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Monday, December 19, 2011

Busy Season Writing Strategies

Though I love the holiday season, there is no denying that it is one of the busiest times of the year.  Between presents, cards, cooking, and decorating, there is so much to do.  When I am busy, it is far too easy to let my writing slip.  Priorities that once seemed clear begin to melt away, as quickly as the days of the month.  Is it only me who finds that December flies by much too quickly?

I am working on several writing projects right now and I knew before this holiday season approached that I did not want to fall into the old habit of letting my writing output fall by the wayside over the holidays.  I considered strategies I could use to keep writing, even amidst the bustle of these few months.

These are some of the strategies I’ve employed:

Catching inspiration on the go:  I have an hour long commute in the mornings and evenings and often come up with ideas for scenes, dialogues or even new stories while my brain is auto-piloting the tasks of highway driving.  Writing is not practical when two hands should be on the wheel, so I was thrilled to discover the voice recorder feature on my cell phone.  Even a few words can capture an idea which will trigger me to further writing when I finally get my fingers back on a keyboard.

Online writing files:  I love USB flash drives and often rely on them to carry my writing files from one computer to another.  However, in moments when I’m busy or have ten other things on my mind, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked away from a computer and left my USB flash drive in the USB port on the computer.  Online storage sites like Dropbox have been a lifesaver.  With a free account, I can save writing files to my online account and access them from any computer that has an internet connection.  More useful, however, has been the ability to access files via Google Docs, which is right there when I’m checking and answering emails in Gmail.  During my lunch break at work, I login to Gmail, check my emails, and then work on one of my current projects saved in my Google Docs.

Christmas cards are calling...
Paper and pen:  When I was a teenager, I wrote all of my stories out by hand in spiral notebooks or elaborately decorated journals.  I still enjoy working on plotting or jotting down story ideas with paper and a good pen.  In the past, I’d grab whatever slip of paper I could find in my purse when an idea hit, but those slips were hard to keep track of and might just as easily be thrown out.  Now I keep a pretty little purse-sized journal with me at all times and jot down plot points, flashes of dialogue, and new story ideas as they strike.  I don’t use my little notebook for anything but writing and it’s become a sort of Pavlovian response, as every time I see it in my purse, ideas come.

I must confess that I’m still working on Christmas cards, still have presents to buy and feel certain I’ll be late on delivering a card, a gift, perhaps both.  I can’t spend as much time writing as I would prefer.  However, I have used these few strategies to keep me focused on my writing, stoking the flames of inspiration and production whenever I can, even during this wonderful but busy time of year.

How do you keep your writing on track when you’re extremely busy?  What strategies work for you?  

8 comments:

Diana Mcc. said...

Hi, Christy! Boy you said it, December just flies by! I still have a few Christmas cards to write(I save the ones for last that I write a note in.), still have cookies to make and a few presents to buy. That being said, this is the first year I have kept my writing on track during the holidays. Thanks to my on-line partner, my sister Sarah. We meet at 9:00 am and write even if it is only for a few hours. We touch bases at the appointed time, 12 or 1:00 and check on word counts, see if we need to do any brainstorming and then break for lunch, errands etc. So I guess being held accountable has really helped me stay on track.

Happy Holidays!

Diana

Judith Ashley said...

Hi Christy,

I'm pretty good about staying on target with my writing - it helps to be semi-retired! And, I no longer cook or do a lot of decorating. This year I'm calling people instead of sending cards - will see how that works. It will be more time, but I think the connection will be stronger.

Every Sunday I plan out my week and note any commitments I have no matter how small. My writing is on the list almost every day. When I'm working on a first draft, I schedule a certain amount of time into my day versus a certain number of pages which is what I do when I'm rewriting or polishing.

Thanks for sharing what works for you.

B. A. Binns said...

Good question, and somehow right now the spirit is willing, and the ideas exist, but I'm having trouble getting them unjumbled from my head onto paper. But Ialways keep paper and pen handy, that's where I find it easiest to do my first drafts.

Paty Jager said...

Christy, all great ideas for keeping yourself on track. I use Flashdrives because I travel between two places all the time and use different computers at both. It makes it easy to carry what I'm working on.

I also set goals. I'm a huge thrash myself person when I miss my goals. Especially when I've put it out in cyber space that I will write this much of have this project finished by.

Diana that's awesome the way you and Sarah keep each other accountable.

Sarah Raplee said...

Christy,
I'm Diana's sister Sarah, so you know what works for me. Great tips!

Thanks!

Christy Carlyle said...

Diana and Sarah,
Thanks for commenting! I love your strategy to keep each on track with your writing. What a great expression of two sisters' love for each other - to help each other express your creativity and meet your goals while doing something you are both obviously passionate about. Thanks for the reminder that fellow writers can both inspire us, encourage us and hold us accountable.

Christy Carlyle said...

Judith,
I like your idea about calling folks instead of sending cards. I think cards take me so long because I try to write, long detailed notes to go along with them, so this might be a great time-saving strategy that would also allow me to really connect with loved ones.

Scheduling your writing into your day/life is also a great tip. It is certainly as important to me as any other appointment, so it's definitely worth finding and carving out that time.

Thanks for commenting!

Christy Carlyle said...

B.A. and Paty,
Thanks for your comments.

B. A. - I certainly know the feeling of having to unravel jumbled thoughts about my writing. Sometimes it reminds me of un-knotting a tangled ball of yarn. Sometimes frustrating, but definitely worth the while!

Paty - Goal setting is key and I like your notion that when you put it out there - online - it's a whole new level of accountability and motivation. So true.