Monday, June 27, 2011

Finding Time to Blog

Last week, I received an avalanche of email from people who wanted to know how I find time to blog and write novels.

"How do you find time to maintain three blogs?"
"Where do you get the energy?!!"
"Do you ever sleep?"
"Do you have full-time help or an assistant?"
"Is your publisher/assistant/son writing your blogs?"

How I Find Time to Blog and Write Fiction

Part I:

Thirty years ago, when I was struggling to get published, I asked other writers these same questions. I really needed answers.
I had a busy life: a husband, two super-busy kids, three dogs, a cat, and a dirty house.

A writer friend, Shirley Hailstock, had a busy life, too, and she had a full-time job. I was struggling to find ten minutes to myself, but Shirley wrote books, baked cakes, and diapered two stair-step babies.
"How do you do it?" I asked.
It took me a long time to understand her answer and to apply it to my own life:
"MLee," she said, "I've got 24-hours a day. So do you."

Part 2:
You need a daily plan.
When you find one that works, stick to the plan.

If you have a blog, and you want it to grow, you should post every day. Do I do this?
Pioneer Woman advises bloggers to post daily, even if it's just a paragraph, and she's right.

But this won't happen if you aren't realistic about your lifestyle. 
Make a list of the things that distract you, then add reasonable solutions. If noise bugs you, get earphones or tell the noise maker to dial it down. If phone calls break your concentration, find a way to deal with callers--a way that spurns telemarketers but won't make you inaccessible to family.

For most writers, interruptions rip through their thoughts and words. You can't control other people or external events/noises; you can't control when Blogger eats your post or if Internet Explorer crashes.
But you can control your reactions.

Part 3:

Get Creative.

When my boys were young, I wrote on the kitchen counter. That way, I could spread my papers around me, and my legal pads would be safe from grape juice spills.
It's all about zoning.
I don't have an office, so I created an semi-imaginary locked door. When noise shatters my focus, I put on earphones. It helps some. A real door would be better.
Mainly, the earphones serve as a signal to my family that I'm working.
I also bought a folding screen at Big Lots, and I put that around my writing chair.
Now it's time for me to answer your questions--how do I find time to blog and write?

I don't have any sure-fire answers. And what works for me today might not work next week--it might not work for you at all.
Each day, I grapple with the same issue: how to find time and energy to blog and write fiction.
I goof up all the time.
But here goes.
* I don't have a housekeeper or an assistant. I write all of my blog posts and novels--some are good, some could have been better.
Que sera sera.

*I don't do post-mortems. I'm like Sysphus pushing that rock up the hillside every single day, but I try to move forward.
*I guard my writing time. Woe to the people (you know who you are, Bandwidth) who interrupt me in the middle of a sentence.

*I don't explain why I need solitude. I used to, but I quit.
Now I just bite harder. That may sound mean, but I live with two messy, loud men, and when I'm in Sweet Cakes mode, they think I'm being cute.
So I tell them, "Look, guys, I'll be writing from X to X. No interruptions unless the house is on fire."

*Finally, if you love what you do, the days seem longer even if they move in a blur.
Time elongates, but I can't explain how or why.

Resources and Suggestions:

1. Take workshops on time management and draw up a plan that works for you.

2. Even better, sign up for social media classes at Learn short-cuts. Register for free services, such as Hootsuite, which make it easier to keep track of mentions and re-Tweets. Write a series of posts and use Blogspot's "schedule this post" option.

3. Limit your social media time. If you're an author (and you're facing deadlines), visit Facebook and Twitter once a day, then move on to the next item on your list. Schedule Tweets in advance.

4. Spelling errors and brain burps won't show up in your blog post until you hit the "publish" button. I'm not kidding. You can proofread, but you might not see any typos until the post has gone live. Resist the urge to spit polish. Let spelling errors and stray commas go. Don't obsess over a word or spend your time editing. Chances are, you'll introduce new errors. Your time will be better spent if you write a new blog post or take some photographs or do something fun. The how to blog" experts will tell you to brush up on spelling and split infinitives, but it's not that freaking important. Seriously. (NOtice the stray " up there? It's stAYING.) The world won't end over a comma. Sometimes I'll have a flash of inspiration, and I'll revamp a post, but it's a time-eater. If you still find yourself fretting about the invisible Grammar Police, there are resources: Follow the Grammar Divas on Twitter for daily tips.!/Grammar_Diva  . They're great! But try not to sweat the *"%$ and the hiccups. We all have 'em.

5. Buy a notebook and keep a daily "blog idea" journal. Brainstorm for ideas. Use the "clustering method" from the book Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Lusser Rico

6. Blog because you love it.

7. Honor your writing time, no matter how fleeting.

It's your 24-hours.

**All photos courtesy of Dreamstime and Shutterstock because if I'd done a photoshoot, you wouldn't be reading this post. Dreamstime also has *free* images, btw.