Today Kate Messner shares with us how she deals with a very pertinent issue in our hectic lives.
“How do you find time to write?” is probably the most common question I hear when I give presentations to other writers and teachers. Sometimes they even look at me suspiciously, as if I might have swiped Hermione Granger’s Time Turner and have it hidden under my sweater. But the truth is, there’s no magic involved in my writing time. I make time to write, find time to write, and steal time to write because it’s one of the things that matters a lot to me. Along with my teaching job and family, I’ve managed to write four novels, two chapter books, and three picture books over the past three years. For me, writing is a matter of making choices every day – choices to write, choices to do other things that matter, and choices to let many things go.
What I do: I teach middle school English from 8-3:30, and I try to get most of my school work done at school. I usually leave school around 4:30, get my kids where they need to be, attend their sporting events, spend time outside with them, make dinner, help with homework, read, and get everyone settled for bed. And then, from about 9-11, I write. Sometimes I write much later than that if I’m on a roll. I pay for it the next day. And it’s worth it. I take my kids with me on many of my research trips, so I can get work done and have family time, too. The kids learn a lot, not the least of which is that you can have a job that involves learning every day.
What I don’t do: I don’t watch television. I don’t hang out in the faculty room visiting at school. I don’t talk on the phone if I can help it. I don’t do laundry; my husband does that, and yes…having a supportive spouse is huge. I don’t clean house very well at all. And I don’t worry when my living room is dusty.
When I write: That 9-11 time each night is my date with myself, and it’s one that I almost always keep on weeknights. Weekends are different; we go hiking or boating or do other family things, and I don’t usually get any writing done on weekends.
I’ve also taught myself to write during times that I once thought weren’t long enough – the hour when my daughter is at figure skating, the half hour while my son is having a saxophone lesson, the fifteen minutes I might need to wait to get my haircut. That time adds up, and even if I can’t get deep into drafting a big scene in a novel during that 30-minute wait at the auto repair shop, I can use that time to read the opening aloud and cut unnecessary words or add a paragraph of description in a scene that’s too slight. Those minutes add up.
For me, writing is a lot like exercise – being in the habit makes it much, much easier and much more fun. (I also rigged up a treadmill desk so I can walk while I revise, but that’s a whole ‘nother story!) But the bottom line is that writing is a choice, just like anything else we choose to spend our time on, and I find that when I say to myself, “I choose to write,” I can always find at least a little time each day.
Kate Messner is the author of THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z, winner of the 2010 E.B. White Read Aloud Award, and SUGAR AND ICE, both from Walker/Bloomsbury. Her MARTY MCGUIRE chapter book series with Scholastic debuts in 2011, along with two picture books from Chronicle. Kate lives on Lake Champlain with her family and is also a National Board Certified Middle School English teacher. Learn more at her website.
Don't forget annemariewrites has another helpful post up tomorrow and on Thursday Linda Joy Singleton author of THE SEERS SERIES and THE DEAD GIRLS SERIES will be here to give us a little reading lesson so do join us then.
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