallen into a binge/purge mentality. We feel as if it's not worth it unless we make it extreme. (TV doesn't help with Extreme Home Makeover, Biggest Loser, etc. In our culture, if it's not extreme then it isn't worth doing.)
I say- Stop the madness! I say- let go of the peer pressure-the pressure from advertisers and television. They have only one purpose in life and that is not to improve yours- they want to sell you something. Stop competing for a moment with Suzy who write 20 pages a day...and with Sally who runs five miles a day...and with George who not only works 12 hours a day but also coaches and does charity fund raisers. It makes your mind spin and you wonder- who has the time?!
How do you find time to have balance? Here are a few tips that work for me--please feel free to leave tips in comments, too. I'm always open to new ideas.
1) Stop. Breathe. Close your eyes and push out the thoughts of what should be and think about what you want to be. Be realistic based on your life- your personality-your preferences-the current market, etc.
2) Make a list of yearly goals: lose ten pounds, write one full book, have a clean house- Don't write sell a book because you have no control over who will buy. List only what you can control-writing a book and sending it out.
3) Break those goals down into small DOABLE daily bits.
4) Give yourself thirty days to get into the habit of meeting these small goals and make them a lifetime thing.
5) Reevaluate every thirty days to see what works and what doesn't. Let's say you can't lose ten pounds no matter how hard you try- perhaps you need to adjust your thinking. Perhaps 5 pounds is enough. ( Ignore the starving plastic photo-shopped women in media. Think about your health instead. If you must lose 30 pounds to lower your blood pressure and help diabetes- think like that. You are making healthy choices- not dieting. It will never be over. You must always take care of yourself because you are the only one who truly can.)
Here are small things I do: A few years ago when my kids were small I felt as if I could not keep up with the housework. So, I broke chores down into days like they did 150 years ago. On Monday I vacuum the whole house-under furniture once a month. This takes about 20 minutes. On Tuesdays I dust the whole house. On Wednesdays I clean the small bathroom. On Thursdays I clean the large bathroom and on Friday I damp mop the kitchen. If someone comes over and the floor is vacuumed but there is dust-'s not Tuesday. If it sounds too controlled- relax be flexible when necessary but don't give up. The key is to not give up.
Next, I evaluate my writing goals and review my schedule and my writing style. Then I set up a plan and stick to it as best I can- giving myself leeway for those days when things don't work out...(Notice that I have no housework scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. These are built in catch up days if the week doesn't turn out so well.) Remember a page a day will net you a book a year and a page consists of 250 words on average. If you can't do a page all at once- how can you break down 250 words in your day?
I don't run 5 miles or spin 25 miles any more. Instead I try to take three ten minute walks a day. It's what works best for me right now.
As for promotion-- no one can do it all. There are many wonderful ideas, find two or three that work for you and do them very well and let go of the thought that you have to compete with Sally Promo who spent $30,000 and countless hours on her book promo. Don't let her bully you into thinking you are not good enough just because she is binging.
So, how do you find time? Stop competing. There is always going to be someone writing more than you, promoing more than you, doing more than you with a cleaner better house than you. Let go of the idea you have to keep up. Think small. Think about you--your life and your needs. Think about your process and do a little every day. Forgive yourself when you don't and keep going. I believe that knowing yourself and your process and being realistic about life will help you to write the books you want to write and to build the career you want to have. Finding time to live a life as full as realistically possible for you is the ultimate goal.


Pamala Knight said...

Thank you for this very calming and centered post, Nancy. It is very easy to fall into the trap of keeping track of what you're not doing instead of focusing on what you can do. Thanks for the reminder.


Jessica said...

wonderful post Nancy! I break my chores down too. Every morning I have one or two main things I want to get done. Like today is vacuum and clean the toilets. Tomorrow will probably be iron and dust. I get these done in the morning, as well as my blogging, and then afternoons and evenings are spent with the kids and writing. IT really does work to do small chunks at a time.
And it never works to compete with writing. Great point!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Pamala,thanks for stopping by- being centered is a good goal and one I have trouble remembering on some days. lol

Hi Jessica, So cool that you break your chores down as well. You are right- competing with writing simply doesn't work.

Linda Kage said...

Love the advice. Thank you. I like the idea of taking things one step at a time instead of leaping over the entire staircase. Whew.

Anita said...

You know what? I do forgive has really been a gift of getting older, I think. I wish I could go back to Anita in her twenties and say "Girl, calm down."

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Great post. It is so easy to get caught up in the madness. I find I have to stop every once in a while and take a deep breath and remind myself to appreciate the little things I manage to get done when a large task seems too daunting.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Linda, one step at a time is okay- especially with a baby on the way. :)

Anita, I wish I could go back as well-the best I can do is tell my daughter to calm down. But she doesn't

Jane, thanks! One of my favorite quotes is "people who move mountains do it one stone at a time." -


Pamela Cayne said...

"That writing is not worthwhile unless we spit out at least ten pages at a time."

Just when did you break into my house and hear my crazed mutterings of why I was having so much trouble getting writing again? Wow, what a fabulous post, and obviously, so very close to home. I tend to beat myself up because I can't do it all, even if those goals are so high that even Dr. Phil and Oprah would tell me to chill.

Thanks for not only some fabulous tips, but the knowledge that there are others out there facing the same mountains I am, and that they find ways to make it to the top.

(P.S. Hi, BTW. Came over here from Pamala's blog, but have frequently seen you on Marilyn's.)

Marilyn Brant said...

*waving to Pamala and Pamela* :)

You've been hitting so many of my issues with your recent posts...thank you. I've come to accept that I'll never write as fast as some people, never lose weight as quickly, never feel as though I'm completely caught up (no matter how late I stay up at night trying). But it's inspirational to me to be reminded that pacing myself *is* an option. That I don't have to put 135 things on my to-do list EVERY day (where the pressure of them staring up at me weighs me down), but I could divide by 5 and only have 27 things on there... :) Seriously, it's so helpful just remembering to try something like that.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Pamela, thanks for coming over. Good to see you here. You are not alone in hearing the whispering voices say 100 pages a day is

Hi Marilyn...I read your book on the train today. LOVE it! Seriously, I see what your agent and editor saw in it. You have a very lovely writers voice.

Ann Victor said...

Absolutely true, Nancy.

It's all to easy to forget that we're individuals and each have different strengths. Suzy who writes 20 pages, may have to rewrite 19 of the pages, while Janice who only writes 3 pages a day, may need only the most minimal rewrite.

So we each need to find our own comfort zone (20 pages or 3 pages a day?) and then just aim to stick with that. :)

It's great to be reminded of this!