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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.

Comments

( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
sruble
Sep. 7th, 2010 10:06 pm (UTC)
"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."

Wow! Thanks for the inspiration Kate! And for sharing how you fit your writing into your life. Going to go work on my novel right now.
ex_kmessner
Nov. 1st, 2010 11:04 am (UTC)
Hope you got some good writing in this fall!
kbaccellia
Sep. 7th, 2010 11:31 pm (UTC)
Great post! I know how sitting in the faculty room can take away from other things. My former one was a great site for sitting around and just chatting.

One thing I did was go off campus during my lunch period and write at the nearby Burger King. I took my notebook and just wrote.

I wish I was as dedicated as you with the no 'TV' thing.
ex_kmessner
Nov. 1st, 2010 11:04 am (UTC)
Well, it helps that I don't like TV much anyway... I'm much more tempted by reading!
kelcrocker
Sep. 8th, 2010 12:26 am (UTC)
Yowza!
Your productivity is stunning! Next, you need to write posts on where you get your energy! Thanks for the tips and inspiration!
ex_kmessner
Nov. 1st, 2010 11:05 am (UTC)
Re: Yowza!
Thanks! Hope you've gotten some good writing in this fall!
wordsrmylife
Sep. 8th, 2010 01:23 am (UTC)
Great post--although I think Kate, you, must need less sleep than some of us. But one great point is to leave the office at the office. In itself, that helps free up time for writing.
ex_kmessner
Nov. 1st, 2010 11:05 am (UTC)
I usually get about 7 hours a night - though sometimes less, and yes...I do pay for it then!
lkmadigan
Sep. 8th, 2010 03:08 am (UTC)
(I also rigged up a treadmill desk so I can walk while I revise, but that’s a whole ‘nother story!)

You what??? You're a genius! Or are you joking? I have so much faith in your brilliance that I believe you could do it!
ex_kmessner
Nov. 1st, 2010 11:06 am (UTC)
Methinks this may be a separate blog post. I got the idea from Art Slade and kind of improvised.
karenbschwartz
Sep. 8th, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
Wow! I have so much trouble writing at night because my brain won't shut off and I can't sleep.
ex_kmessner
Nov. 1st, 2010 11:06 am (UTC)
Well, that does happen sometimes - I've learned to keep a notebook by the bed so that when my sleeping brain has a good idea, I don't lose it.
cynleitichsmith
Sep. 9th, 2010 03:40 pm (UTC)
Wonderful post, very inspiring! I wonder when you fit in the business of being an author--business correspondence, fan mail, events, publicity, media, etc. I find that to be especially challenging.
kimberleylittle
Sep. 10th, 2010 02:00 am (UTC)
An amazing post, Kate. But I'm with Cyn - WHEN do you do all that *other* stuff. Some days I'll spend UP TO 4 hours or so on all that. AND I hired a teenage girl to do all my postcard labels and addressing just to save some time.
ex_kmessner
Nov. 1st, 2010 11:07 am (UTC)
Truthfully, I sneak it into the cracks of the day - 10 minutes at lunch time if I don't have a Skype visit, 10 minutes while dinner's cooking...but yes, it is challenging and I do fall behind sometimes and need to take a while on the weekend to get caught up.
ext_254363
Sep. 11th, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this terrific interview and for the inspiration not only to better manage my time but to finally set up my standing workstation with elliptical. Can't wait to read SUGAR AND ICE when it's out!
ex_kmessner
Nov. 1st, 2010 11:07 am (UTC)
Oh! Let us know how it goes with the elliptical - that sounds like fun!
nanmarino
Sep. 17th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
You are inspiring. Great post. And great reminder.
ex_kmessner
Nov. 1st, 2010 11:08 am (UTC)
Thanks, Nan!
macdibble
Sep. 17th, 2010 11:32 pm (UTC)
Amazing tenacity! You are my new hero!
ex_kmessner
Nov. 1st, 2010 11:08 am (UTC)
Thank you! Honestly? Anyone plugging away in this kidlit writing world is a hero of mine, too.
kimmiepoppins
Sep. 17th, 2010 11:32 pm (UTC)
You rock Kate!
ex_kmessner
Nov. 1st, 2010 11:08 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks - right back at you!
ext_266484
Sep. 25th, 2010 03:13 am (UTC)
enough sleep?
Getting rid of the TV give the entire family more productive time. I turned mine off years ago, but I do still enjoy my sleep...
ex_kmessner
Nov. 1st, 2010 11:09 am (UTC)
Re: enough sleep?
Usually, I get seven hours of sleep and that works for me. When it's less than that, I do start to notice and need to adjust.
msksquared
Sep. 27th, 2010 09:38 am (UTC)
I would love to know how you rigged up a treadmill-desk?? I have back problems and this is really reducing my ability to be sitting at a desk writing.
ex_kmessner
Nov. 1st, 2010 11:10 am (UTC)
Others have asked about this, so I may need to give it its own blog post. But it was pretty simple - I took my treadmill, which already has longish arms sticking out, and put two pieces of styrofoam-like insulation stuff on them, piled up so it was the height I wanted it. Then I laid a piece of particleboard across that - it's heavy enough that the weight holds the whole thing down, and it's also removable for when we want to run.
triciasullivan
Oct. 1st, 2010 10:47 am (UTC)
Awesome post! As a mom/writer I find this hugely inspiring. Thank you!

(Here via jonowrimo
ex_kmessner
Nov. 1st, 2010 11:11 am (UTC)
Yep - moms who write face special challenges, I think. Good luck with your draft!
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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