As I am learning from my fellow spuds, time management is a universal struggle. I have found that the more free time I have in my life, the less focused I become and the less I accomplish. But the busier I am, the more I am able to define small increments of time to accomplish specific tasks. I am a list maker, mainly because I love to cross items off my list once they are accomplished, and it allows me to look back at my day and pat myself on the back. Lists also keep me from forgetting those necessary tasks, and they help me prioritize.
When I worked fulltime while also enrolled in an MFA program, I accomplished more writing in my one-hour lunch break than I did in 3 hours on the weekends--that is, if I left my office and hid in a study carroll in the basement of the library. And now that I am spending much more time sitting with my father, I always take along a notebook and pen. If he's in a talkative mood, as he was today, I ask him all sorts of questions about his childhood and jot down notes. I am so enthralled with his family's experiences in south Florida during the 1920s and 30s that I may incorporate them into a future book. And right now, my time with my father is of the essence.
This photo above was taken in the mid-1950s in front of my grandparent's coral rock house in North Miami Beach. My father is the first on the left, and I am the little girl waving.
Ten writers for children. All with something to say.
Stories are films that reel all the time in my mind. I have many stories to tell. What excuse do I have for not sharing them?
Seven days a week, between 8:30 and 9, I come down to my office. I read and answer emails; I peek in Facebook; I open Catalyst and read posts from my Whidbey Island MFA students and colleagues. Answering the latter takes me until noon. After lunch, I begin to write my stories, interrupting myself here and there to check and answer emails and posts again and again. My goal is to write a page a day. Some days I accomplish it. Some days? One page? Wait a minute! I am a writer. It's a sin not to share my stories.
I have to go back to work at the Mulnomah County Library's Writer's Room. I used to go there with pencil and paper. No computer. Cell phone off. In four hours I couldn't see anymore, but I ended up with many pages.
Isn't this Lent? Now that I have confessed, I better go and write--or the inspiration given to me will go to another writer.
I don't have a partner or children. I'm not constrained by the demands of a full-time job. Then why is it a struggle every day to find time to devote to my writing and illustrating?
I've learned that if I hope to accomplish anything with my career as a children's author, I have to give myself goals, especially daily goals. Yesterdays goals included revising a transition scene for an upcoming picture book and typing a new story so I could share it with my critique group. Such simple sounding projects, but unless I make a conscious effort to address them, they won't get finished. And I need to address them first thing in the day or they won't even get started.
As I've mentioned in other posts, the biggest distraction for me has become the Internet. I find dozens of excuses why I need to check my email, and soon I'm responding to queries about school visits, replying to editors, answering questions from readers of my books, and setting up lunch dates with friends. All of these are important, but they keep me from doing what I want to do most: create books.
Others seem to manage their time better and accomplish more. Or is this an illusion? I don't know. All I know is that time management remains a daily struggle for me.