high school teacher

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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Life’s a …

Hello everyone! Yes, I am still with the living. As you might have guessed from my 2.5 month absence, things with my first draft aren’t going very well. I saw this coming when I failed to make my first word count goal after returning to work (I’m a teacher and spent my summer off writing). When I miserably failed to make my second goal (I’d written like 1000 words in a month, my goal was 10,000), I felt really bad. I promised myself I would catch up and get back on track and at the same time, I decided to put off blogging until I had good news.

Well, I don’t have good news in terms of writing and word counts but I’m finally ready to try to reconnect with my manuscript and get back on track to finishing my first draft.

But first, a little update on what I’ve been up to other than writing. Work keeps me pretty busy and I’m also a graduate student. This means I teach, I learn, I make assignments, I do assignments, I grade papers, and I write papers. In addition to that, I coach lacrosse. All that said and done, I can’t honestly say that I had no time to write. Even with my full load, I have a fair amount of down time. So anyway, after getting back into the swing of things at work and failing to meet my first few back-at-work writing goals, I made a plan to try to catch up during our first week long break from school – fall break. Unfortunately, a heart-crushing break up threw all those plans out the window. More than one person encouraged me to pour my sadness and emotions into my writing. It made sense. My main character was actually right in the midst of some similar emotions. I was feeling so many things so intensely that I’m sure anything I would have written would have read strikingly true and honest and real… but I couldn’t write. I didn’t want to do anything, in fact (aside from sleep). For two plus weeks I moped around, slept, cried, and went out with friends and pretended to be happy and “over it.” It wasn’t until I got on the scale and found myself an unnecessary 10lbs lighter that I really realized I needed to make a conscious effort to not let myself fall deeper into my fat cloud of despair. SO I busted out the superglue, picked up the scraps that were my heart, and got busy pasting everything back together. I might have done a shoddy job, but it’ll do just fine for now.

After that, I very quickly became obsessed with letting the world see a part of me that only I know- a me that only ever actually existed inside my head. I applied for a passport, I signed up for a 5k and started working out, I spent time making myself feel pretty (painting my nails, trying out new things with my hair, picking cute outfits), I moved to a cute new apartment closer to the city and I made a choice to be happy and let life take me where it may.

The one thing that’s been late to latch on to my new and improved lifestyle is my writing. It was always on my mental to-do list, but I haven’t even gotten around to opening the Word document yet. I have some sort of mental block going on and it’s my intention to crash it down. My next week-long break is next week for Thanksgiving. I’m not going to set a word count goal or anything, I just want to reconnect with the story that had me bursting at the seams with excitement over the summer. I want to really want to write again. I feel so hopeful and optimistic about everything else in my life right now… writing consistently again would just be really amazing icing on the cake. I’d also say, even though I’m feeling so much better and SO much happier, I’m still filled with lots of potent emotions that I hope will spill beautifully into my writing.

As always, please wish me luck. I need it!

ED

El gato and I are so excited to see where life is going to take us.

El gato and I are so excited to see where life is going to take us.

Writing YA

I’m 25. I’m getting far enough removed from my teenage years that I don’t remember the full range of complex emotions that go along with adolescence. I’ve read a good bit about how to (and not to) approach writing from the point of view of a teenager and/or for a young adult audience. This article has some good tips to consider.

Fortunately for me (most days) my job has me surrounded by young adults of all varieties. I get to hear about what matters to them, watch how they act, and talk to them. I get to see how they respond to learning new/interesting/funny things, and I get to see how they react to discipline, disappointment, and getting hurt. There is no shortage of the adolescent voice in my world, and that helps me write. I’ve told a large handful of my students about the plot of my current WIP and it’s been nice hearing their feedback…especially in the earlier stages. I a had few ideas that more the one student shot down as weird/lame/uninteresting. I did keep a few of those reject ideas anyway because I know they’ll fit naturally in the full context of the story, even though they apparently sounded strange when isolated. Either way, I appreciate the access I have to people at least somewhat like the characters in my story.

-ED

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). 🙂

Bookmarks for landmarks! #2

Finally! 20,000 words! It took longer than it should have (24 days to be exact, which averages out to a little over 400 words per day) but I’ve reached my second mini-milestone. Yesterday I popped into a Starbucks while my boyfriend went on a big job interview down the road. I was able to pump out 1,900 words in an hour and a half. Maybe a change of scenery needs to happen more often.

Bookmarks for landmarks

Bookmarks for landmarks

Now it’s time to set a new goal. Doing this actually brings me some joy so 🙂 🙂 :). I have to go back to work July 28th. I’m feeling pretty excited about the start of a new school year but I’m definitely set to enjoy the rest of my break. I have 19 days before my days get pretty hectic; you can count on a separate post about how the heck I’m going to keep up writing while in school, working full time and coaching sports. Anyway, these last 19 days will not be obligation free either. I’m taking two summer graduate courses that end on the 31st and I have every intent to complete all my assignments before I go back to work too. That noted, I’m shooting for another 10,000 words. I know I won’t get there by writing everyday, especially when the school work piles up, but all it takes is a few very good days and I think I’ll have some of those.

(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…)