Monday, September 1, 2014

Finding Time for Writing: Strategies and Social Dilemmas for Scheduling or Stealing It

After perhaps my longest hiatus from blogging (and creative writing), this Labor Day I'm reassessing my time--and commitment to the craft--while battling party fatigue (a big bash took over our backyard yesterday, complete with a cornhole competition to the tunes of Pandora, when what I really wanted was to read in the hammock and listen to wind chimes). The order of the day is to realign my writing goals (revise-revise-revise and publish-publish-publish in lit journals), then figure out what every writer must: how to carve writing time into my schedule. And stick to it.

It's been exactly two years since I completed my MFA program, and I realize that I have yet to settle into any kind of writing routine since the dread of deadlines no longer looms each week as incentive. I've found some success in terms of a new career direction with copywriting/editing after a stint in journalism and teaching/tutoring, and I've published two essays in lit journals, with another currently in circulation. But now that I've got my bearings, I'm just not satisfied publishing only once a year.

I'm not talking about writerly ego, that hunger for recognition or validation that comes with your words in print (or online). What I really mean is that writing or revising only one essay or story per year for submission isn't satisfying my deepest heartfelt desire to create art and find a venue for its audience.

Rather than start today's quest like a schoolmarm with a yardstick and a list of recitations in hand that are sure to bring my bridge troll out from hiding, I delved into my latest issue of the Review Review, an endless source of inspiration and resource for a writer in any stage of her career, with a link to Australia's, where writer and single mother, Helen Addison-Smith notes:
'Writing takes time – great swathes of clean, empty time, unsullied by children or housework or deep worry about money or skincare routines. To be a writer is to be selfish enough to grab time and spend it churning words around, even though you are not getting paid very much, hardly anybody cares about what you’re doing, and even fewer people think that it’s any good.'
Judging by the reader responses, the challenge of finding these "great swathes" in which to "churn words around" isn't a unique phenomenon, especially (as the author argues) for women, and especially those raising young children, for whom stepping away from household tasks poses its own dilemmas. It's no wonder writer residencies are so popular, and that up to five times as many women as men apply for them, according to Peter Bishop, executive director of the Varuna Writers' Centre in Australia. Ironically, as stated in an online article at The Age, he's so busy with others' manuscripts that:
From time to time he will find a morning or an afternoon when he can work on his own novel but it is almost impossible to steal the time necessary.
If you're looking for some writing time away from your daily responsibilities, there are plenty of residencies to choose from. It's not even too late to apply for the women-only Hedgebrook Writers in Residence program, located on 48 forested acres of Whidbey Island, northwest of Seattle. Applications are due at midnight, September 3:

Residents are housed in six handcrafted cottages, where they spend their days in solitude – writing, reading, taking walks in the woods on the property or on nearby Double Bluff beach. In the evenings, they gather in the farmhouse kitchen to share a home-cooked gourmet meal, their work, their process and their stories. The Writers in Residence Program is Hedgebrook’s core program, supporting the fully-funded residencies of approximately 40 women writers at the retreat each year. 

As for me, I'm staring at my calendar now and trying to figure out where to schedule writing--like exercise, it often lingers on the periphery of my days and I want it to take a more central place. Although we do the majority of our writing as solitary beings, sometimes breaking out of isolation is what we need to crack open the conundrum of how to--whether it's how to approach an ending of a story or how to be accountable to our writing goals when grades or contest deadlines aren't enough. That's why I'm signing up for a local workshop run by Leilani Clark of Petals and Bones:

If you're looking for camaraderie and writing community, look no further. In this monthly workshop, you'll receive  support and inspiration to help you make progress on a writing project (all genres welcome!) whether that involves writing everyday for 20 minutes, or completing a set amount of words or pages. We will get the creative sparks flying with two short writing prompts, followed by check-ins and accountability on the previous month's writing goal(s). Plus, you'll get lots of resources and mini-craft talks from workshop facilitator Leilani Clark.

For now, it just may be the extra impetus I need to help me dive back in.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...