Monday, March 26, 2018

'Self-Care' for Creative Types: Finding Time To Create

Sunset in Malta

Someone posted a link to this article, "This is what 'Self-Care' REALLY Means, Because It's Not All Salt Baths and Chocolate Cake," in a Facebook group that I'm in. I like the article's focus on facing your problems, from the personal to financial. I would add that 'self-care" for creative types also includes making time to think and create.

Writing coach clients talk to me a lot about not being able to find time to create.

Wait. That's not exactly true. What I should write is that my female clients talk to me a lot about finding time to create. They are especially busy with full-time jobs (which might be parenting), parenting, organizing things at home, taking care of their own needs and trying to find time to spend with the partner, too. Where does time to create come in, especially when the output rarely generates income?

While I wish for everyone to be able to take time away for a writing residency or create a writing residency at home, that's not always financially or logistically feasible. Here are a few tips that I recommend to get you started - and into the habit of - creating time for creativity:

Start by giving yourself permission to think about something related to writing during the day. You might read a poem first thing when you wake up (or while you are making or drinking your coffee) and then think about it during the day. You might carry around a copy of it and think about the opening line while you commute, fold laundry or wash dishes.

You can use the same approach with something that you are creating. Read the current draft of something before you go to sleep or when you wake up in the morning. Then give yourself a question to think about. Maybe you need to figure out why a character made a decision or you aren't sure about particular verb. Give yourself the day to come back to this question and try to find an answer by the evening.

I find that the best way to use those smaller bits of time, maybe twenty minutes here or there, is to first set up a Writing To-Do list. This document (which admittedly will take some time to create and maintain periodically) will help to give you small goals that you can try to complete in those short periods of available time. This approach helps you to avoid spending the free time trying to figure out what you should be doing and instead simply get to the doing.

This next suggestion is a little woo-woo, but I think it works. When you do have time, use the energy that is coming naturally to you. I know that sometimes I feel very much like creating and other times I feel really good about editing.

What other tips would you recommend? Please share in the comments section. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Writing To-Do List

Sunset view in Florence, Italy, across the Arno

Most of us keep calendars marked with deadlines and upcoming activities. We know the value of writing something down to remember. My most important list, my Writing To-Do list, is the one that keeps my writing organized and helps me to be more efficient with my time.

I encourage all of my writing students and clients to create a Writing To-List which should accomplish three major tasks for you: 1. It will help you to see all of your projects in one place, including the ones you are working on, the ones that are taking a break and the ones that you hope to write soon. 2. The list will break down a large project into smaller pieces for you. 3. It will save you time by helping you to be able to accomplish small tasks quickly.

My Writing To-Do list begins with the big category Large Projects. Here I list my very big goals and projects (for example, I will name my current poetry manuscript, name a children's book project and remind myself to work on individual poems and essays. I will also list the projected title or a quick summary of something that I hope to write next.) This is like a very vague outline to remember what I'm working towards.

The next section, Individual Sections To Write Or Edit, will list the above larger projects followed by chapters, research, back stories, etc., that need to be written. For example, I might include something like:
Novel Y (Finish Thanksgiving scene, edit birthday chapter, research holiday music in 1950 and write backstory for Aunt E.)
This is the section that breaks the larger project into smaller pieces. If you find that you suddenly have one hour to do some work, you can look at your Writing To-Do list and choose something to write, research or edit. (This is different from each individual project's complete outline.)

The next two sections deal with pieces that are ready for submission: Individual Projects to Submit/Resubmit and a list of submission ideas organized by due dates: Submission, Grant or Residency Deadlines. This is another good place to look when you only have a small period of time to accomplish something related to your writing. (Another vital list to keep organized is your Submission Spreadsheet.)

The final section of my Writing To-Do list is less urgent or specific, but rather a loose gathering of places that I'm considering submitting my work to under the header of Submission Outlet Ideas. The places are organized by theme or type (for example, I have one section for creative non-fiction outlets and one for poetry.)

Every Writing To-Do list will look different, depending on where you are in your project(s) and what your goals are. Create the headers that make sense for you. You might also include Writing Prompts, Daily Goals, Reading Ideas or Research. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Dear Young Neighbor Who Complains About My Baby

Picture of a woman and her baby illustrating my article on Scary Mommy

Thanks to Scary Mommy for publishing my humorous piece, "Dear Young Neighbor Who Complains About My Baby." Two apartments later, I can laugh about our experience. Here's to making lemonade... 

Click here to read, "Confessions of a "Former" Go-To-Parent," published earlier by Scary Mommy. For more parenting humor, you might enjoy my piece, "Accumulated Wisdom From the Mom With Kids Just A Little Bit Older Than Yours," recently published by McSweeney's

Friday, March 9, 2018

ICYMI: Accumulated Wisdom From the Mom With Kids Just a Little Bit Older Than Yours

In case you missed it, my humorous momsplaining piece, Accumulated Wisdom From the Mom With Kids Just a Little Bit Older Than Yours, was published yesterday in McSweeney's.

Maybe most of this piece is memoir, overheard or imagined. Maybe I've been on both sides of the momsplaining. I'll never tell, but I'm guessing that if you parent a child of any age that you might recognize something.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Thursday is International Women's Day!

Looking up at the yellow mimosa blooms in front of a blue sky

In Italy, women are often given mimosa on March 8th to celebrate International Women's Day. In honor of holiday, I'm celebrating a few favorite groups that support women's literature. I encourage you to visit the sites, support the organizations, buy books and subscribe to literary journals that support women writers:

PEN International's The Women Writers’ Committee 

Lit Mags for the Ladies (from The Review Review)