FROM WENDY: This blog will be on hiatus for one week (July 11 – 17). Please enjoy this guest blog post with Patricia Harman, author of “Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey” and “The Blue Cotton Gown.”
In your writing life, how do you keep yourself focused and productive?
Sometimes I’m asked, “So how do you do it? You have two books out and a third on the way in five years. Lot’s of us have stories that we want to tell, but writing a book is such a commitment…”
When I’m working on a book, I am compelled, obsessed. The story goes on like a movie reel in my head, while I’m biking, while I’m gardening, while I’m cleaning house. I’m a midwife, so it stops for a while when I’m at work at our women’s health clinic. Other people have stories too, and I have to listen.
Here are some things I do that move me along.
I Plan Ahead. The night before my writing day, I think about where I’ll start in the manuscript, so I don’t waste time staring at the computer screen. When I sit down at my laptop, much of the work of writing, the plot, story-line, dialogue, arc of the narrative is already in my head; I know where I’m going for the next few hours. That doesn’t mean I can’t change things at a moment of inspiration.
I work in the same spot. My computer and notes are set up next to a day bed where I can look out the window at a plum tree. Few distractions and I don’t have to mess around setting up my scene and getting comfortable.
I set time devoted to writing: I have two days a week off work each week and on those days, I get dressed, meditate and have breakfast, then write all day. I have to remind myself every few hours to move around, that’s how intense I am about it. Sometime’s I’ll throw a load of laundry in the washer or put a stew in the crockpot, but I keep myself focused. My kids are all grow and that makes a difference. When they were young, the only writing I got done was my journals or occasional poems in the middle of the night.
I don’t stop to edit until I get stuck: I don’t stop to edit until I finish what I have to say. When I run out of steam or hit a hard part and am stewing in my juices, I use that time to edit, go back a few chapters and read what I wrote. Sometimes editing will take all day, but by the time I’m done, I’m back in the zone.
If I’m down, anxious or distracted, I put those feeling on paper. Like everyone else, I’m sometimes worried or sad or in a bad mood. I’m tempted to just lie on my back and stare at the ceiling, but if I take those feelings and start writing them in the voice of one of my characters it becomes therapeutic and I just may learn something about him or her. The paragraphs written might stay as part of the story, they might be moved to another part of the book or it might be junked, but it gets me going.
I never thought I would be an author. (I was a mom, a midwife, a lover, a peacenik, an unpublished poet, for a while, a revolutionary.) The author role wasn’t in my life script. Now, I guess I am.
To contact the author go to www.patriciaharman.com