Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


More Time, Please

I love my writing life. Let me count the ways.

1. Research

2. Revision after the first draft is down

3. Reading

4. Exaggerating

5. Eavesdropping

6. Creating characters and worlds

7. Visiting schools

8. Speaking at conferences

9. Book signings--mine and that of other authors

10. Meeting famous authors

11. Blogging with my papitas calientes

12. Participating in writing list-serves

13. Talking to my readers in Facebook

14. Participating in my writing group meetings

15. Teaching writing at the Whidbey Island MFA program

16. Teaching writing to high school students

17. Teaching writing to elementary school students

18. Answering e-mails

And then there are the precious moments with my grandsons, family, and friends--including my Maltese dog, Lily.

If I could only have more time to write all the stories I have in my head, my life would be perfect.


Slow and steady

I agree with Stephanie and Christy about all the distractions that keep me from creating books. Why am I so easily led astray from what I want to do most in the world? This past month in particular, I have come to view the Internet as the Enemy, at least with regards to me being productive with my current book project. I tell myself that I need a break and I'm only going to check my email and WHAM - two hours have gone by. Even more than that, being on the computer affects my thinking in a negative way that I can't explain; it leaves my brain mushy and less creative. As I face up to this new book's deadline I am doing my best to follow this rule: absolutely NO checking my email until I am done with my creative work for the day.

As far as other conditions that help me with my work, having enough time to think, experiment, and play is helpful. I am a slow, methodical worker, and I'm learning to embrace that and not feel like a slacker just because others are twice as productive. But I also need deadlines, otherwise I will drag out my work for years (and years). And for a slow thinker, I sometimes come up with my best ideas under harsh deadlines (like this past Halloween when I had only a few hours left to carve pumpkins and I came up with some of my best ideas). So that's a balance I seek: time to work slowly, yet a deadline that holds me accountable.

Other than that, give me a can of Pepsi, a couple of homemade chocolate chip cookies, and the privacy of my apartment's little studio and I'm ready to work...as long as I stay away from the computer.


Foraging vs reaping

This round we're posting about the conditions that contribute to our best work. Like Stephanie, who wrote about distractions and procrastination, I first want to focus on what prevents me from working at my highest level.

As a self-employed creator, I need to hunt and gather for my livelihood. When I was offered my first book to illustrate, back in the early 90s, I worked as an art director for Four Winds Press. It was a part time position. I worked three days in-house, leaving me the other four days to create. This was an ideal situation for me. When Simon & Schuster bought out Macmillan, there was no longer an option to work part time. I had a fledgling illustration career started—this was the whole reason I'd gone to NYC; I knew a full time art director position would not allow sufficient left-over time for my own work. I have been freelance art directing/designing and illustrating/writing since the mid-90s. When I have a lot of work lined up into the future (stockpiles from hunting) is when I'm most productive; only then am I not agitated about finances. When work is scarce, I need to devote more energy to foraging, less to reaping. Foraging seems to scatter my energies. I try to cover too much ground. I'm considering part time employment again to address this issue. If I can be still enough, centered in one place, then I can harvest.

Playing out this analogy, it also helps to have great farmers—trusted writers groups, an editor who knows how to fertilize what is best and weed out the worst, makes for the heartiest crop. My best work comes when I have this community of support.


When the stars align...

Writing is very enabling for a procastinator like myself.
I need to write today, but...it's cloudy.
I need to write today, but...there's a Battlestar Galactica marathon on SyFy.
I need to write today, but...we need dog food.
Basically, anything can be a reason to not write. So what conditions are right for me to get something done?
Luckily, I don't have to wait for the stars to align.
Tomorrow is the first day of 2011 National Novel Writing Month, which I plan to participate in. So for the next 30 days, I'm going to have to make sure the conditions are right.
It helps to have an idea, and I do have one that I'll start writing on tomorrow.
It helps to have my laptop sitting in a productive place, other than the couch in front of the tv.
It helps to have a hot drink at hand.
It helps to have quiet, so I will walk the dogs early so they will be more inclined to nap the whole day.
It helps to have convenient food so I don't take too much of a break. I plan on making a big pot of chili later today.
These may all sound a little silly, but for a procastinator like myself, eliminating all the things that keep me from writing is exactly how I end up getting something done...
Anyone else doing NaNoWriMo this year?