Are You An Early Morning Writer?

Last week I posted this picture on my private Facebook page and a friend and aspiring writer asked me for tips on waking early to write (thanks, Danielle!). SNPLCQGQAs I replied to her, I realized I had a good bit to say on this so thought it might help and encourage other writers who are also searching for more time to write.

Two years ago on the eve of Dinosaur Boy’s 3rd birthday, I blogged about my struggle of finding time to write with a toddler and a newborn. You can find that post here. Now, as DB is on the cusp of turning 5, here are what works for me, and hopefully some of these resonate with you as well.

First off, I’m one of those people who need pretty much silence to write. I can edit and critique with noise and flurries of activity around me, but I can’t hold onto plot threads when there’s too much distraction.

I figured out pretty early on that my writing time would need to be when everyone is asleep. Before even the chores wake up and start demanding my attention.

How Do You Get Out of A Nice Warm Bed to Sit In Front of A Computer?

Nothing gets you out of bed faster than the sounds of a hacking cat or screaming child.

Some mornings are incredibly tough.

Especially if I’ve been up and down all night with a sick child. Or if the A/C hasn’t kicked off once and the house is finally frigid and my covers deliciously warm.

What makes me drag myself out of bed is reminding myself that THIS IS THE ONLY TIME I GET. My day runs so much better when I start it feeling accomplished rather than regretful.

Because my writing time is so limited, that in itself is a motivator. I’m usually forced to close my computer by hungry kids so the whole rest of the day I keep a brain-browser open in the background (and my journal), brainstorming different ideas so that when I finally do have the chance to write, I’m excited to do it.

I look forward to pages to fill and coffee to drink.

I’m Up. Now What?

As my brain and body got used to our arrangement, it became easier to wake up and immediately have enough brain function to write. I don’t always have the ability to speak coherently, but that comes once coffee is consumed and the hubs wakes. Sometimes taking a shower first thing is what it took to get my creative grey-stuff moving along.

A habit must be created and that takes time and doing it over and over.

But for the times I don’t wake bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, or I don’t have an active KzdLVn57manuscript, I have my to-do lists so sleepy-me doesn’t waste time. Just crossing things off helps me feel accomplished and jump-starts my brain. It’s something I can leave out and add to throughout a busy day too.

 

 

 

Accountability

I’m a self-motivator for the most part, but accountability is a pretty awesome thing. Don’t have any early-riser writing buddies? No worries.  Some super smart early birds set up a twitter account with the hashtag #5amWritersClub to help connect with other early bird writers.ZvBfwOkNI hope sharing what works for me helps motivate other writers who want to start their day with words.

Please share any tips for what works for you too!

Writing Goals: A Look Back on 2016

I began the year with a goal. setting-goals-tony-robbins-quoteBeing on submission was nerve-wracking and I needed smaller creative outlets so I wouldn’t drive myself (or my agent, critique partners, and beta readers) crazy. So I challenged myself to get published at least once a month for the entire year. It’s tricky as a goal, because as a former Mobile Writers’ Guild president once cautioned us, a goal should be something YOU can control. But I could control the opening up to inspiration, the butt-to-chair writing time, the search for publications, and the strength and confidence to put myself and my words out there. I did better than I thought I would, although rejection never got any easier and was sometimes hard to bounce back from.

I submitted fifteen poems, six short stories, and eleven personal essays. On the first day of the new year I received an e-mail that my personal essay, The Fairy House, would be published online by Mothers Always Write.

Setting writing goals is how I coped with being on submission. Check out my blog post to see what is working for me, maybe it can inspire you too!

I was ecstatic. It was the first personal essay I had ever written, and I found the challenge cathartic. I felt like it would make me a better writer and a better mother. More truthful with myself.

Then in February, Mothers Always Write wanted to publish my poem, Lake Geneva. The Fairy House fit their acceptance theme slated for March and was published then. In April, I was beyond excited when Mamalode published my Top Ten Reasons Why Playgroup Moms Make Awesome Friends. Babybug Magazine printed my poem, Gardening, that I had actually signed the contract with back in 2013. Then, I–or really my secret identity, the Saltwater Scribe–was invited to be a part of the author/illustrator group, The Inscribables, and they published my post, Being Creative is as Awesome as Surfing on Dolphins.

Mothers Always Write published another one of my essays, Earless Bunnies in May, and The Good Mother Project allowed me to share my Mother’s Day gift to my mom with their readers when they published my poem, Dear Momma.

Short stories are hard for me to write so I was giddy when the Scarlet Leaf Review published Weak in June. Then Haiku Journal published a haiku of mine mentioned in this previous blog post.

In July, I had my first reprint when The Good Mother Project asked to republish Earless Bunnies, and then again when they republished my Top Ten list in August. In September, they published my poem to my daughter, You Walked Away from Me, as I struggled to be okay with the fact that she was now all growny in kindergarten.

I had a YA short story accepted for publication in October, but the editor decided to push the publication date back. So I’m still hopeful, though I couldn’t make my goal. November was full of rejections, but more positively–revisions on my YA manuscript that’s out on R&R (an editor-requested revise and resubmission). I also have a poem and short story accepted for publication later on next year and a personal essay that’s made it to a final round selection that I’m extremely hopeful for.

I read twenty-two books this year, critiqued four manuscripts, and beta read too many to keep count. I met some awesome authors at book signings. I was part of a 4-H Authors and Illustrator’s Panel, a facilitator at a Young Author’s Writers Conference, a writing contest mentor for FicFest, completed my fourth manuscript, a middle grade magical realism, revised (and revised again) my YA mystery, began my fifth novel, a YA Southern Gothic named Amalee, and am co-writing an adult psychological thriller with two other creative mamas. So throughout the rejections, I’d say a lot of awesome things happened writing-wise for me in 2016.

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What positive things happened to you writing-wise this year? Did you read a book that changed your perspective? Did you write the book that will change your life?

 

 

Time Zones: It’s A Paw-ty

My baby turns three tomorrow.

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So, technically, and according to him when he flexes his super-hero muscles, he’s not a baby.

As very little is more magical than a birth and the thriving, I thought today’s blog post would be apt to talk of that with the combination of writerly things.

Back track almost three years ago: I poured my first cup of fully caffeinated coffee I’d had in a year at our local writers’ guild meeting when a writing-buddy turned to me. “I have a friend who just had a baby and she’s really struggling finding time to write. How do you do it?”

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My baby was six weeks old, my daughter almost three. The schedule my eldest and I had come up with—balancing playdates and naptimes and my writing—had twisted into something unrecognizable with the arrival of my son. Before, I wrote during her naptime. Constantly exhausted keeping up with her, I’d snuggle in and take a twenty minute power nap, then wake up with scenes vibrant, writing furiously for the next hour and forty minutes. We were clockwork, she and I. I was the big hand, she the little and our days spun around the clock face.

The baby was a different time zone. Naptimes where no longer times to write but times to nurse and change diapers and soothe so he would be happy while she slept. Days when their naps coincided were glorious but rare. When I changed course and woke early to write, one or the other did too. I didn’t make a sound but they could feel the moment I turned on the computer through cracked bedroom doors and down a hallway. I grew frustrated and raged that the universe was against me.

I wrote after the three am breastfeeding for a week or two.  The crash was spectacular and messy.

And I felt so guilty that I blamed them for needing me. Writing is a priority but these two amazing children are so much more. I needed to change my mindset on what I expected out of myself. This baby might be my last so I needed to appreciate the fleeting infant time more. The incredible bond while nursing, the coos and gummy smiles. The tiny fist gripping my pinkie.

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He still prefers to hold only my pinkie. It’s like our secret handshake. A way he reminds me that he’ll always be my baby no matter that he’s growing up.

I reminded myself of a pass I had put in place. I had given myself a goal, a manageable 500 words a day, to finish writing a middle grade fairytale retelling before he arrived. I’m goal-driven and finished it a month before his arrival. Revising doesn’t take the same mental capacity that creating does to me so instead, I used my writing time to draft. And journal. I wanted to remember every tiny detail of their babyhood and toddlerhood, so why not exercise my writing muscles by recording? And it was easy to put down when they need me.

My new leniency with myself allowed me to adapt my writing to teething times and night terror times and every time a child needs comfort and attention from their mother.

We figured out our own time zones. Though with my daughter beginning kindergarten in two weeks, I have a feeling we’ll need to figure this out all over again. But that’s a different post.

How has your writing time adapted to new children or new schedules? I’d love to hear what works for you