The summer is off to an incredible start. It’s been joyful, fun, and refreshing.
I am definitely stressed about achieving my writing goals. We spent the last week of June at the beach, and I only wrote one day while we were away. I did a lot of other great things – I read the new Elizabeth Gilbert book, I spent time with family, I exercised a lot. But I did not write, and I want to make sure that I am making my writing a priority.
I was strategic about my first week of July. I’m spending two days at the beach with my sister’s family, but I’ll be back in time for my boys to have two days at day care so that I can get a significant amount of writing accomplished. I hope! I am extremely nervous. I’m hopeful that I can muster up the self-discipline and the creative juices to get things done.
My goals for July 2019 are about two things: getting my writing done and being present with my kids. Here’s what I’ve got:
Write a little or think about the novel a little EVERY SINGLE DAY. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes!
BE PRESENT. Play with your boys and give them your focus. To do that, you need to make sure that you’re being intentional with your time. That means giving yourself a little time to get grounded in the morning, enjoying your “evening adulting hour,” and being intentional about the times when they do NOT get your full attention. (“Mommy has to do the dishes now. Would you like to play in your room while I do that?”)
I’m nervous, for sure. But, as I said, this summer has been off to a great start, so I have reason to feel optimistic. Let’s do this!
On my first official day of summer break, I found myself sitting on the floor of my living room, with a folder full of notes on my potential novel, my laptop, a pen, and a fistful of looseleaf paper.
It was TIME. The boys were at day care. After a busy school year and several months of no fiction writing at all, I now had time to sit down and focus on drafting my first novel.
And then – the nerves hit.
I was excited, and energized, and optimistic. But also so, so nervous! When you have actually carved out the time and the space in your life so that there is room for pursuing your goal – THAT IS TERRIFYING.
Because what if I try to write my novel, and I can’t do it? Or what if I write it, and it totally sucks?
I actually have told a fair amount of people that I’m going to be using my solo hours this summer to write. Which I’m glad about – it’s given me some accountability. If any of these people happen to ask me how the writing is going, I want to be able to report something other than “I’m too distracted by laundry, dishes, and texting to focus on my writing.”
I feel motivated, too, to write the adoption-themed novel I’ve been daydreaming about. Especially since I read a novel recently that was so adoption-negative that it made me want to cry!
I know that I can’t let nerves get in the way of doing my best work. I just have to keep my head in the game and my butt in the chair, as they say on the #AmWriting podcast. Only in my case, my butt will be on the floor, apparently. On the floor, surrounded by notes and scribbled pages, my flip-flops kicked off and my laptop front and center, a cup of coffee close by.
When I write blog posts, I write what I need to read.
This is even more true when I’m as tired and time-strapped as I am lately. The more tired I am, the more personal and frank my writing is. I basically sit down on the couch, plop my laptop onto my knees, and write about what I need to read. That’s what it’s all about, I guess. I think that writers write about what they need to think about and read about.
And right now, what I need to read about and think about is how to make time for writing and exercise. (WARNING: this may be one of those rambling posts that really belongs in my journal but ends up here instead. Apologies in advance.)
Things are SLIGHTLY better in our house with regard to Baby J.J.’s sleeping. Last night, he slept for five hours in a row, which was a record. (WOO HOO!)
I’d really like to take time to think about when and how I can start increase the amount of exercise I get every day. I’m noticing that my twice weekly runs – Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon – aren’t really getting me where I want to be vis a vis strength, endurance, and cardio. I’ve been encouraging myself to run faster when I do run, and that is helpful. (If you can only run for 20 minutes, you need to SPRINT – is what I’ve been telling myself!)
The key for me is the mornings. If I can get it together to wake up at 4:30 a.m., there’s a decent chance I can squeeze in yoga and writing before the boys wake up. I woke up at 4:50 a.m. today and had time for three minutes of yoga and about 20 minutes of writing. That’s not bad, especially for a writer who’s also a mommy with two kids under three; we have to be pretty economical with our writing time. (The three minutes of yoga was more about me being exhausted than me being short on time! Even three down dogs is exhausting when you haven’t been yoga-ing for a while.)
I am wondering if I should alter my Monthly Writing Goals post so that it includes goals related to exercise or wellness, too – at least for May 2019. I’m not an Upholder a laGretchen Rubin’s four tendencies framework, so I don’t know if it will be helpful for me. But it’s worth a try!
Anyway – here are the things I need to read today:
1. There is enough time to do everything you want and need to do.
2. Enjoy this moment in life. Don’t spend this moment worrying about when you’ll have time to do other things. Someday, you will miss this moment – when your kids are tiny and life is sweet and simple – more than you can imagine.
3. You can exercise. It may not look the way you want it to right now, but you can incorporate exercise throughout your day.
4. WAKE UP EARLY. You don’t need that extra hour of sleep; you’re exhausted anyway!
Maybe this is what someone else needs to read as well. I hope it is!
It’s spring! The weather is beautiful. and it’s almost summertime. And the summer is when I’m going to get A LOT OF WRITING DONE NO MATTER WHAT.
My goals for this month are pretty basic. I’ve abandoned the hope of getting substantial novel writing done at this time. J.J. is sleeping way better, but until he’s sleeping through the night, early morning or late evening writing is nearly impossible because I’m exhausted. I do still have my afternoon nap writing time on the weekend days, but that’s not always a given (need to have both boys asleep at the same time!) and I often use those chunks of time for blogging. So for now, I’m just aiming to get myself in gear so that when summer arrives (or when the sleep situation improves), I am READY to get some good writing done.
Here are my goals for April 2019:
Maintain my blogging, posting every Tuesday and Saturday.
Continue reading Story Genius. (I’m giving up on finishing it! This is a “write as you go” kind of book.)
Get all of your novel writing transferred into Novlr. (More on that at some point!)
Continue a modified digital minimalist diet.
THINK about the novel as much as you can! Use your commute, and use voice memos. Plan things out and try to write at least 2,000 words this month.
So far, my monthly writing goals have been a great new ritual. Here’s hoping April brings more of the same!
Sometimes Tamara takes the boys out to the coffee shop or the library so that I’ll have time to write. When this happens, it takes time getting used to having the house to myself – for the first thirty minutes, I keep looking around, expecting to spot J.J. asleep in his bouncy seat or Edgar quietly munching on Goldfish crackers. But they’re not here – they’re out, having an adventure, and I’m at home with a crackling fire, a cup of coffee, and my computer on my lap.
It’s always a challenge, finding time to write when you’re a working parent with two kids under three. And it’s really important to me to make time for writing. I haven’t made much progress with my novel – I blame the boys’ sleep needs for this – but I have managed to post on the blog twice every week since 2019 began, and I’m determined to stick to that routine for as long as possible.
I’m delayed on my novel – my goal is to finish a draft by the end of 2019, and I’m not as far as I’d like to be. But my delay is in part because I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the novel, and planning things out, rather than writing it. It feels a little uncomfortable, at times. I’d much rather be writing than planning. But as I page through the book Story Genius, I find myself wondering if this whole novel writing gig requires more planning than I’ve ever tried before.
There’s a debate in the writing community about plotting versus pantsing. The plotters map out the entire story of their novel before they write it, and the pantsers just start writing and see where their story goes. I have always been more of a pantser. But the book Story Genius by Lisa Cron is arguing something in between; I’m not done with the book yet, but I think she advocates that the writer should know the story of what is going to happen ahead of time, though the writer may allow themselves to be somewhat of a pantser when it comes to the hundreds of little details that make up the eventual plot. (I’ll let you know when I finish the book if this is an accurate representation of the Story Genius method.)
So, the boys are out with Tamara, and here I sit, with a rare few hours of alone time to write and think. And one of the things I’m considering is re-evaluating the way I spend my time.
I’m going to have more flexibility with my time now that Edgar is, thank goodness, going to sleep by himself in his bed after about six weeks of bedtime struggles. That means that I’ll have a little extra time in the evening after Edgar goes to bed, and a little extra time in the morning before the boys wake up. I’ve been pondering what routines I want to create.
I thought about this in terms of the WHEN – like, when are the little pockets of time that I have available for exercise, writing, reading, self-care, etc? There are the mornings – the wee bit of time I can steal if I wake up early enough. There are the evenings, after Edgar goes to bed, when I can write or read if I have the energy. There are the weekend afternoons during nap. And there are the times like today, when Tamara takes the boys out for an adventure on a weekend morning and I have a few hours to use for whatever I need.
That’s what I have right now – little pockets of time. It can feel frustrating sometimes! I really wish I could start building up my writing stamina, spending 2 or 3 hours at a time sitting down to write. But it is what it is for the moment, and I have to accept that, enjoy my baby boys, and be ready for the pockets of time when they pop up.
This month, we’re taking a little detour. There will be writing goals, yes – but one of my writing goals seems like it’s not related to writing. BUT IT IS.
Let me explain.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I spend my down time. I’ve always been a person accustomed to ‘background noise’ – I half-watched a TV show while I was doing my homework in high school, I listened to music while I was writing papers in college, and I tune into a podcast or an audiobook while I’m doing the dishes now. I don’t like this about myself; I never have. Sometimes, I make an effort and I curb this habit; but I inevitably slip back into it when I’m tired or stressed or overwhelmed.
I checked a book out of the library recently. It’s called Deep Work and it’s by Cal Newport. The book focuses on what Newport calls ‘deep work’ – focused, distraction-free, high-quality, valuable working time. I didn’t read the book; nonfiction isn’t my favorite. But I was interested enough in the topic to check it out of the library, and then the best thing EVER happened: Tamara got interested in the book, and she read it cover to cover and told me all the tips she read about. WINNER! (I’m on the wait list at the library for Newport’s newest book, Digital Minimalism. I’m REALLY hoping that Tamara will read that one and summarize it for me, too!)
Here are the two main things Tamara shared with me:
We all need “solitude” – and I put this in quotes because Newport has a new-to-me definition for the word. Newport calls “solitude” time when we’re not getting any input from the outside world. It’s not about whether you have people around you; if you’re alone and listening to a podcast, you’re receiving input that you need to process. When you have solitude, you’re receiving no new input – you’re just processing input you’ve received at other times. Newport advocates that we need solitude, or down cycle time, so that we can process all the input we receive at other times.
One of the 4 main tips Newport suggests for how to incorporate deep work into your life is quitting social media. My understanding is that Newport recommends quitting everything for 30 days, and then adding things back in gradually if you feel they add some joy or meaning to your life. I LOVE THIS IDEA. As soon as Tamara told me about it, I decided I would start on March 1. So, for 30 days, no social media, and most of the apps on my phone will be deleted.
Now – how does all of this connect with my writing goals?
My theory is that when I cut away all this other stuff, I will have more mental energy and creative space for my writing. When I have little pockets of time – like my twenty minute commute, for example – I tend to fill the time with input, like a podcast. But I’m wondering – if I allow those little pockets of time to be about solitude, will it start benefiting me creatively? Will I be able spend that time thinking about characters, plot points, language?
I don’t know! But I’m going to find out.
Here are my goals for March 2019:
Maintain my blogging, posting every Tuesday and Saturday.
Finish reading Story Genius.
Follow a digital minimalist diet. Use the extra time for rest, solitude, and productively creative daydreaming.
Open up the document for the novel you’ve decided to write, and write at least 3 paragraphs, even if you know they’ll never be published.
I think this is an important thing for me to try, this digital minimalist diet – but I’m nervous! I use my phone a LOT – for background noise, to ease my anxiety, to keep track of my adulting responsibilities. AND I use it at bedtime; I usually fall asleep listening to a TV show or a podcast. (That might be the part that is hardest to give up!) I know I can do this, and I’m excited about the creative space that may open up in my life if I do this. But it’ll take work.
Of all the intentions I set for 2019, the one that has served me best so far is my monthly writing goals.
I decided that I needed something extra to keep me on track with my writing. Last summer, I wrote a lot and I had big plans for my writing routine as the school year began, and then – BAM! A beautiful baby boy – my too-cute-to-describe J.J. – came home to our family. My writing routine came second to the bliss and stress of babyhood, and I have no regrets about that.
But as the beginning of 2019 approached, I had an idea – I would write a blog post every month and I would set some writing goals for myself to accomplish over the course of the month. This ritual would be a way to check in with myself. I’d keep my writing goals at the forefront, because I’d be reminded of them every time I did any work on the blog. Additionally, having a few clear goals makes it easier to recognize when you’re not achieving your writing goals at all.
I really got to see how this ritual was helping me during the last week of January. I was looking ahead to see what blog posts were scheduled to be published, and I saw a draft of this post. I reviewed my goals from last month and realized immediately that one of them – reading through the two novels I’ve drafted – was not done yet. There were only a few days left in the month, so I abandoned the book I was reading (The Patron Saint Of Liars by Ann Patchett) and spent every spare minute reading through the novel drafts.
This was such a great example for me of why we set goals. If we never set clear and specific goals for ourselves, then we don’t recognize when we’re not spending the time we need to achieve those goals. I was super proud of being able to accomplish my January goals. Yes, I had to adjust them partway through the month – you can read about that here – but I feel like I accomplished way more than I would have if I hadn’t put those goals down on paper the way I did.
These are my goals for February 2019:
Maintain my blogging, posting every Tuesday and Saturday.
Finish reading Story Genius.
Open up the document for the novel you’ve decided to write at least three times, and write a few words.
The third goal isn’t very ambitious, but I struggled to decide what steps I should take next with the novel. I’ve really been enjoying reading Story Genius, and I have a feeling that the more I read, the more mini writing tasks I’ll complete. Maybe, after I’ve read more of the book, I’ll do another round of Let’s Reevaluate – we’ll see!