A Matter of Focus

One of the biggest issues I have as a writer is lack of focus.

I want to write romance and literary fiction and empowering children’s books and nonfiction and freelance work for clients and magazine articles and videos and and and…

So, it seems pretty obvious why I find it hard to focus. I have too many ideas and not enough time or energy to bring all of them to fruition.

Those of you who suffer from an overabundance of ideas, how do you decide which to pursue, which to postpone, and which to abandon?

For now, I’m taking advice from Sage Cohen and capturing the stray ideas so they don’t plague when I’m trying to get my work done.

A Writer’s Schedule

time for writingWhen I was a moonlighter with a day job, I kept a pretty tight schedule.

Until my son started pre-school, I was working 8:30-5:30 Monday-Friday. I had a telecommute day on Monday, so I got to avoid my two-hour commute that day.

On my commuting days, I got up at 5:20, took a shower and got breakfast and lunch ready for me and the kiddo. Then I had 30-45 minutes for freelancing before we had to hit the road. I wrote blog posts for a client, did email troubleshooting for the Freelance Writers Den, and sometimes conducted interviews.

At lunch, I typically ran errands or bought groceries to keep my evenings and weekends free. It’s amazing how efficient you can be at Fred Meyer when you’ve only got 20 minutes.

I got home from work about 7:00 each night, and I spent an hour and a half eating dinner, playing with the kiddo, and getting him bathed and turned over to my husband. Then more freelancing until bed around 10.

When he entered pre-school, I shifted my schedule to 7:30-4:30, which meant no time in the morning for work. That meant I had to do more after he and I got home, but things still seemed to work out okay.

Pacific Northwest Writers was done mainly on weekends because I needed larger chunks of time to devote to editing the transcripts and assessing what I wanted to say for the introduction and conclusion. This time was also when I did other bigger projects, such as writing articles, editing blog posts for Make a Living Writing, and writing pitches and letters of introduction to potential clients. I typically used Boomerang to schedule these emails to arrive during the week, though.

I quit my day job about a month ago, and the kiddo started full-day kindergarten. We decided we could afford this because we’d be saving on day care/preschool costs and my gas for that long commute.

This change has thrown my schedule into disarray. I have a good chunk of time during the day, but I’m not using as wisely as I was when I was working a full-time job outside the home. I guess it’s true what they say: work will expand to fit the time you have available.

Next week, I’m going to try something different. I’m going to start using an alarm again to get up at 5:00 and do some fiction writing. I’ll use Sage Cohen’s advice of starting with free writing to get my brain working, then (I hope) be able to slip right into some writing. I’ll break around 6:30 to get a shower and get the kiddo ready and delivered to school.

On Friday of next week, I’ll let you know how it went and whether I plan to continue with the early morning wake-ups.

How do you schedule your writing time? Tell us in the comments below.

What should come next?

I’m planning my next book, and I’d like your help. Which topic is your favorite for the next book in the series? And which writers would you like to see interviewed?

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Who’s in the book?

I’m super-excited about the group of writers that has come together to share what they know and love about writing — and about the Pacific Northwest.

Here’s who you’ll see when the book comes out this spring.

Mary Andonian, screenwriter: author of Bitsy’s Labyrinth and film coordinator for Willamette Writers

Patricia Briggs, novelist: New York Times bestselling author of urban fantasy books, including the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series

J. Anderson Coats, novelist: author of the debut historical young adult novel The Wicked and the Just

Sage Cohen, poet: author of The Productive Writer, a book I love

Cricket Daniel, playwright: writer of Couples Therapy and Helen on Wheels, living in Bend, Oregon, and has a serious love for sitcoms (like me)

Diane Raptosh, poet: former poet laureate of Boise, Idaho, and Eyck-Berringer Endowed Chair in English at The College of Idaho

Greg Rucka, graphic novelist: known for Whiteout and Queen & Country

L.J. Sellers, novelist: mystery writer in Eugene, Oregon, whose blog I’ve been following since it was titled “Write First, Clean Later”

Suzanne Williams, children’s writer: writer of children’s books, including the Goddess Girls, Heroes in Training, and Grimmtastic Girls series she co-authors with Joan Holub

Eric Witchey, novelist and short story writer: writing trainer who has given workshops for Willamette Writers and Pacific Northwest Writers Assiciation, among many others. I’ve attended a couple of his workshops, and I recommend them with reservation.

New Adobe Stylus Can Help Freelance Writers Be More Productive and Creative

Adobe announced some cool new apps and pricing models this morning. As an ed tech writer, I was there to learn more about the education applications of these new tools.

But, the new stylus, Adobe Ink, really piques my interest as a freelancer.

I always coveted a Wacom tablet, but I don’t do enough illustration to justify the cost. But Adobe’s new Ink stylus will work with a recent iPad (one that runs iOS 7), and the apps that take full advantage of its capabilities are free. You can use the stylus as a regular stylus in other apps.

Think about how you could use a cloud-enabled stylus on the go. Capturing ideas and quick sketches of concepts. Jotting notes faster than you can type them using the keyboard. Or engaging in free writing exercises using real handwriting. Sharing ideas with your clients and colleagues (remember, it’s cloud-enabled).

Will you be adding the new Adobe Ink stylus to your bag of freelancing tools?