Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ass Glue and Other Helpful Tools of the Writing Trade

The YA author Kathleen Duey had a rather famous elevator encounter with Ray Bradbury in which she asked him for advice for a fledgling author. He replied, "ass glue." As in, park your ass in the chair and write!

He wouldn't have said it if it weren't a problem, actually putting in the time to get the work done. Most writers have full time jobs, whether that means some cubicle they park themselves in all day to earn a paycheck or a house full of kids, pets and a spouse to take care of. And maybe because we each possess an active imagination and a mind that craves stimulation, when we do sit down to write it's easy for us to get sucked into things that aren't writing. You may be innocently researching whether or not your character's native American culture contains a wolf in their origin myths, for instance, and next thing be reading origin stories from all over the globe.


I've recently started using a one-two punch of a task sheet and a 15 minute timer that's really been helping me stay on task and keep an eye on where my time goes. The first tool is one from the amazing David Seah.  David designs productivity tools and then gives them away on his website. There are lots of forms to choose from and you may want to print out a few to see what works for you.  I personally like the Emergent Task Timer. This tool is to help you see where your time is going and to help you stay focused.  It is comprised of lots of little ovals on the page which you fill in (#2 pencil completely optional) across from the correct category to represent a 15 minute chunk of time.  You write in the categories.  So mine says things like: Research, Twitter/Email/Blog, Writing, Reading YA/MG, Chores, Faffing About Online.

I combine this with the iPhone app Alarmed by Yoctoville. The app is free, and a great one for all sorts of alarms and reminders, but if you upgrade it for a mere $0.99 you can set a reminder go off every 15 minutes to remind you to fill in a bubble on the Task Timer sheet. There are other ways to do this, of course.  You could use a kitchen timer, or a sports watch.  But Yoctoville's app is a rather elegant and handy thing.  I use it to help remind me to drink water throughout the day. I use it to fall asleep to my favorite podcast and wake up to my favorite "let's get up and attack that keyboard" tunes (currently a mix of Katy Perry, Mumford & Sons and Arcade Fire).

So if, like me, you get to the end of the day, only have one more scene finished and wonder where all your time went, give these tools a try.  Or, you know, you could always just try this:

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