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May 20, 2010

Time

Kate Hart
The lovely and talented Maggie Stiefvater, who should really consider leaving some awesome for the rest of us, recently wrote this great post about time management. I want to quote the entire entry, but my favorite part was about parenting:

"If I had a dime for every time someone said (not knowing I have kids),  “Oh, I’ve always wanted to write, but I have a little kid at home” I  could buy a pony. There is such a tremendous amount of guilt associated with being a  mother and having a life, I’ve discovered. But I’ve also discovered  this: kids respect you for having a life."

This may be oversharing, and if so, I apologize. But right after a recent rejection, someone commented that my kids were lucky to have me as a mom. I broke down into ridiculous tears, terrified that all of this time I'm spending on writing might be in vain and I'm missing their childhoods and they will hate and resent me and zomg emo mess spaz attack....

Various friends slapped me around and I've recovered. (These posts also helped.) But it was especially heartening to hear from Maggie, a pro at both writing and  parenting, that I'm probably not permanently warping my children.

Anyway. Her discussion of priorities, scheduling and goals made me reflect on the ways I define my own. Let me say: I am no great example of organization. But if I'm going to spend time away from my kids, I want to make sure I'm using it effectively. So in case it helps someone else the way Maggie's post helped me, here are a few of my methods.

1) Very visible to-do chart. I used to keep a list in a notebook, but since I started writing again, I have notebooks all over the place and can't ever find my list. I've tried several online list and calendar programs, but it's too easy for me to click "ignore." When I dropped the ball on a MAJOR project for work a few months ago, I knew something had to give, and came up with this poster board chart-- inspired by this post on visual plotting



2) Super anal story chart. In the battle of pantsers and outliners, I am Switzerland. First draft gets spilled onto the page however it wants. But after that, I wrestle it into an Excel chart, complete with fictional dates, chapter and page numbers, POV, setting, what's happening, what needs to be changed, and even what song on my playlist fits that point in the story.

I can't tell you how helpful this thing is during multiple revisions.


3) Inspiration in my face. My new laptop has new quotes taped around the screen. One is Natalie Goldberg: "No one cares that much whether you write or not. You just have to do it." The other is from this post at JM Tohline's blog, which I apparently paraphrased: "How will you make this time count?"

When I'm tempted to waste an hour browsing threads at Absolute Write or suddenly feel compelled to update every. single. book. I've ever read on Goodreads, I think of that quote and decide what task I can complete in the time I have free.   Sometimes it's writing-related, sometimes it's something else productive-- and sometimes it's just enough time to build a rocket ship.


What about you? How do you make your time count?

13 comments:

  1. I know it almost comes natural, but you shouldn't feel guilty for having your own life and ambitions. I know some women who have no interests but their kids, and once their kids got older they really started smothering them, making the kids push away and making all miserable. I'm sure that's not how it works for every family, but Maggie is right - they will respect you for being a whole individual instead of 'just Mom.'

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  2. I may not have kids, but I really struggle with finding time for writing and not ignoring the people I love. Like you, I've found that a to-do list is especially helpful to manage time. However, I have to bring up Nation Novel Writing Month here. One month, write 50,000 words--I found that people were a lot more understanding when I had a time scale and a defined goal. If I flaked on them, they knew it was because it was November.

    the point in all this is that if you think your kids are having trouble understanding why you spend so much time writing, you can always find a way to help them connect with what you're doing. Just telling them what you're working on, or asking them to support you in your goal to write X amount in X amount of time would probably make them feel proud of you, not neglected.

    (I feel so weird giving advice here!! please tell me if you think i'm being horribly pretentious...)

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  3. aw, love, you should never feel bad about being a Super Mom. SAHM's are incredible in and of themselves -- but to be able to do ALL THAT and still make time to pursue your dreams?

    that makes you incredible.

    and your children will love you for it.

    your priorities are in place, and your planning is underway. i'm sure you'll have no trouble finding your balance -- but in the meantime, never doubt yourself or your intentions.

    <333333

    (KATE HART HAS STOLEN MY HEART.)

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  4. Beautiful post. And your children are so very, very, very lucky. <3

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  5. I prioritize (really badly). Plusss I work really well under pressure so if I leave it to the last minute everything falls in to place and I get so much done. :p

    ...but that's not something I can recommend to anyone. It's a really bad habit.

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  6. Love this post, Kate. Just hearing other moms reiterate that children respect parents that have their own goals and dreams is such a comfort and a kick in the pants where I need it.
    ps that is one kickass rocket ship.

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  7. This is such a great post, Kate. I don't have kids yet but I have definite guilt about the amount of time I spend writing and blogging and ignoring the boyfriend.

    I LOVE your Excel sheet for revisions ooooooooooomg. That looks like it might have the potential to save my life this summer and I am copying you 100%.

    Your kids have so much to be proud of -- maybe when you are down, try to imagine them holding a book that you actually wrote and bringing it to school. What kid in class could possibly top that for show and tell?

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  8. Wow, I love that post. For me though, my kids are older and they are involved in my writing. It's been a way to inspire the creative spirits within them also. My little ones help me create my worlds by cutting out pics with me when I'm world building. My older kids are my beta readers and promoters. My writing time is usually when they are asleep or playing with each other. I even write on the porch while they are playing and take breaks to play with them. Writing for me is a vacation from all that I have to do everyday. I just try and involve them all in it. Luckily I write YA :-D

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  9. Kate, you are amazing. <3 And your techniques are genius. I am so stealing them. Aand I'm sending you an email :)

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  10. One of the best things you can do for your kids is teach them the importance of going after your dreams and of being your own person.

    And, with your writing,you are a great example of that.

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  11. Wow! Love, love, love this post. Glad I wasted my time on it. *places tongue in cheek* I have three kids, a full time job, and I write. I feel guilt ALL THE TIME!!! I really need to be better organized. Will take some of your suggestions.

    *hugs* Thanks for the inspiration.

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  12. Abby-- I know you're right-- I never wanted to be the mom who lets her kids become her identity. I need to keep that in mind.

    Kari-- Not pretentious at all! :) My kids are 4 and 2, so they don't really understand beyond that Mommy is "working." But you're right about goals. It helps having friends in the biz to lend some legitimacy to what I'm doing-- "I have to get this draft done so that so-and-so can read it before she gets her edits back from important publisher."

    Tahereh-- <3 <3 <3 I need a special Tahereh tag here. Hm...

    Michelle-- I <3 you.

    Sushi-- I'm the same way. Deadlines rev me up, but it's also stressful. See also: my college career. LOL

    Amanda-- Rocket building is one of my lesser known talents. Also Play Doh sculpture.

    Sarah-- Steal away! I actually sent a copy to my BFF when she was beta reading an early draft, so she could check for continuity, and it was mega-helpful for synopsis writing.

    LM-- I'm so looking forward to the days that they can play outside without me right beside them!

    Emilia-- You already know. ::glomp::

    Thanks Kath. {{hug}}

    Angie-- Glad it helped!

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  13. I loved this post and Maggie Stiefvater's post, too! I remember when I was pregnant with my oldest, I was typing up a journal I kept full of letters to him, and I said, "Do you hear the sound of my fingers on the keyboard? Get used to it." I agree so wholeheartedly that it's awesome for kids to see their mom working toward her goals and living her own life.

    And thanks for your own thoughts on time management. Some great tips here!

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