Teaching

Making Time to Write When There Seems to Be So Little

First and foremost, I’d like to point out that, in my experience, there is always more time available to write than there seems to be – it’s about making a commitment and maximizing on opportunities. For instance, I’ve been on Christmas break for two weeks. I enjoyed lazy days filled with coffee, revision, and Downton Abbey, with no care given to the time of day. This translated to going to sleep at 3am and waking at 10 or 11 (plus a late afternoon nap or two). I forced myself to wake up early this Sunday morning to break the cycle and spent the day at work prepping for the new semester. I happily fell asleep at 9pm. Problem? It’s 2am and I’m wide awake. I could toss and turn in my bed, or watch TV, but I’m taking the opportunity to write a blog post instead. Perhaps by the time I’m done, I’ll be ready to squeeze in 3 more hours of sleep.

I point all this out to say, seize the opportunities as they arise. And when they don’t arise naturally, make them. Value your craft. Put it above those potentially time draining activities like watching TV or staring at the ceiling, wishing you were asleep. This is going to be more important for me than usual, as I enter my most chaotic time of year. As a teacher and lacrosse coach, I’ll be leaving home at 6:15 every weekday morning and not returning until at least 12 hours later. Game day? Make that about 15 hours. Throw in all the grading and planning many teachers must do at home and there is minimal time for anything but dinner and sleep on Monday through Friday evenings (it’s a good thing I like my job). I’m still amazed that I somehow managed to finish my first draft and complete the final semester of graduate school last spring without neglecting myself, cat, students, or team. That proves that it is indeed possible to find the time. Oh, and shout out to any teacher-coach-writer-moms /dads out there. I know you exist and WOW… It’s a struggle just caring for myself. Go you!

Anyway, here’s how it usually works out for me: I do very little writing, if any, Monday through Thursday. I choose to look at the writing and revision of my novel as another job. This job has a flexible schedule, but there are certain weekly requirements (writing and revision goals I’ve set in advance). I choose to spend the weekends (minus a few lacrosse filled Saturday’s) working to meet those requirements. The problem? Making time for friends and family. I end up turning down lots of invitations. Often times, “just lunch” turns into a five hour outing- an enjoyable outing, but one that most certainly has negative consequences on progress with my book. Does that mean I never see friends or family in the spring (semester)? No! I take advantage of breaks from school and 3 day weekends and I play catch up with my writing when I’ve indulged in a playful weekend. It helps that my friends and family know what this time of year is like for me and they understand what my writing means to me. Still, I appreciate that they also know when it’s time to forcibly draw the hermit out of her shell.

The take away? If you want it badly enough, you make it work. No exceptions. Repeat this to yourself over and over on tough days and you’ll look back with pride, wondering how the heck you managed it.

Happy writing… Whenever it is you make the time.

-ED

Follow me on Twitter: @ElleDesa_Writes

I’m on Pinterest, too: Planning My 1st Book , Writing Inspiration and Tips

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Managing Time

So as I mentioned in my last post, I’m struggling to balance work with keeping up with my writing. I’m a high school biology teacher so summer was the most perfectly beautiful, awesome time to immerse myself in writing my first novel… and many days were still a struggle! Now, the first week of school as a teacher is chaos, but as we get going, I’ll fall into a relatively comfortable routine. Still, teaching pulls a significant amount of time outside of work. I wake up around 5:30am most weekdays, get to work around 6:45, leave at 4 on a good day, get home, relax a bit, eat something, maybe grade a few papers and BAM it’s pushing 9pm and my eyelids are getting heavy. Let’s add on top of that that I’m three classes away from my masters degree in biology and I’ve got two classes starting week after next. Ah!! Let’s not even talk about what my days will look like once it’s time to put my lacrosse coaching hat back on.

It’s alot… but I did choose this life and I do love it! (more…)

Bookmarks for Landmarks! #3

Whoop! It’s a week later than I wanted, but I’ve reached 30,000 words.

My first week back to work was far more busy than I expected. I was bouncing from meeting to meeting, trying to prep for the first week of school and scrambling to finish up my summer classes. By the time I got home each night, I was beat. Writing just wasn’t happening. Naturally, this has made me a little nervous about meeting my goal of 10,000 words per month while working. I’m not going to change anything yet though. As always, we’ll see how it goes first and I’ll rethink my goals only if necessary.

Bookmarks for landmarks

Bookmarks for landmarks

Now it’s time to get ready for work. I’ve got a bunch of 14 year olds to meet in the morning.

-ED

Summer’s almost over

3 more days… then it’s back to waking up at 5am! I’ve been desperately trying to get my sleep schedule back on track, but I continue to struggle to pull myself out of the bed before 10am. At this rate, I’m not too hopeful about correcting that by Monday, but that’s what pre-planning week is for,  getting used to waking up… that, and going to meetings, and getting my classroom set up, and preparing my syllabi, and blabbing away at open house, and getting ready to meet 150 bright eyed 14 year olds on August 4th.

Summer has gone by pretty quickly. I didn’t do, or go anywhere particularly special, but I can’t complain. It was a good break. I am disappointed in how incredibly lazy I’ve been. You’d think, with 6 weeks off, I would at least keep my apartment pristine and work out regularly, especially considering that I didn’t go out of town, at all. Nope, I spent quite a large amount of time sitting on my bum. I can already imagine the burn I’ll feel in my calves and feet when I go back to standing on my feet a minimum of seven hours a day. Granted, I wasn’t doing absolutely nothing while lounging on the couch. I’m very proud of the time I’ve spent working on my manuscript and I’ve been doing very well in grad school. This week I was even able to get a head start on some back to school stuff. I just have to find some balance. Gotta make time to clean, time to eat, time to read, time to study, time to write, time to work, time to take care of myself, and time for friends and family. I’ll be a stressed out mess if I can’t develop some kind of consistent routine.

This weekend will be particularly busy as I try to get my life in order before Monday. I’m still trying to hit 30,000 words by Sunday as well. With a current word count 26,538, I going to have to have a couple of spectacular writing days. :-/

Wish me luck!

-ED

Reading Challenge?

I need to read more.

I love to read, but I don’t do it as much as I’d like or should. I’ve probably read far fewer books than most aspiring authors and writing my first manuscript has definitely exposed a need for me to read more, but not just casually. I need to read attentively, making note of style and pacing.

Since I’ve been all about goals lately, I thought I’d set a reading goal to be accomplished by the end of the year. I’ll be extremely busy (grad school, teaching, coaching, writing) and I’m not sure what a reasonable goal would be, so I may tweak it as time passes. Right now, I’d like to read 10 books by December 31st (counting The Spectacular Now, which I started last week).  As a teacher, this last week and a half of summer, fall break, Thanksgiving break and the first half of Christmas break will surely knock out 5 or 6.

I imagine that most of the books I choose will be popular YA fiction, one because I’m writing a dystopian YA novel and two, because I teach 9th graders and I like keeping up with what they are reading, plus it gives us a good talking point other than biology now and then (even better if the book ties in with biology). I also want to do a few rereads so that I can take a closer look at some old favorites, but I won’t count any of those toward my 10 book goal.

Yay for goal-setting!

-ED

P.S. Something sure felt nice about reaching the 100th page of my manuscript today (25,899 words). 🙂

Murdering the Green Eyed Monster

So, I ended up being really good at teaching biology, but teaching can be pretty thankless. Complaints from parents outweighed appreciation. There always seemed to be an article online about “how teachers are failing your kids,” and when I started adding up the hours I spent planning, tutoring, coaching soccer and lacrosse, and grading (accounting for time off as well), I felt pretty ripped off (of course, no surprise there, people I don’t even know seem to enjoy bringing up that teachers don’t make big bucks– Rude).

So despite my accomplishments in the classroom, halfway through my second year, I found myself skimming Facebook, jealous of everyone. (more…)

So, why’d you decide to teach?

I’m a 9th grade biology teacher. I’ll be starting my 4th year of teaching this August. I happen to really love teaching, which is a tiny bit surprising considering I only accepted the position because I really needed a job– not the most noble of reasons to enter the career path. I was feeling really burned out my senior year of college and decided I wouldn’t be pursuing a PhD in evolutionary anthropology and scrambled to find something else to do instead. The October before my May graduation date, I began applying for numerous jobs, often hitting the “need X amount of experience I don’t have” wall. I noticed that there were a ton of teaching positions open in math and science— perfect, I’d tutored some kids, I could surely handle teaching high school science content and I liked few things more than rambling on about biology. I dreamed of inspiring some kids for about nine months and using summers off to travel and explore different hobbies.

There are a good handful of school systems that have alternative certification programs for non-education majors like myself, so I applied to all of them. I went to job fairs, I networked, I cried, I applied, I applied, and I applied some more. I didn’t hear a peep back until four days before my graduation. (more…)