Monday, August 23, 2010

Beneath the Mountain

So what do you do when time is flattened and the hours and minutes are crushed as thin as paper? A few spare seconds leak out the side and you scoop them up and cherish them. But so little time...

The hours seem so boundless and empty at times, ready to be taken up and filled. And yet each one of those hours is so tenuous. So easily torn and blown away on the wind.

What do you do? How do you keep your writing (or editing!) alive when your time narrows drastically? Tips or tricks? Mental philosophy? What keeps you plugging? What's necessary for you?

11 comments:

Mira said...

This is a good topic - especially for me, because I don't tend to do it.

But I did write this weekend (!!!) and I remembered how much joy it gives me to write. I love it, once I start. If I can keep that in mind, it will definitely help.

What about you, Bryan? You are very dedicated to writing despite multiple pulls on your time.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Well, I'm asking because my time has suddenly shrunk. I need motivation! Tricks! Tips! Time Machines!

Damyanti said...

When time shrinks, I do timed writing.

I have been known to write only those minutes a day while I was waiting for my ragu sauce to simmer down to the right consistency, or my pasta to boil.

I set a timed alarm on my phone, use the last sentence I had written before as a prompt and just launch into thinking-less writing for a few minutes. I get crap sometimes, but now that I've trained myself to do it, I get entire drafts done this way.

Editing is harder to do like this, and I try to finish all my work lark at breakneck speed to spare a day entirely devoted to editing.

Mira said...

Weekends. I know someone with an impossible job and kids. Usually, they are way too tired at night to write. But they have an arrangement with their partner that Sunday mornings for four hours are theirs alone to write.

Lunch hours, too. That can be a time to write, although sometimes folks are tired and need to rest. If you have commute time, you can dictate into a tape recorder, or just write in your head.

It's hard, but it can happen.

Wildheit said...

I used to do most of my writing on the train to and from work, a half an hour trip twice a day; I bought a lightweight laptop no broader than my own lap just for the purpose. The 15-minute bicycle ride over to the station in the morning was spent detaching my mind from my lizard brain (which was well trained in getting me through traffic, onto the train, and into the office without my real attention), simply through the repetitive exercise with the addition of well-known music on repeat. Repetitive and well-known being the keywords here I think, No new imput. No thinking about stuff. Just peddling and humming. This routine still helps relax my mind when it gets in a tight noodle, like drifting on your back in a pool until you feel strong and motivated enough to do some serious laps.

Being distracted by cows as they flashed past somehow figured in the creative writing process too. Lunch break was also spent tapping away on the laptop. I only wrote at my home computer when the muse was shining so hard that the light was still pouring out of my ears when I came home, or during weekends, though that time was usually spent editing the sea of words I'd managed to produce during my workdays.

I never realized how important the whole commute routine was, or the fixed start and stop times, until the office imploded in bankruptcy. I've been jobless for a good time now, and have all the time I want to write, but surprisingly enough, I have not done a lot of writing (except for non-fiction for a club I'm involved in). I've been thinking of picking out a day or two a week to ride a train with my laptop and see what happens, but without the benefit of an employer's reduction or employee's wage, that's kind of expensive. Maybe I'll settle for setting my screensaver on a real short delay and let a gazillion pictures of cows slide past.

So my tip/trick would be to create a routine that will train your mind to be instantly prepared for writing (nowadays when I get on a train for some reason, my muse effortlessly awakens even if I do not have the laptop with me). Such a routine should be about ten minutes in which you combine light physical activity (to relieve stress but also to get blood flowing and your breathing even and relaxed, mens sana etc etc) with mental isolation (this is where the mp3 player and repetitive music comes in). It can be as stupid as climbing up and down the office staircase a few times with your ears plugged with death core metal, or strolling through the cosmetics department of the large surface store next door, whatever rocks (or rather does not rock) your boat. Stay away from new significant input, so in the cosmetic example, don't go to that department if you have a fetish for the newest brands of eyeliner. Just sayin'.
It might take a while for the routine to take, but when you're in the zone the little time you have for writing will be actually spent on writing and not scratching your chin or sighing at the screen.

Matthew Rush said...

Oh man I feel for you Bryan. It is tough. Especially as we grow older and our responsibilities expand and what once seemed like an eternity now lasts only for a moment ...

I find that you really have to consider your priorities. Work must come first because bills have to be paid and little mouths fed, but after that what next? Writing? Running? Watching Premier League on ESPN?

Only you can decide but I find that if I really think about it I spend at least a few hours a week entertaining myself that could be put to better use. I'm not giving up on Vikings games or checking the score on the Braves from time to time, but video games online with the guys from work? Fun sure, but not really important.

I'm lucky that I get to work overtime on weekends sometimes, manning the phones just in case, and I can get a lot of writing done then. Try to find ways to kill two birds with one stone whenever possible.

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Scott said...

I've been doing lunch hours at work and then whatever I can get in the evenings after the kiddy's to bed, and it has worked out well for the last two weeks. I'm hoping I can keep it up long enough to finish something.

Lynette Benton said...

Kat:

Your writing is beautiful, your topics provocative.

I remain inspired by the people (okay, mostly women) with many kids, no money, and no real place to write, who nonetheless do.

Or, I think back to how much more I wrote and published when I had an exploitative full-time job that kept me busy at all hours.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Bryan/Atlas: Your job sounds like goodness wrapped up in crazy (because you're working with carrots, which we all love, but what about the time??). (sorry I'm blogging in reverse order today)

I'm still working on the time-turner device, and I'll let you know when it's ready for a test pilot.

Anonymous said...

I don't try to work on my WIP when my time is short. I plan for when I will have more time. And I use the odd minutes I do have now, for learning, for networking, for reading, and for dreaming, or at least thinking well, of my WIP. I write emails and posts to keep fingers and mind limber, and I dream of my WIP in its safe little bed.

I'm going to have some serious time to devote again this winter. I hope.

Good luck with your new situation, Bryan.

Quill at Bransforums