Today we’re talking about Chapter 2 of the book, On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts

The topic of this chapter is: Arrange. 

Before we start, just want to say a huge thank you to all who joined the conversation on Chapter 1!

I so enjoyed reading the posts that you linked up, and the dialogue that took place in the comments. Grateful for each of you, and the unique voices and gifts you possess!

If you missed the discussion on Chapter 1, you can catch up by clicking here.

For a full overview of this discussion group, and where we’ll be headed in the next six weeks (including link-up topic suggestions), click HERE.

 

Chapter 2 :: Arrange

 

Here are co-authors Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig, with some interaction on Chapter 2:

 

 

At our recent Five Minute Friday Retreat, we had the opportunity to video chat with Ann and Charity.

Before they started their presentation, Ann asked us to go around the room and share some of our writing goals.

The vast majority of the responses had something to do with making more time to write, and being more disciplined and consistent with our writing.

Life is busy. Many things demand our time and attention.

How do we carve out time in the midst of already packed schedules for a luxury such as writing?

One encouragement I took away from our video chat at the retreat was that it doesn’t always have to look pretty.

For the vast majority of us, our writing lives aren’t going to look like a remote cabin in the woods, with a laptop and no distractions for days on end. (As much as we may wish it were so.)

As writers who also have other responsibilities and hats to wear, our writing lives often look like stolen moments and leftover scraps. 

And maybe that’s okay.

We take the seconds and minutes as they’re available, and we scribble and jot and hope we find the notes later, when we need them.

The trick is to take those scraps, each beautiful and unique one, and stitch them together into a finished product. A patchwork quilt made up of stolen moments and ideas penned on the back of receipts — all sewn together into a work of art.

 

“Part of the process of calling myself a writer was actually making time to write.” ~ Charity Singleton Craig, On Being a Writer

 

In our video chat, Ann shared about how she has a pink backpack that she keeps ready for whenever she might need it. This particular backpack is designated to serve as a remote work station. In it, she packs her laptop, her charger, a notebook, even a remote wi-fi hot spot. Everything she’ll need to get her work done in a setting other than home.

When she heads out the door, she grabs her backpack and she’s ready to go. Ready to work wherever she may end up — at her child’s soccer practice, or the doctor’s office — wherever.

 

 

This advice gave me great comfort, as my own writing life is often comprised of patchy blocks of time sandwiched between other responsibilities. I even read portions of this book while sitting in the after school pick-up line.

The first time I actually scheduled a writing day on my calendar, I felt like I was being self-indulgent. Like I was giving myself a treat I didn’t deserve.

During the month of May, I was on a deadline, and knew my kids only had a few weeks left of school before summer break. I had limited hours of uninterrupted alone time, and needed to make the most of it.

So I looked ahead at my calendar, and blocked off whole days as writing days.

It felt wrong. Like I had other things that were more important. I should’ve been doing laundry. Grocery shopping. Cooking supper.

I did manage to do all those things as well, but if I hadn’t protected those days in May, I never would’ve met my writing goal.

It was the first time in my life I actually turned down other opportunities in order to write.

 

 

I guess my point is this: Sometimes our writing lives will look like cursive notes on the back of a homework sheet in the middle of the night. Sometimes they will look like saying “no” to coffee with a friend in order to accomplish a goal.

Both are okay.

We need to discern the season we’re in, and what’s right for each moment in order to sustain a healthy, balanced life that includes writing as a vital component.

What about you? How have you arranged your life in order to fit writing into it?

How have you made changes in your life to make space for writing? 
What changes would you still like to make, either in creating an actual, physical space designated for writing in your home or office, or carved out space in your schedule to accommodate for your writing? 
What have been some of the challenges or discouragements when trying to manage your time and include writing in your list of priorities? 
Do you struggle to give writing value and priority in your life? If so, why? If not, how have you managed to overcome that potential struggle? 

Share your thoughts in the comments and/or link-up below!

 

***

Here’s a preview into where we’ll be heading next week with our discussion. Start thinking ahead about these themes:

Week Two: Surround and Notice

Mon. Aug. 24 — Surround: I surround myself with people, activities and books that will influence my writing

Link-up topic suggestions:

Write your own blog post or journal entry on one or more of the following topics: 
Take a step back and consider what you most often write about. Does it reflect the things you surround yourself with? Does it reflect what you’d like to be writing about? 
 
What new topics or ideas would you like to tackle in your writing life? What can you surround yourself with, in order to make that happen? 
 
What changes should you make to surround yourself with inspiration, when you hit a dry patch in your writing life? 
 
Make a list of places you can visit, music you can listen to, books you can read when you’re lacking ideas for writing content
 
What inspires you in relation to your writing? Are there certain writing “voices” you just love? Who are they? What do you love about their style of writing? 

Wed. Aug. 26 — Notice: I attend to and record what’s going on around me

Link-up topic suggestions:

Write your own blog post or journal entry on one or more of the following topics: 

Share a success story about a time you effectively practiced the discipline of noticing.

Share a funny story about a time you failed to notice and observe, and couldn’t remember any details about your experience.

Brainstorm ideas about how you might be able to improve your noticing skills.

Write a poem or essay about a place you visited recently, recording as many details as possible.

 ***

Five Minute Friday - 4Also, if you don’t already join us for Five Minute Friday, won’t you consider playing along? It’s an amazing community of bloggers, a flash mob of free writers, the perfect excuse to practice your craft. We’re on Twitter every Thursday evening at #fmfparty, and on Facebook here. Hope to see you there!

For today, share a post or a comment below on the theme of how you arrange your life to accommodate for writing.

 Loading InLinkz ...

47 thoughts on “on being a writer :: arrange {chapter 2}

  1. Sorry for the long post! 😊
    Here’s the thing. I believe my time and space are great. I have a solid block of time daily to write. My days are fairly flexible so I can get the time in. I like having people around and background noise. In an odd way, it keeps me focused. So, I’ve carved out a nice niche in Panera. As soon as I drop my kids off for school, I head over there for a good two hours and have my tea, quiet time and writing time. I also have a desk at home but I tend to write most often in bed if it’s devotional and casual, but at my desk if it’s technical or for something I’m preparing to teach or submit. Generally, I find it hard to write at home because it’s too quiet and there are too many distractions. Laundry calls, chores beckon and I find myself further and further removed from my pen and paper, physically and mentally.

    My greatest nemeses in writing are distractions and procrastination. I’m easily distracted by texts, social media, friends, chores. Almost anything can be a source for my lack of focus. Then there’s procrastination. I recently read that procrastinators are great planners and I find that to be true in my own life all too often. What tends to help are outside forcing agents, like deadlines, or some form of accountability, like this discussion group.

    I often think that my writing needs to be polished or orderly or well developed from the jump. I have lots of fragments of thoughts floating around in my head quite often. But since I rarely write them down, they evaporate quickly and I don’t generally get them back. Shame. I’m coming to realize that it’s okay to jot those fragments down and come back to them later to develop them into complete thoughts or sentences. A random thought written or recorded is better than a random thought lost. Maybe “it was a dark and stormy night” was a random thought that gave shape to Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Paul Clifford. Maybe George Orwell was walking down the street and recorded a fragment of a thought about an ordinary day, “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Maybe Ralph Ellison, struggling to comprehend his place in a broken society, had this random but provocative thought that summarized his view of himself and so many like him, “I am an invisible man.” Maybe many famous first lines originated as fragments, random thoughts that we remember now because the author took a moment to write it down. It’s not so much that I need to organize my time and space, but rather I need to organize my thoughts, and that starts with writing down the fragments. Maybe my greatest nemesis is me when I fail to record the fragments.
    K-

    • I can identify with this. I also have those random thoughts floating around and rarely take time to grab them and record them. I need to do this. I’m also a procrastinator and easily distracted. It’s great to identify our weaknesses so we can then work on them. I love this group!

    • I relate to this so much. If I can get away to Caribou Coffee, I do a much better job staying focused than if I’m at home. But if I escape to my home office first thing in the morning, it has the same effect.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences! It sounds like you do a pretty good job with honoring your writing with your time and practices.

    • First of all: what a beautifully written comment! Secondly, I think we all identify with those (and other) nemeses! Thirdly: buy cheap notebooks – keep them *everywhere* (and I mean *everywhere* – handbag, bathroom, bedside table, kitchen, your side of the settee…everywhere…)….make sure you write down every thought, every line (possible first line or not!)….you never know when you’ll expand upon them….

      • Thanks for the encouragement and for the excellent suggestion. I seem to never have pen & pencil handy when those fragments surface! Sometimes I voice record them on my phone too.

    • No need to apologize for long comments, Kristie! We’re thrilled you’re here, and grateful to glean so much wisdom from you.

      I got a few coveted Panera days in May … they were glorious! Amazing how productive I could be in the right setting, with a blocked off chunk of time.

      I’ve taken to carrying a small notebook and pen in my purse, as well as keeping one in my room. Helps so much to capture those fragments and one-liners that might be useful later!

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts here. We appreciate you!

  2. This is something I’ve struggled to “get”…probably because I don’t often identify as a writer. 🙂 Funny how that goes together!

    But since the #FMFRetreat, I’ve been trying to intentionally set aside time (ideally each day) where I can write. Even ten minutes. Writing just doesn’t happen if I don’t prioritize it, and I’m starting to figure that out! I’m really really really looking forward to having the renovations done on my house and moving in, so I can set aside a consistent time each week to write. Maybe this fall!

    • 10 minutes. That’s an attainable goal. I think sometimes I make it bigger than it has to be. But if I think 10 minutes, then maybe it’ll turn into more. Have you experienced that?

      • Oh yes! Usually if I can just set aside 5-10 minutes, I find myself writing so much more than expected, and for longer. It’s just getting started, isn’t it? Once we’re started, the words come!

        Sometimes I also don’t write because I don’t think I have anything to write. But then again, if I just start, the words start flowing.

      • That’s why Five Minute Friday is the best! It’s not even ten minutes … HALF of that! 😉 Totally attainable, right? 😉

        But yes, if you start with a goal of ten minutes, it will likely and often blossom into much more!

    • I’m so excited for you to be able to move in and have your own little space, too! How fun!

      And yes, I do think that until we identify ourselves as writers, we won’t see the need (or validate the desire) to arrange our lives to give writing its own space (both in our schedule and a designated, physical place).

  3. Kristie- I’m right there with you. Fragments have been my constant companion for as long as I remember. Just in the past year, I’ve carried a notebook so they aren’t lost.

    Maybe that’s what this chapter is partly about- me making space in my purse, counter, or car for my ever-present notebook. Being ready to take care of the writer in me.

    This topic of arranging my life so I can write is very jumbled in my brain. I’m conflicted and confused by it. To be honest, when I pencil in blocks of time specifically for writing, it feels like a chore. But when I “steal” moments away from the day – for that writer girl- it seems more fun and creative… I sneak out of bed after everyone’s asleep or in the wee morning hours, I lock myself in my bedroom in the late afternoon when no one’s looking… Maybe that’s part of the adventure for me. I’m still trying to figure it all out.

    So many things in life are penning this chapter: “You must make time for your health – it’s a gift – so take more time to prepare your food, exercise at least 30 minutes every day” and “Your relationship with your spouse needs attention. You must make a point to schedule time for that.” and “Your kids need one-on-one time, get it on the calendar or it won’t happen” and “You won’t grow professionally unless you make it a priority in your life” and the biggies… Bible group, scripture memory, Bible reading plan, devotional, meditation, prayer…

    Everything wants a slice of the pie. Every important thing needs time.

    So , I sneak away because the writing thing doesn’t feel as important as all of the above. I steal time that think (and much of the world thinks) legitimately belongs to something else. I can’t keep up with all of my “shoulds” – and it drives me to thievery.

    Am I making sense? Am I alone in this? I’d love to hear how you do it all…

    • You have a lot of shoulds! I once did too and sacrificed me to attend to them. The one thing I didn’t give up was reading. I like the notebook idea and would work better for me because I can lose scraps of paper in my purse or home and get to the store after putting my list in my purse only to not be able to find it when I get there no matter how much I dig and pull things out. So a notebook it is.

    • I can relate to these feelings as well. Especially if I pencil in the time and it gets eaten up by something else. Then I feel like I failed. Ugh.

      I think as we grow as writers, this is part of the process, yes? Figuring out what works and what doesn’t. The important thing is that we are writing.

    • Karen, identify so much…..*love* the idea of you sneaking away to write and getting a thrill out of that….I wake at 5, usually, so I get some writing time in before ‘it all’ starts….life, responsibilities….it’s ‘my’ time, to write. Nothing else. I’d honestly go bonkers if I didn’t do that.

    • If sneaking time works for you sis, go for it!
      As for your question regarding how to do it all, I have recently gone back to using a planner to order my days. I put everything in it from quiet time to meal planning to writing to date nights, etc. I see where I might be overextended and I can see the best days and times for things like exercise, hospitality, etc. Hope this helps!

    • Karen: It’s a constant battle, isn’t it? The “To Do” list always seems longer than the hours in the day.

      Your comments about writing feeling like a chore when it’s planned reminded me of an inner conflict I had in high school. I love art, and I love drawing and painting — so much that I even considered pursuing it as a career. I visited some art schools in high school and thought about applying … but I kept having this nagging feeling that if it became my career and I was forced to produce material on a deadline, it would steal my joy. I feared I would lose all enjoyment of something that I loved. For me, art has to be on my terms, in my time — not someone else’s.

      Maybe it’s similar for you when it comes to writing?

  4. I keep saying my life is upside down and inside out. We just moved across the country and are living in my parents’ basement until we can get a house of our own. For the past two months, I was trying to create space to write in the middle of everyone else’s space. On the dining table. In the family room. At the kitchen counter. None of it was working. I don’t think I was aware of how defeated this made me feel.

    On Friday, my mom and I stopped at a garage sale marked “furniture” and I found what I didn’t realize I was missing: A DESK! And it was a steal. I was so proud of myself for finding this desk, but now I feel like God gave it to me. My husband helped me set it up in our room on Saturday night and I feel I have what I was looking for: space.

    In our old house, I had an office space that was in the middle of the craziness of life. Now that my desk is tucked away in the bedroom I can feel a difference after only a few days and I know: In order to write well, to have space in my life for this writing life, I need to have a room devoted to it. I made the decision last year to quit my job to write. Now I need to carve away the time and space to do it.

    No more devaluing it. No more pushing it aside for other tasks that feel more important. This is what God has asked me to do. Whether or not I feel capable is besides the point. It’s time for me to write.

  5. Kate, another wonderful post….so so loved your quilt imagery…..(and was so comforted to know I’m not the only one with a million scraps of paper everywhere; if I ever lost any single one of them I’d be devastated!)…..I’ve been bowled over by the responses to this discussion, already, and have been so heartened by the way everyone has responded so positively to your idea, and how supportive everyone has been….you should be so proud of yourself!

    [Am undecided what to write (on my blog) in response to this ‘prompt’ and beautiful response of yours….but I will post something soon as I promised myself I would post in response to every prompt].

    • I’ve *so* enjoyed this conversation, too, and am equally surprised by the response! Love how God gives us the gift of community, and the comfort of knowing we’re not alone. So glad you’re here to contribute your voice and experience!

  6. Forgive me for pressing in to this a bit more.

    As I’ve been pondering why it’s so hard to arrange my life for writing, I realize that I have a fundamental problem with the question “why write?”.

    So many people feel that God has called them to be a writer. I’m envious of their clarity. I love writing. I’m trying to glorify God through my blog. But how do I know God has “called” me to it?

    It’s clear that God calls me to be an attentive wife, mother, friend, daughter, homemaker, and disciple. He has provided a job for me that requires twenty-plus hours of my week. How do I know it’s not my pride to think my words belong on paper for others to read?

    There are a gazillion blogs out there- and even more writers – even Christian ones. Are THEY all “supposed” to write in God’s eyes? Do you all feel called? I’m feeling like an anomaly and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    All of this creates tension in my writing life and leads to my reluctancy to arrange my day for writing. But somehow, I manage to fit it in- sneaking, hiding in the dark, and often with guilt because I ALWAYS can think of something else I should be doing.

    Kate- thanks for allowing this space for these questions. I’ve got a lot of them-

    • Karen, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head of the root of my problem too, when you say, “How do I know it’s not my pride to think my words belong on paper for others to read?”….that’s a hard one to rationalise…but, you know, I think we do just have to ‘get over ourselves’ and not question it so much (or so often) and just get on with it IN EARNEST….(at least that’s the decision I’ve come to, having done a great deal of reflection on this over the last few months, and especially the last few days…..). Perhaps it doesn’t have to *be* about anyone else, but, really and simply, just about ourselves: giving ourselves the joy-filled moments of writing, to brighten and enlarge our *own* inner lives? (I started pondering this aspect in response to a comment a dear blogging friend of mine left me). Learning to look at it in this way has many advantages: the pressure is off (in terms of external ‘opinions’ of out writing; the writing becomes ‘easier’ as a result of having a clearer vision as to our ‘why’; and we relax, enjoy, find joy, through the process we love (it becomes not a struggle in our own heads – to label, to rationalise the writing/the idea of being a ‘writer’ – but, rather an exercise in self expression….which is, I guess, at the base of any ‘writer’s’ craft….)….[jumbled comment….don’t have time to edit…]

      • Your reply resonated with me so much! I get caught up in the “writing right” that I forget to write just for the joy of pure writing! Putting words on “paper” and arranging and rearranging them into something beautiful! Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Karen, thank you for asking these questions here. I appreciate your honesty and your heart wrestlings!

      Two things come to mind:

      1) It comes down to a question of motives (in writing and in all of life). Why are we doing what we’re doing? We were created to bring glory to God. Are we doing that in our roles as wives, mothers, employees, daughters, sisters, friends? Are we writing for selfish gain or accolades, or for God to be glorified through our broken vessels? I could go on, but you get the idea.

      2) Each of us has been given unique gifts from the Lord. Our calling is to be faithful to Him in using those gifts to His glory. You might have teaching gifts, or gifts of hospitality or encouragement. Use them with a cheerful heart, and a heart of service, and God will somehow, mysteriously, be glorified. You have a gift in your ability to write. Use that gift, and let Him work out the fruit as He sees fit.

      I suppose it’s similar to the whole idea of balancing the tension found in the Sermon on the Mount:

      On the one hand, we are called to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

      On the other hand, in Matthew 6:1, Jesus says, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

      I still say, use your gifts and ask God for humility, and that He would be glorified through our weak offerings.

      Wrestling by your side, sister.

  7. Kate I have all the “pretties” arranged for me to write. Beautiful desk, great chair, empty nest…But I tend to struggle with getting words on paper. Karen, I too can get so consumed with the”shoulds” that I just end up letting it go I think. Part of my problem is that I write on emotion. I write when I feel led on a topic and that makes writing consistently stressful. Along with my great work area, I need a writing calendar. But how does that work and what in the world would I put on it? There’s my problem – scheduling a topic. Does a “real – called” writer struggle with what to write? Do they write like me, on emotion? What’s in their heart on any given day? I’m with Karen. So many questions.

    I love all these comments. Just pour out your heart comments. I see myself in so many of them. Thanks for sharing!

  8. This quote from our book really hit me.
    “The real values of art and life are perhaps best defined and felt in the tension between them.”
    That Wendell Berry, I think. I keep trying to resolve the tension.

  9. I have taken the time to read through all the comments here, and can identify with so many of them and you. I have also taken the time to read through all of the blog posts listed above. Not all of you have a like button or a way for me to post a comment so you might not have a record of my visit, but like Kilroy, I was there. (Wow! Where does this “stuff” come from? I mean it just pops into my head at random moments and must have been lurking in my mind vault filed under unimportant things that I won’t ever need again. Never mind the fact that I couldn’t remember my debit card pin# yesterday when I needed it)

    Anywho… My point was to thank Kate for this group, for the invitation to join you all, and for all of you participating. I am gaining so much through reading your blogs and comments and getting to know you.

    I find by comparison, my blog posts are sorely lacking, but I’m not quitting. I will press on.

  10. I have a situation that I’d love your input on.

    “Arrange” seems like the perfect word to describe my current circumstance and something I’m struggling with.

    Currently I work full-time, spend about 30 hours a week caring for my elderly Mom, and do freelance editing. I would like to do two things: Live with my Mom where I can care for her more easily (this requires quitting my current job and moving two hours away) and transition to working from home as a writer/freelancer/coach. I don’t have the financial resources to quit my current job without having a source of income in my new location. I have been applying for jobs, but have not yet landed one. I am concerned that I cannot immediately make enough freelancing to cover my bills.

    I have spent much of the last several months trying to figure out how to arrange my life so that I can (1) find a source of income to cover my basic expenses, (2) move, and (3) begin to build a freelance business that would eventually allow me to support myself with it full-time. To this end I have been exploring a variety of possibilities, reading, listening to webinars, and praying fervently, but feel stuck and frustrated. Not sure what I’m missing, but feeling like I need to “fish or cut bait” soon and am at a loss about how to arrange my life to get where my heart longs to be.

  11. I don’t have an answer but I feel the frustration in your arrangement as it is. As a small business owner I always fret about stability and security. The phrase “take a risk” sounds so empowering but yikes it is scary.

    • Thanks Gabriele, I appreciate your empathy and understanding. The day after I posted above, I received a call to schedule an interview. That was encouraging and I am hoping it works out as it will provide the foundation I need to make the move and be able to focus more time and energy on building my business. Again, thanks for your understanding!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *