08 December 2010

Writing Wednesday: Frustrated and Stressed from Writer's Block

Image: Wikimedia Commons, Godward

Lately, I have had great difficulty in overcoming time management. It's been challenging because my schedule is so full. I'm a full-time high school teacher with three children (ranging in age from 7-16), a husband and a large extended family. When I get home at 5:00 pm, I am in Mommy-mode up until about 10:00 pm. My youngest is a struggling reader and writer. Reading comprehension, spelling and transferring her thoughts to paper are her greatest weakness. I work intensively with her to overcome this with some teaching strategies I use with my special education students. By the time my children are in bed, I am too exhausted to write.

Additionally, I have both a mom and grandmother who have suffered from strokes and help out taking care of them on the weekends. We are a very tight-knit family. Whenever someone is in trouble, we all pitch in to help one another out. Also, because my family is so large (22 great grandchildren, 20 grandchildren and four generations of Santanas presently alive) there seems to always be a birthday, wedding, poker party and various other engagements to attend.

Image: Wikimedia Commons, Renoir

Also, there is my career choice which involves lesson planning, grading (homework, class work, projects, exams), creating individualized education plans and the never-ending staff meetings. I often skip lunch so that the workload I take home isn't so overwhelming. Because I am a coordinator, I manage teacher's assistants and adapt class work to the present levels of performance for a handful of students with disabilities. And although it may sound like I am making excuses, I feel as though these aspects of my life take priority over my writing.

Consequently, being the problem solver that I am, I figured I should look at some websites (listed below). There are several suggestions that are similar in each website. They are:

1. Unplug the internet to lessen distractions.
2. Read blogs and other writing-related materials to get the "juices" flowing.
3. Brainstorm, outline and use graphic organizers to focus your thoughts and your writing.
4. Change the location of your usual writing space.
5. Exercise, go for a walk/run/jog.

While all of these are really good suggestions, they don't address time management. The Watery Tart has made bath time a priority and succeeds in getting her writing done. The problem with this for me is that my 7-year-old will either stand outside the door and carry on conversations or she'll knock incessantly until she gets a response. I'm often frustrated, confused as to how to manage the writing, and very often upset with myself because I haven't so far. I don't know if the other Burrowers have solved the issue of time management (your suggestions are more than welcome).

Image: Wikimedia Commons

What are some ways that you, as a writer, have overcome the issue of "not enough time in the day?" I would really appreciate any help possible.

Here are the sites I found to be very informative:






Ella said...

Wow you have a full day! I have a notebook in my car, jot down ideas or thought that hit me, while waiting for the red light to turn or I even read a page of a book. I know it is a tiny moment in the scope of things, but it seems to give me hope.
Any chance of keeping a journal, write 15 minutes at the end of the day, or txt notes to yourself when inspiration strikes?!

I admire YOU, I hope you can make a bit of time for you everyday, your soul needs it~
(I so get the bathtub moment; My children were like yours)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Chary, those are some big hurdles! I'm sorry you have so much to deal with after a long day at work.

And I know you're a teacher, too, so that means that you probably don't have any time during your day to write--if you have a planning period then you probably have kids making up tests, etc., right?

I have my days that are really challenging, and the only thing I can recommend (and it does make me feel a little pressured to have to write like this...but when I'm under deadline, I do...) is to fit it into 10 minute increments.

If your phone has a voice record feature (or there's one you can download), see if you can talk your story out on the way home (if you have a driving commute.) If you use public transportation, see if you can use that time to write.

This requires planning out the night before what you'll be writing the next day--not an outline, but maybe just a couple of bullet points to say "Write scene where John tells Steve about the information he overheard" and "They're interrupted by Sally, who misunderstands what she sees."

When my daughter was younger, I told her I'd play Old Maid with her if she let me write for 15 minutes without interruptions (and I set a timer.) I made sure she understood she could interrupt if it were a true emergency...and we talked about what a true emergency WAS.

Okay, clearly I need to write a post on this! Sorry for the long comment. :) Hope your writing goes well!

CA Heaven said...

I have the same problem with not enough time in the day; work, too much travel, taking care of kids and house, more work (late) and so on.

I have realized that I'm just a hobby writer with little time, so I'm not pushing it. It takes the time it takes and I try to enjoy it as it proceeds. I'll probably be happy as a writer if I complete one novel before I die.

To sketch ideas quickly I sometimes use mind-map methods. This was something I learnt together with little boy when he was introduced to it in school in 3rd grade.

Cold As Heaven

Sue said...

I've been employed to teach time management skills to adults returning to study. I felt like such a fraud, as all the tips I'd been supplied with and researched seemed to be written by people in Lala land. In most classes there'd be a very tense time 'till the students realized everyone was in the same boat, and few of the 'professional' methods worked (for them).

Brainstorms resulted in: use your mobile phone to make notes/photograph notes, take an extra long toilet break and jot notes down there, bribe young children to assist in some way, arrive at workplace 10 mins early and hide & use the time for you, delegate (kids do own washing, if they can't, teach them, it's worth it in the long run), prioritise (aka minimal housework is fine, don't iron), use the timer (everyone chips in for a 10 min tidyup spree, when the timer goes off you stop). Housework seemed to be the biggest issue, but where the most time could be saved. Oh, and I think the biggest bit of advice they gave each other was to celebrate every small achievement, that seemed to build the momentum.

Good luck. Be kind to yourself, that's a really full load.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, Chary-you DO have huge challenges! I know I didn't really get to writing until my oldest was about 10--the younger was 7 and it was another couple years before I could really increase the time. I spend quite a bit of time writing now, but I couldn't if I were primary parent or had other family obligations.

I love the suggestions Elizabeth and Sue have given--those seen like practical, real things you could try.

Unknown said...

@Ellen- I don't think I can do the jotting down at the red light. I'm ashamed to say that when it comes to driving in NYC, I can't multi-task.

I do like the journaling 15 minutes per day though and will try that.

Unknown said...

@ Elizabeth- Yes, I do have kids and teachers consult me during my planning period, leaving me very little time to actually plan.

I didn't think of it but my iPhone does have the voice recorder feature. Thank you.

I think with Zionne, I'll bribe her with a story she really loves, like Percy Jackson or something. Great advice.

Unknown said...

@ Cold as Heaven- I like that you have identified what kind writer you are. I want to be a full-time writer eventually (not sure when). But I also love teaching. I suppose I can't have it both ways, though.

What are mind-map methods? I haven't heard of those.

Unknown said...

@ Sue- Housework isn't such a big issue since we do major cleaning on Saturdays. However, I do like your extra long bathroom break. :D

It amazes me that you and Elizabeth made such a great suggestion that I never thought of before, use the iPhone. So simple but really powerful. Thanks for the wonderful advice.

Unknown said...

@ Tami- While I don't wish they were older, because then that would make me much older (*grins*), I do wish Zionne was a bit more mature. I like the whole bribing thing. I think that will work.

Thanks to everyone for their really helpful advice.