When people find out that I’m a writer, at some point the conversation always turns to the ‘how do you do it?’. My favorite is when people ask me how I manage to write full novels while double-majoring in college and working (one of my jobs awarded me the ‘best time management’ award for the year for this). Most of the time, I answer that I’m not really managing well at all, which is partially true. Fitting in time to finish up the latest chapter when I have to code a whole new page of my school’s online newspaper and have a ten-pager due in Lib Theo class in two days is not always ‘fun’. A lot of the time I end up compromising- the coding gets half done, the paper isn’t as good as I’m used to doing, or I rush the chapter with the intention of editing later-and I’ll end up kicking myself for it later.
Still, I seem to be managing better than I think I do. My grade point average is still a high 3.8, I got rave end-of-the-year reviews at my job (which I retained to the next year), and the manuscript for my second novel is in the hands of a couple of beta readers getting read through and edited in preparation for then next draft. How do I do it?
When I was young, my mother taught me something invaluable. In high school, when I was first really introduced to the idea of having too much to feasibly do, she taught me how to multi-task the right way. Instead of piling things up one on top of the other, she taught me that there was always a way to pair certain activities so that I could end up knocking out three different objectives at once, without really even breaking a sweat. She taught me how to make even my most mundane tasks, like working out, into effortless moments of productivity that changed my outlook both on the exercise and the work that I was doing.
I’ve taken this mantra into my writing career: taking on ways to make myself a better writer that are complementary to what I already do, or already love to do, to keep my stress level as low as humanly possible. One of the first things that I read when starting out with this whole writing business is that it is important to establish routines to keep oneself on track. In my experience, that meant building in one or two more components to already existing routines, or replacing small bits of existing routines to make them more productive.
On my poetry blog, I’ve started a series of posts called ‘Things I Do to Stay Sane’; periodic posts that detail some of the little routines that I’ve developed that I believe have made me a better poet and a better person. I’m hoping to do that here with a new post series for ‘Becoming a Better Writer’- recounting some of those routines that have been specifically geared at helping with my fiction writing (get ready for posts on model homes, late-night partying and slacking off in classes). It is my hopes that through sharing my own routines, from the relatively normal to the bizarre, that I could help other writers just a little bit in getting out of their ruts!
Feel fee to comment below this post or under any of the ‘Becoming a Better Writer’ posts if you have specific questions that you would want answered in this post, or would like me to share a story about any specific obstacle that you yourself as a writer have encountered (or readers, any specific obstacle you would imagine that writers face!). I look forward to sharing this all with you.