Have time for coffee?
Time management is a huge problem for writers, whether we also hold full-time jobs or try to write full-time. For me it’s much more complicated than, "What do I say when someone asks if I’m busy? Of course I am. I’m writing." Friends too often think that if you’re home all day, you can put down what you’re doing any time and stop to chat on the phone or go out for coffee.
Recently, a friend who is contemplating retirement soon said that she’s taking an art class one night a week and didn’t I want to go with her, followed by, "I’m going to get back to knitting again. Want to knit with me?" I finally said, "No. I want to be a writer." I don’t have time for art classes or knitting (and not the patience for the latter). I’m lucky if I get to read for pleasure.
Getting others to respect your need for long stretches of time is an oft-discussed subject and one we’ll probably never solve. People are who they are. But for me, the problem is as much about me as it is about friends and family who would interrupt my day.
I wish I were disciplined enough to set a schedule that I never deviated from, but I’m not. I tell myself that it’s retirement—after years of being at an office desk from eight to five, I welcome the opportunity to set my own schedule. I can go to lunch and supper with friends, one of the great necessities when you spend as much time home alone as I do. I can have long phone visits with friends. I can nap—and I do. I can read, though that often gives me a guilty conscience. The truth is I write some days; sometimes I go several days without working on my manuscript, though I do work on blogs and related things. A professor used to tell us, "A page a day is a book a year." I frequently feel the need to write that page a day instead of no pages a day and then 2,500 words in a spurt. I’m not sure those spurts keep the continuity of my story flowing. Guilt. Maybe that’s part of the writer’s gift.
For me, that’s the big contradiction of the life of a stay-at-home writer, especially one who lives alone. I want the discipline, the regular schedule, but I welcome the distractions. If I get too distracted, I berate myself for not getting more down; no distractions and I decide I’ve enjoyed entirely too much of my own company. I’m curious how other writers handle this conflict or even they even face it. Maybe I can learn to strike a happy balance.
Trouble in a Big Box - Kelly O’Connell has her hands full: her husband Mike Shandy is badly injured in an automobile accident that kills a young girl, developer Tom Lattimore wants to build a big-box grocery store called Wild Things in Kelly’s beloved Fairmount neighborhood, and someone is stalking Kelly. Tom Lattimore pressures her to support the big box, and his pressure turns to threats. Kelly activates a neighborhood coalition to fight the project and tries to find out who is stalking her and why. Mike is both powerless to stop her and physically unable to protect her and his family from Lattimore’s threats or the stalker. After their house is smoke-bombed and Kelly survives an amateur attack on her life, she comes close to taking an unwanted trip to Mexico from which she might never return.
Judy Alter is the author of three books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, and the new Trouble in a Big Box. Before turning my attention to mystery, which has been a lifelong love, I wrote fiction and nonfiction, mostly about women of the American West, for adults and young-adult readers. My work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. I have been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame at the Fort Worth Public Library.
For twenty years Judy was the director of a small academic press, all the while furthering her own writing career. She says, "I think I was more disciplined about writing when I had full-time responsibilities at the university."
Follow Judy at her Website or her two blogs - at Judy's Stew or Potluck with Judy (posted every Sunday night—or almost always so).