Ten writers for children. All with something to say.



I've enjoyed reading the posts on the topic of time and it's clear it's something we all think about a lot. It's interesting to me that I don't think in terms of time management, but rather in creating a day. Each day I have the choice of how to structure it, and as much as that can be a challenge, I love that freedom.

A couple of pieces of advice I was given by smart writers years ago have been helpful. Once when I was talking about phoning Lisa Westberg Peters, she said, "Before noon is too soon." For Lisa the morning was writing time and she put off her contact with the rest of the world until the afternoon. I've tried to follow that and frequently don't check email until after noon. It's a gentle reminder that the first thing I need to do each day is write, and that there's plenty of time later to do the other things.

The other piece of wisdom came from the poet Naomi Shihab Nye. She told me once that one word that she does not use for herself is busy. I was struck by how freeing it could be to remove this word from one's vocabulary and how it clarifies that what we do is a reflection of our intent. I haven't used the word busy in years, and it helps me to enjoy what I do more.

When my mother died, I was struck by how little we know about the time we have. I'm still in that mourning period, but I am becoming clearer about some of what I want to do and don't want to do with the time that I have.

Going with the Flow

Outside it is still dark. This is my "Time Management" for the day. It was my turn to post yesterday, but I ran out of time, so early-up I get to fit blogging into today's schedule. I have loved reading everyone's posts and comments on this subject. I love talking about time management with my self-employed friends. I always find inspiration. Over the years I have tried all kinds of time management tools from Franklin-Covey calendars to wall-size calendars with each hour accounted for, mind-maps, pocket-sized calendars, computer calendars, and post-it notes. I have anticipated a week ahead of time and documented a week looking back. I have analyzed and workshopped time management in multiple ways and come to the conclusion that it is best to go with the flow. The evolution and flow of life determines my time, not the other way around. When I think of how much I got done in a day when my kids were little as compared to now, when I have whole days to myself in the studio because my son just got his license and can drive himself to circus classes after school and my daughter is at college, I accept that the flow of life makes it impossible to have one system of time management that always works.  

Better than a clock or a calendar, I have found that a few moments of writing in my journal about what truly matters to me each morning helps me plan my day, week, month, even year, around priorities. If I am working on a deadline, then I know early in the day what matters and it helps me to say "No" when necessary to keep my studio time sacred. When I was in college facing choices of whether to finish a paper or go out with friends I asked myself this question: "If I were to die tomorrow, what would be more meaningful?" (Can you guess which I chose?) I still often use this question to prioritize my plans and as I grow older it takes on new meaning. What do I want to accomplish in a day? A year? A life-time? It is no longer the light-hearted college question, but one that carries weight for me.


Too Much Frittering

For me, Edie and David hit the nail on the head in their posts. Like David, I have no official full-time job, yet I can fritter away entire mornings and afternoons without ever managing to tackle the most important task of the day: writing. Only recently did I consciously decide to switch up my routine and start with the writing. So far, the results have been mixed. But in my case, mixed is better than nothing!

Related to this, like Edie, I find the more unstructured time I have, the less I get accomplished — not only with writing. Lists and daily goals work to some extent, but it’s embarrassing to admit how often it’s time to go pick up Ben at school and realizing I haven’t even looked at my writing goal for the day! In my defense, the “frittered” time is taken up with chores and errands (I’m not a total slacker!) but it’s still frustrating. You can’t accomplish a goal if you don’t even remember you have one! That’s what I mean by embarrassing.

My plan? Keep making lists and setting goals. Do my writing early in the day before distractions suck away the hours. Cherish each small step and continue working on my craft whenever I can, for as long as I can, every day.

That’s the plan. I’ll let you know how it goes.