Working It Out


I’ve got a bunch of writing to get done this week.

Next month, I’m participating in another writer’s conference, where an agent will give me 15 minutes to go over his critique of 20 manuscript pages. These pages are due to the agent by this Friday. So, I’m working on those revisions.

Second, I need to complete more edits on my essay for our anthology.

Third, I’m doing edits on a friend’s essay.

Fourth, I need to do some revisions to our book proposal.

In the past couple of months there’s been some scheduling conflicts with our baby-sitter. She hasn’t been able to sit every week. We’ve been out of town several times, and the baby’s now sick.

I’ve been paying more and more attention to what makes me a productive writer. I’ve been cutting down on my excuses and making writing a priority.

I started writing a draft of a post about when and where I’m the most efficient at writing, and then Penelope Trunk beat me to it. (And says it better than I can.) Trunk says that productivity is about finding a space.

I couldn’t agree more.

Last December, I was very down about how little I was accomplishing. I didn’t finish NaNoWriMo. I waffled between finally learning how to do basic things for this blog, and whether to take a writing class.

I complained, constantly, about not having enough time. I woke up really early, and stayed up too late, but I found that I still wasn’t getting a ton done.

What I’ve found, is that committing to a work space, not necessarily finding more time, is  crucial to my ability to achieve my writing goals. Not sleep deprivation, not the fact that the baby won’t watch TV (thirty minutes, my darling. Just sit still for thirty minutes), not my husband’s work schedule, not the kids’ playdates or activities.

In the end, if I create the space for myself, I sit down and write. Even if the kids are screaming at each other. Even if my husband is working a double shift. Even if it’s 5:00 and dinner is still a theory. Even if I’m knee deep in washing sheets and blankets that have been thrown up on (like today). When it comes to productivity, space trumps time.

Here are my two favorite work spaces — “favorite” because they are where I get the most work done.

The first space is the end of my dining room table. It’s just off the kitchen. The cord you see in the picture psychologically ties me to the space. I keep it there, so that I periodically charge my laptop, and charging it causes me to sit down to write. The windows face the street in front of my house, and the small pond beyond the road. It’s picturesque, and peaceful, and puts me in a writerly frame of mind.

The second space is my local Panera. It’s just down the road. I have a table in the corner. If I go during the week, the person before me (who I’ve never met) leaves their Wall Street Journal. I don’t generally read the WSJ, but it makes me feel like I’m at an office, and that I owe productivity to myself.

I nod hello to all the other regulars, and order the same soup and sandwich. On the perfect day, if his schedule allows, my husband can meet me for a brief lunch.

I write, too, after the kids go to bed. But usually, it’s blogging or returning emails, or minor editing. And it’s done in front of the TV.

But creating and returning to the spaces I’ve created for writing, has given me more control in my writing. I have an easier time blocking out the white noise of life, and centering myself on the next word.

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