April Moore on Work Habits (Part 2)

Go To Your Room
If I had known how much I could have accomplished as a kid when my parents sent me to my room, I’d have
a seven-book series by now. Today, I treasure alone time in my room where instead of plotting revenge on my
sister, I actually get quality time to write. Claim your own space, whether it’s a room, a corner, or a table. Your
area should also consist of only what you need to write. Don’t work at a desk where you pay bills, or do other
hobbies. You need to focus on writing. My area is the guest bedroom. I found a small desk at a flea market,
painted it and parked it by the window. The closet, situated behind the desk, houses my weapons of writing:
reference books, research, and all those extra office supplies I stocked up on. (You can never have too many
Post-Its). Make the space inviting—but only to you. You need to be left alone, so politely inform your spouse,
your kids, and your dog (who’s holding the leash in his mouth) to not bother you while you are in this special
space of yours. I’m one of those who needs a change of scenery every once in a while, so sometimes I’ll work
in the sun room, out on the deck, or on the living room couch. But inevitably, I find that I’m most productive
when I go to my room.

Break it Down
I tend to freak myself out thinking about the amount of work I have ahead of me. Nothing like a bit of fear to
kill your motivation. I must remind myself to take baby steps. Luckily, Folsom’s 93 can be broken down into
roughly 93 steps. So, I tackle one at a time, sometimes two. If your project feels like deciphering the Dead Sea
Scrolls, then break it down. Work on one scroll at time—or half a scroll. Don’t put more pressure on yourself
than you need to. Shoot for a certain number of pages a day to get done. Maybe it’s one chapter at time, or one
article a day, or the introduction of your book proposal. You will feel more accomplished and productive if you
take on only what you can handle that day. When I applied this method, I had those scrolls deciphered in no
time.

Reward Yourself
What does your little heart desire? (Think small for this, okay?) Maybe it’s a new book, a nice bottle of wine,
or going to the theater to see a movie. Now, choose the task or project you need to do and set a deadline. When
you meet that deadline, reward yourself. I know this may sound simplistic, but it works. Yes, you could give
yourself the reward anyway, but show some willpower, because trust me, that reward is way less satisfying if
you truly didn’t earn it. Write your deadline and reward on a board or post it on the refrigerator to keep you
motivated. Get the family involved to help support you on your journey because it’s even more rewarding when
others can share it with you.

With a bit of creativity, it’s possible to be a productive writer without fleeing to deserted beach house, or a
lonely cabin in the mountains.

 

Thank you, April, for this great advice for us all. And thank you, readers, in advance, for checking out April’s project when you get the chance. 

Time Alone, Part Two

Last month I posted about a writer’s need to guard his time and work process against the viking-like ravages of family. I promised a follow-up post and here it is.

First, thank you to April and Sarah who commented to bring their own methods for securing work time for their writing. Sarah has combined the old standby of closing the door with a fiance who knows better than to open it when she’s working. April brought up another challenge of writing. It’s not securing the quiet work space for her — it’s making herself work when there is fun to be had or errands to finish.

Ray Bradbury, in his memoir Zen and the Art of Writing, tells a story that touches on both of these things. According to Mr. Bradbury, Farenheit 451 was literally a dime novel. He wrote it when his children were of grade-school age, during the summer. When his kids wanted him to play instead of work…he chose play every time. Who wouldn’t? So Mr. Bradbury went to the local library and wrote his masterpiece on coin-op typewriters that ran on dimes.

That’s one way to solve the problem — remove yourself from both temptation and interruption.

What works best for my family is communication and scheduling. Being a little bit OCD, my wife an I go over the schedule for our summer days each evening before bed. This includes blocks of time where I’m going to work — often coinciding with my wife taking the kids to the park, library or similar off-site event. When they are home, my oldest son knows only to interrupt if it’s urgent and Mom can’t help — and mom doesn’t mind snuggling the baby child during those hours.

I’ll be the first to admit that it took some time, training and a few tears to really get to the point where my wife learned that needing to work didn’t equal not loving her. But that’s another post altogether.

Thanks for listening.

Friday Fun: Folsom’s 93

Alert readers might recognize April Moore’s name from the comments on this very blog. She’s another writer — and illustrator — and occasionally stops in to drop her two cents into our wishing well.

April has finished a novel, and you can find her short fiction and art here and there. One of her darker — and more fascinating — projects is her blog. Folsom’s 93 is an episodic history of the men executed at Folsom prison. Some of the stories are gratifying accounts of society doing what it must to punish unthinkable crimes. Others are sadder, tales of undereducated men caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. All of them are interesting, and told with a professional’s turn of phrase. Moore takes time along the way to tell us about other facets of life in Folsom, ranging from details of daily prison life to a discussion of a newly introduced parole system.

This is a well-done blog on a fascinating topic, and deserves a look. Find the front page here, then browse around. You’ll be glad you did.

Thanks for listening.