Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Since the Pennwriters conference in May, I have been a faithful sprinter. I’ve missed a day here and there, but, most days, I’ve managed to carve out an hour a day for “new word creation” -- blogs, forward movement in both the sequel to my novel and articles I’m trying to create. 

I’ve discovered that sprints work great for first drafts, but I am struggling a little with ways to stay faithful to my sprint on days when other writing tasks -- most notably the dreaded revisions on a completed novel -- loom. The sprinting habit has been a valuable addition to my writing routine, and I’m afraid that if I let it fall away for more than a day or so -- even if I’m doing other worthwhile tasks -- that the habit will fade away and I will lose the momentum I’ve gained.

I’ve now reached the point where I need to find out how to balance my sprints with my other writing activities.

On paper, this is easy. The sprint takes up only an hour a day, leaving me 23 more hours. Subtract sleep, the household tasks I can’t avoid and the hours in which my brain is fried and tasks that require thinking and logic are simply impossible, and I’m down to about 12 or 13 hours. 

What on earth am I doing for 12 or 13 hours that makes it impossible for me to scale this mountain? Immediately, the self-flagellation begins. Twelve hours is a lot of time. I’d have to be lazy or completely disorganized to consistently piddle away Twelve. Whole. Hours.

Once I called a halt to the self-imposed lecture, I realized I needed to genuinely answer the question. What am I doing for all of those hours? Here’s what I came up with:
  • taking care of the needs of a family member
  • running errands
  • spending time with friends
  • networking/promoting my book
  • planning classes
  • teaching classes
  • reading for enlightenment
  • reading for fun
  • generating new ideas
  • running my Thirty-One business
  • keeping in touch with family and friends via e-mail and phone calls
  • watching TV 
  • “relaxing” online
Turns out I’m not lazy or completely disorganized after all. In fact, it turns out that life consists of more than writing, and that the flip side of my professional life (teaching) demands a significant chunk of that time. 

When I teach writing classes to adults, “how do I find time to write?” is by far the most frequently asked question. Most of these adults have lists that look a lot like mine, and they have a lot less flexibility than I do. While I can choose when and where I complete the tasks that make up my professional day, most of them cannot. 

And so we must set reasonable expectations. While I can certainly work at stepping away from Facebook and the television set, most of the rest of that list is important to my personal or professional growth. If I’m realistic, I know it’s important not to lose sight of the big picture. I would never tell my students to shortchange their personal or professional growth for any single-minded pursuit -- not even writing.

From a practical perspective, failure to experience life will quickly result in my having nothing to write about. And from a personal perspective, nothing we write will ever be as important as the relationships we have with family and friends. 

Which brings me back to why I started this sprint gig in the first place. It was a way of making sure I got my hour in before all of those bulleted items began clamoring for their allotted share of my time. Within a month, I’d outgrown my narrow definition (and, I should stress, the narrowness of the definition was completely self-imposed) of what a sprint should look like. 

Now it’s time to figure out what it looks like in the real world. Would you be surprised if I told you I'm already working on some ideas?

More on that next week. Meanwhile, if you're a writer who sprints, I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below. How do you make it work?

Word count: 1185 
(Ouch! Too much time lost to party planning and taking stock…)

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