Friday, February 18, 2011

I Would Write More If Only … by Margaret Brownley

Welcome to Fortifying Friday—a day Seriously Write features guest authors. Do you find excuses for why you haven’t finished writing your book—or maybe even the chapter you’ve been working on? Margaret Brownley shares encouraging words on this common problem.

I Would Write
More If Only ...
by Margaret Brownley

I would write more if only…

This unfinished sentence was part of a survey sent to members of my writing group in preparation for a meeting. Completed surveys were sent to Dr. Kent, a family counselor, who agreed to discuss possible solutions.

Our members all agreed we would write more if only life wouldn’t interfere. Husbands, children, pets, work and next door neighbors—you name it—were cited as holding the creative muse hostage.

Writing that compelling story takes time, concentration, determination, and energy—no surprises there— but according to Dr. Kent it also takes the setting of clear boundaries. “You must have a clear idea of how much time and effort you want to devote to your work,” Dr. Kent told us. “If you don’t take your work seriously, don’t expect anyone else to, including your family.”

She then went on to explain that boundaries start with place. Whether it’s a private office or cluttered corner of the living room it’s important that family members know this area is off-limits. She didn’t say as much but if your office is in the bathroom or kitchen you might want to consider finding another place.

Next, according to Dr. Kent, it’s essential to establish regular working hours. This was a tricky concept for those of our writers who thought being a good mother meant being a full-time mother. Fortunately, this was never my problems. I subscribe to the “don’t bother me unless your hair is on fire” rule so no one ever accused me of being a good mother.

Dr. Kent insisted that consistency is the key. Children (like writers) need guidelines. Dr. Kent pointed out that children tend to be what we need them to be. “If they are making unreasonable demands of our time, it could be that we are consciously or unconsciously encouraging this behavior.” She didn’t say as much but I suspect the same is true for husbands. What she did say was that even if you work outside the home it’s important to have a writing schedule in place—and stick to it.

Of course it’s not just family that hogs our time. We all eagerly pointed to Facebook, Twitter and email as time-robbing culprits. Someone once said that writing is 15 percent work and 85 percent avoiding the Internet—and we all know that avoidance takes as much time, energy, and determination as writing—so why bother?

In the end Dr. Kent made mincemeat out of our reasons for not writing more, calling them built-in excuses for procrastination. This seemed to ring a bell because several members admitted that the number of interruptions increased when the writing was not going well or had stopped altogether. I can attest to this because the splattered paint on the doorknob of my office has been distracting me all week.

The good news is that writing and family—and even an outside job—can be a winning combination by faithfully following Dr. Kent’s guidelines.

• Keep your writing time and space sacred
• Make your goals and boundaries clear
• Limit the time spent on the Internet and e-mail
• Put a sign over your desk that reads “No excuses”

To Dr. Kent’s rules I would like to add one of my own: Celebrate every little success! Years ago when I was still an aspiring writer, I racked up enough rejections to paper the house. Discouraged, I had just about decided to quit when I sold my first magazine article for five dollars and my hubby took me out to celebrate. Soon after, I sold yet another five dollar article and we celebrated again. I was on a roll. By the third such sale my husband said, “Honey, we can’t afford all this success.”

Ah, but I need those little celebrations. That’s what got me through the long haul of writing four books before selling my first. It’s what helped me keep procrastination at bay.

So if you write a chapter, enter a contest, read a writing book, attend a writers meeting, do revisions, query an agent, or simply honor your writing time—you have something to celebrate. I’ll join you just as soon as I scrape the paint off the doorknob.

Have a little faith!

Margaret Brownley has written more than twenty books, including the bestselling Rocky Creek series, and was a 2010 Romance Writers of American RITA finalist for A Lady Like Sarah. Her next book, A Vision of Lucy, will be published in June.

To find out more about Margaret and her books, please visit:
Just for fun: Stagecoach Etiquette:

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