After my poor showing last week, I’m happy to report that I did much better on my writing goals this week. I’m certain this is in large part due to the fact that I made my goals more friendly and less ambitious. I still didn’t accomplish anything, but did make some great progress. See for yourself:
- Continue going through my chronology binder and making related notes (aiming to spend 1-2 hours on this) – NO
- Write one hour per day on my work-in-progress (9am – 10am each morning) – YES!
- Continue reading The Memoir Project – YES
- Figure out my memoir’s algorithm (aim to do this on Thursday during my coffee shop time) – NO
- Draft a personalized letter to accompany advance copies of Doable to media contacts and influencers – YES
- Send out a big email to my lists about the Doable pre-order goodies, share the book trailer I just made, and act as the first “call to action” for the book launch (Wednesday) – YES
- Edit one more video for the Doable Interview series and reach out to more women about interviewing them – YES
And for those of you who like reading how everything broke down, here’s this week’s Writing Project Log:
For today’s Writer Unplugged, I’ll update you on my two big projects—the WIP and my Doable launch—but I also wanted to answer a few questions I’ve received from readers. It seems that people are curious to know more about my “chronology binder” and exactly how I’m using it, and others want to know more about how I find time within a day to do what I do, considering I’m a homeschooling mama and I also maintain a writing coaching practice.
I ended last week determined to write every day, and committed to make this happen from 9am – 10am every day (except for Saturday mornings when I’m a pace leader for the running club I belong to — I wrote in the afternoon). Identifying a specific time and sticking to it was clearly a good decision. I’ve written nearly 4,000 words in the past week and feel like I’m forming a new habit, which is positive. I’ve been writing in the guest room which doubles as our homeschool “classroom,” and it seems to be working. I’ve never written (or even worked for that matter) in this room before, so I think it’s solving the issue of having a new, unique space for the WIP.
But lest we celebrate too much, I must fess up and speak to the quality of what I’m writing. I don’t think the phrase “shitty first draft” comes even close to describing what it is that I’m creating at this moment. As I noted in my Writing Project Log, I’ve begun writing “from the beginning,” meaning in a linear here’s-what-happened-over-this-period-of-time kind of way. And that’s not actually how I see this book working from a structural point of view, at least not in the straightforward way I’m doing it right now.
BUT (and this is a big but), I’ve decided to allow myself to write out the story this way for now, and in doing so, am making peace with the fact that much of what I’m creating is not going to actually end up in the book. But I’m truly okay with that.
If you recall, some weeks ago after an inspiring lunch with my friend Debra Smouse, I made a commitment to complete an outline for the book by December 6. Yes, that would be the same December 6 that came and went three days ago. In the kind of nonfiction books I’ve written in the past, the material often dictated the structure. But for a personal project like this, where there is just so much material and I’m not sure yet what should be included and how, I feel like starting with an outline might limit what I ultimately create.
So, I’m giving myself permission to continue telling the linear story, the same way I’d tell a friend my life story if we had a lunch date that lasted a week. I’m writing way too much detail, spending time on scenes that may not actually serve to illustrate my message, but they feel like they need to come out. So I’m going to let them.
And just for the record, I’ve never written without an outline before. I mean, I plan everything. But that’s how I’m going to roll for now.
If you saw my email last week announcing my pre-order bonuses, then you know I am plugging away on this. The good news is, with each big item I tackle (the book trailer, pre-order bonus announcement, creating additional freebies for my site, etc.), the list gets smaller, and I start to feel less and less overwhelmed. My “epically” productive workday on Sunday was all about the launch, and that night before I went to sleep, I told my husband, “I might be able to actually chill out over our holiday break!”
Well, that might be a stretch. But we’ll see…
THE DEAL WITH MY “CHRONOLOGY BINDER”
What it is: The binder contains printouts of everything I could get my hands on that tells the big-picture story of my entire journey as Asher’s parent
What exactly the content is comprised of: Journal entries, original blog posts from two different blogs I’ve kept over the years, questionnaires we filled out for school applications and assessments, report cards from schools, notes from teachers, emails to and from my mom, sister, friends, teachers, and therapists, Skype conversations between me and my husband, relevant Facebook status updates, and notes from meetings with parent coaches and curriculum advisors.
How I gathered the material within: I had electronic versions of much of this content, but for things that I only had in hard-copy, I retyped everything so I could have it electronically and include it in my massive Scrivener document.
What the pages look like: Because of the way my brain functions, I needed all the content look and feel “uniform” so I exported the Scrivener material to Word and then spent hours formatting it, including adding a date header to each “item” and deleting extra spaces / adding in spaces where needed.
Why I created it: I have so much raw material, I wanted to have it all live somewhere where I could easily access it. For me, it needed to be a physical document so I could flip through, flag items, make notes, etc. The downside is, it’s heavy.
How I use it: When I write each morning, I keep the binder next to me. If I get to a part in the writing where I want to go deeper into that time, I flip through and see what raw material I have as a way to inspire what I’m creating. I’m also doing a read through separately from my daily writing to make note of major themes and insights.
Feel free to email me if there is something I didn’t cover.
HOW I SQUEEZE IT ALL IN—A BREAKDOWN OF MY DAY
Probably the question I get the most is how do I do it all, specifically, what does my actual day look like? As I wrote above, I’ve got more than a few plates on my tray—homeschooling, parenting, being the primary cook / laundry gal, coaching clients, and my own writing projects at various stages. I know I’ve written before about how I never quite feel like I have enough time to do everything I want to do. And that is largely true. However, I do (usually) maximize the time I do have so I’m able to continue shipping.
But what does it actually look like in action, in a real day?
You asked for it, so here it is. It isn’t always pretty, but I think this day is pretty representative of the ebb and flow:
- 8:00am: Wake up and catch up on social media / news while lying in bed
- 8:30 – 9:00am: Eat breakfast and set up classroom for school
- 9:00 – 10:00am: Writing time for my WIP
- 10:00 – 12:15pm: Homeschooling (morning meeting, first subject, making lunch for Asher)
- 12:15 – 1:00pm: Work time while Asher is eating lunch and watching Nova
- 1:00 – 4:00pm: Homeschooling (outing, 4 afternoon subjects)*
- 4:00 -6:30pm: Personal work time (writing, client calls, personal business work, etc.)
- 6:30 – 7:00pm: Run
- 7:00 – 8:30pm: Making dinner, eating dinner, cleaning up)
- 8:30 – 11:00pm: Personal work time (writing, client calls, personal business work, etc.)
- 11:00 – 12:00am: Watch TV (sometimes catching up on social media at the same time)
- 12:00 – 1:00am: Read in bed, then lights out
* If my son is working on a subject he does independently, like Khan Academy math, etc., I will do my own work during that 45-minute subject while sitting next to him.
So you can see that I get an average of 6 hours 45 minutes of work time in on a typical day, often a little more depending on what subjects my son chooses for that school day. An exception to this schedule is Thursday afternoon when I have a babysitter from 2:30pm – 5:30, so I get an extra 1.5 hours of work time. I also work an average of 5 hours per day on Saturday and Sunday, unless we are on vacation.
And that’s the breakdown. It’s been quite an adjustment from my pre-homeschooling days, when I basically had the entire time my son was in school to myself, in my quiet house, to work, work, work. I still wish I could work much more, but I’ve figured out how to maximize the time I do have.
HERE’S WHAT’S ON DECK FOR NEXT WEEK (or at least the plan):
- Continue going through my chronology binder and making related notes (aiming to spend 1-2 hours on this)
- Write one hour per day on my work-in-progress (9am – 10am each morning)
- Finish reading The Memoir Project
- Figure out my memoir’s algorithm (on my list again – to do this on Thursday during my coffee shop time)
- Continue sharing the little promotional tools I’ve created for Doable, including the featured girl quotes + additional freebies
- Send out a personal email to my friends and colleagues re: spreading the news about pre-orders
- Edit one more video for the Doable Interview series and reach out to more women about interviewing them
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I hope you enjoyed this installment of Writer Unplugged! If you aren’t already on my email list, I encourage you to sign up below so you don’t miss any of the series!