Wednesday, March 31, 2010

An Hour Of Unplugging

Everyday, I go to the office (google chat) to discuss my WIR (work in revision) with my Co workers (Jon and Tina).  I set goals each morning, talk about what is and isn't working, and then I set a up a time to 'unplug'--an hour of uninterrupted (well, kinda--I have small children) writing time.

Here's what it looks like for me:
10:50: At the office.  Discuss with Tina and Jon what I'm going to accomplish during the hour.  Find out what they are working on.  Know that no matter what, I have to come back and tell them that I did indeed write (or organize or plot, or whatever needs to be done in my WIP) for a solid hour.  And, this is a morning that I would rather do anything than unplug.  I am horribly opposed to writing.  But I have no option--I said I'd do it, and I have to follow through.  Sigh.  Maybe I'll just go through the motions...

11:00: Open up word processor.  Phew.  Manuscript is still there in all it's glory.  My worry that one day it'll disappear is assuaged for another moment.

11:01: Get up and mix some ice tea.  Can't unplug while thirsty!

11:02: Explain to Cowgirl what a corncob pipe is (cowgirl is amusing herself by sticking stickers on a snowman paper doll).

11:03: Back to work.  Fire up iPod.  Pause a-Ha as it comes on when I hit 'play music' instead of 'play playlist'.  Have to find some awesome music group that begins with 'A' so that comes up every time instead of Take On Me.  Find Fallen Star playlist, and fall into the world of my WIP.

11:04:  Pick up stickinote riddled hard copy of ms. Sip ice tea.  Read the first part, and start making changes on the computer. Smile.  I forgot how much I like this part.  Maybe this won't be so bad.  And within moments, I'm in the groove, and lose track of music, sounds, children, time... just writing.

11:28:  After I don't know how many "Mommy's" I admire daughter's snowwoman, and put on a television show for her to watch.

11:29:  Try to take a sip out of empty tea glass.  When did I drink that?  Notice the song on the iPod--on my playlist.  It gets me thinking about the ms.  Look back at open word document.  Which (almost against my will)

11:43: Finished a small section of revision.  Walk to other room to retrieve journal to cross it off of my to do list.  Progress!

11:45: Attack next part.  But... I wonder if the part that I just finished is now too long.  I read it back. I took out adjectives, and tightened language, and then added full paragraphs.  Maybe that was too much.  Should I go back and re-revise?

11:49: Try to ignore doubts, and try to work forward.

11:59: Another page done.  Yay.  RELIEVED that the time is now over, ready to plug back in.  Fire up google to check in with writing partners...

12:00: Back at the office, providing support and getting it from co-workers!

I am not someone who believes that writing is a solitary venture.  Without these unpluggings, and co-worker support, some weeks I would be wallowing in my not-wanting-to-write-itis.  You know, when you hit a snag, and don't know how to work around it, and writing becomes even more difficult, and a chore.  Those are times when I only write because I know that at the end of an hour, I am accountable to someone.  And instead of getting stuck for weeks on end, I am writing through it each day.  Because of the support of other writers.

The most amazing thing about this process is that my co-worker Tina is developing a Practice Room, where people can go and find coworkers for themselves.  A place to unplug, and discuss.  A place to promote forward progress for everyone, no matter what the stage of writing.  A place to become unstuck, or to just feel a part of a writing group.  Isn't she awesome?!  Check out her post about it today, and keep an eye out for when the Practice Room opens up!

So tell me--what gets you writing when you are frustrated?  How do you work through the sticky parts?  What routines do you have to write?  And, what works for you?


  1. Love it! So glad you've found something that works. I'm procrastinating right now (it's my only day off during the week today) knowing I've got revisions to tackle, critiques to start, and a phone meeting in an hour. Oh yeah, volunteering at school in two hours, and a dentist appointment with the seven-year-old. *Sigh* Now, get to work!

  2. Kris--All those things would sure make me put off writing. Heather is the only thing that gets me going at times like yours this morning!! Maybe we should challenge you to get some done and report how it went! You have a little time before that phone meeting!

    Heather--you often don't report to me on this part! It is so nice to have a picture. And, as always, thanks for the plug.

    Come on over everyone and tell me what you think. (Thanks, Kris, for doing that already!)

  3. Kris--I have two days where I have three child-free hours. And, I always think that I will get SO MUCH writing done. But sometimes I'm less productive when I feel like I have a long stretch of writing time in front of me--I do laundry and dishes and end up not writing at all. There is always something else to do. That is why the hour works for me. It's a chunk I can handle, and it has an end!

    Good luck with your very full day! And, yes. Get to work! :)

  4. Tina--I thought you would enjoy the bug's eye view of what actually happens at my house when I'm unplugging! And, I can't wait to be able to do it in the practice room!

  5. It's so interesting to see how other people work! I don't have nearly as many distractions as you do, but it still takes me a while to settle in and focus. Tina's idea for a Practice Room sounds great - off to check out her post...

  6. I absolutely love how you call your google chat meeting "the office." My office is my couch. :D

    So great that you have friends to keep writing from being so solitary. I'm off to check out the Practice room!

  7. Heavenly Heather - just this mo read your email. Thanks!
    I tend to do most of my writing LATE at night when I come home from teaching - so I don't usually have the distractions caused by Lovely Little Munchkins.
    My problem is not exactly starting the engine - but trying to find the turn-off button. I tend to overdo things and can easily get carried away til 7 in the morning. I'll hear the alarm buzz and wonder what I was doing since 11 the previos night. Now THAT'S a bigger problem - don't you think?
    Popping over to Tina's then reply to your lovely email MY FRIEND.

  8. Apparently I need a bit of structure. I have every other Friday off work and that's when I catch up on so many things like chores and getting in some serious writing time.

    In March, my Fridays were all goofed up and almost no writing happened.

    I also seem to have a ritual to prep me for writing. I took my laptop on my trip to my mother's (no internet!) and could not even begin to gather my thoughts since I couldn't check e-mail and all that first. But I was in some serious need of downtime and managed to read a book a day while there.

    All that showed me I need to make some changes to my schedule and allow for downtime on a regular basis as well as setting aside a structured time for writing.

  9. Loved your description of your "work" day. How cool that you have partners to keep you motivated! (And vice versa.) It can really help when you have people you're reporting your progress to.

  10. I read about this over on Tina's blog just a moment ago and it is so cool you are able to support each other like that. I write at set times and network at set times. I have it much easier because my kiddos are in school and I only work part time other than my writing. When they were home, I got nothing to little done so I am always impressed when I see moms juggling that aspect. It's inspiring!

  11. Sometimes it's nice to report what you have to do - then you can figure out how to do it all. Crits done. Phone appointment done (research for the novel - really good stuff). Did about a 4 pages of line edits. Volunteering done. Still cringing about the dentist appointment - first cavity filling for the munchkin. But it's been a productive morning. :)

  12. Kris--I am so impressed!!!! All that procrastinating pays off. Well when you tell your co-workers about it! Glad to hear you got so much done. YAY!

    I feel for you and the cavity though! So hard to watch that with the kids.

  13. Heather - Glad you found a way to be accountable and find suport. Awesome!

  14. Anna--It is fun to find ways that work! And that Tina is brilliant!

    Marisa--I would never get any work done at the couch, but sounds fantastically comfy!

    Ann Marie--That's awesome about getting into the groove and writing all night. I have to get my sleep, unfortunately! And, it doesn't sound like a problem at all! I bet you get tons done!!

    Sarah--I'm glad you know what routines get you writing. I can't write when I'm around family...I'm glad you got the reading in! I hope you find the structured time. It's a challenge.

  15. My office is usually my bed or the breakfast room, but rarely the actual office - the views aren't as pretty.

    H, thanks for showing us what you do with your hour and that you sometimes drink you tea rather than spit it out, must be when I'm unplugged that you're safe.

    I hope the naysayers will give Tina's project a try. Even the 'I-don't-force-it' writers can get a lot out of her scheduled companionship!

  16. Kris - I usually do crits during my time with Heather and Tina because I can really focus and they are great motivators.

  17. That's great how you use your office and other writers for support.
    I tend to go back and edit when I get stuck. Mostly I have to write in shorter bursts first thing in the morning and during my lunch break. I use coffee to keep me going.

  18. MG--I am so glad that I found some like minded people through blogging, and I'm hoping that through Tina's project, more people can find support and coworkers, if they want.

    Tess--I'm glad that things get a little easier with the children in school. But, I know that at every step of the way, it's tough to balance family and work and writing! It sounds like you've got a great handle on it!

  19. Kris--Awesome--getting all that stuff done!! That's what it's like for me, too. If I say that I have to get something done, I'm much more likely to do it. Way to go!!

    T--I agree--Kris just gave a great example of how having coworkers works!

    J--I hope people do try Tina's new practice room--the fact that she is willing to be coworkers for, well, everyone is awesome!

    Natalie--when I get stuck, I dream of drafting. Because I always get stuck on the revisions--you and I are opposites! Coffee is liquid gold!

  20. Wow, you are so organized! Way to go with your daily routine and unplugging. I'm so envious.

  21. Laura--somehow I skipped your comment--sorry! I do love the "office".

    Terry--we are so excited to share this with people so that they know that writing doesn't have to be a solitary endeavor. I hope you are able to come to Tina's practice room, and try it out!

  22. I like the play by play. I also really, really like this idea. I may need to find myself someone to help me stay accountable. Great idea, Heather (and Jon and Tina!)