Monday, May 30, 2011

Guest Post: 5 Tools to Carry in a Conspiring Universe

by Sarah Allen

Is it just me, or do you feel like every time you start a new project, the universe conspires against you to take away all the time you thought you had to work on it? You finally get started, and then you look at your calendar and realize that the next several days are a string of doctors' appointments, meetings, helping your friend move, the Hare Krishna Festival of Colors, and you wonder where your time went.

So what do you do? Being busy doesn't just happen at the beginning of projects, it happens all the time. Many of us are balancing jobs, parenting, school, and all the other things going on in our lives with our writing and writing careers. How do we balance it all?

1) Carry a notebook. That way, when you're sitting at your kid's kindergarten waiting for school to get out, you can pull out the notebook and jot down a few sentences. You can outline the next chapter of your novel while sitting in the lobby of the doctor's office.

2) Carry a book. You could fit in a good page or so while filling up the car at the gas station. To be a good writer you must be a good reader, and I imagine that sneaking bits of writing time helps your brain keep at high functionality throughout the day, just like sneaking crackers or apple slices helps move things efficiently through your digestive system. Poetry and short story collections as well as literary magazines are particularly suited for this.

3) Carry business cards. Take the time for some guerilla marketing. Sneak a card into one of the magazines on the coffee table at the doctors office. Give your card or even a copy of your book to your kid's teacher or school librarian. Whatever you think might work.

4) Carry a planner. With writing time tightly squeezed, its useful to plan ahead and know exactly when you will be able to actually sit down and write, even if it's just in ten minute chunks. And then, once you know when you'll be at your computer, while you are out and about, plan ahead and know where and how you're going to start up again when you get back. That way you will minimize the unproductive staring-at-the-screen time.

5) Carry an iPhone. Or something like it, if possible. That way you can update your blog or Facebook fan page while sitting at the lecture you didn't want to go to in the first place. Get your e-mailing and social networking done while you're on lunch break, and then when you get home and finally have your own time, you can use it for the actual writing instead of having to catch up on all the businessy-type things.

Life will still be crazy and busy, no doubt, but carrying and efficiently using these tools can help maximize your writing productivity. Are there any other tools you think might be useful?

Sarah is a 22-year-old aspiring writer working on her first novel who recently graduated as an English major from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. She has been published in a handful of lit magazines and blogs about her adventures and misadventures on the road to future publication. She loves Cavalier King Charles spaniels, jazz, white chocolate, and owns all 11 seasons of Frasier.


  1. Good tips all!

    I think since the advent of the iPhone and its ilk, employees are now looking forward to boring meetings to catch up on all their social media-ing :o)

  2. Nice concise list. I get great ideas while driving so I usually had my digital voice recorder with me to get the ideas out before they drifted away. Now I just use my phone's voice notes app. I think I use my phone more for writing than anything else. lol

  3. this list was A!. You hit the practical points right on the head.

  4. These are all excellent tips. I do carry a Moleskine notebook with me, because it's flat and lightweight and doesn't take up too much room in my purse (have to leave room for M&Ms, :). I like the idea of carrying a planner, because I have all these goals in my head that are often much more difficult to achieve when I sit down at my desk.

  5. That list is brilliant - especially the last item. If only I had an iPhone.

    In addition to the things on your list, I've been working up to saying no when people ask me to do crap I don't want to do. Unfortunately, I forget my just-say-no plan in the moment and say yes... OR I say no and then feel really guilty about it and do whatever the thing was anyways.

    alas, earwax.

  6. Thanks for the comments everyone! I appreciate the additional ideas and support.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)