Guest Post by Danielle Younge-Ullman

How do you protect your writing time…or not?

Hello Debs and readers, and welcome to my first blog. The lovely and talented Tish has asked me to fill in for her, so I am here as a guest. I noticed that last week there was a fire theme and this week there seems to be a water theme. I’ll try to work water in somewhere, but I really want to talk about writing time.

I got my first book deal a couple of months ago and I was obviously wildly excited. I was particularly excited that I could now justify getting some part-time babysitting for my 16-month-old and dedicate some time to writing every day. (I originally thought I’d have lots of time to write, while at home with the baby. Oh, what fools these mortals be…)

So, I set about looking for childcare and started imagining my life with a real writing schedule. Every day I would be on fire. I would be in a blissful state of creativity and productivity. I would finish the next book in no time, heck, maybe I’d write two books over the summer. I would take no phone calls, brook no distractions, I would be a perfect writer!

It was a good plan.

I am now three weeks into my new writing schedule and it’s going well. Only…please don’t tell anybody… but I have taken some naps. I have taken naps and gone on walks and even (shh) gone out for coffee. I just spent two days at BookExpo Canada and tomorrow I even made a lunch date with a friend from out of town who couldn’t meet any other time. Not good.

Even when I manage to stay in the house, I take unnecessary trips to the kitchen to get water or hunt for chocolate—you know, the kind of chocolate that makes your book magically write itself, if you can just eat enough of it? And if I manage to stay at my computer, well, obviously, important people are emailing me every five minutes on all three email accounts and they can’t be made to wait. In addition there really is a lot of industry news I should be keeping up on and then there’s research to do and what about that great article about procrastination…? Boy, I really should read that again.

So how is my new book coming along? You may well ask. In spite of myself, I have made progress, but the perfect, magical writing time I have been craving and dreaming of is eluding me. Okay, let’s be
honest, I am eluding it.

After three weeks, I’ve realized it’s time to get serious. I need to protect my writing time from the temptations of the world and, worse, from my own slacker inclinations.

What do you do to keep distraction at bay? What’s your biggest downfall? Come on, I know you have one…

Note: If you are my editor or my agent, and you are reading this, it’s total fiction. The real story is that I am slaving away at a work of genius. Don’t worry.

Danielle Younge-Ullman
Falling Under, Plume/Penguin Spring 2008

15 Replies to “Guest Post by Danielle Younge-Ullman”

  1. Ha! Guess what? Reading your post is a form of procrastination for me! I worked like a fiend yesterday and am under the illusion that I deserve to rest today. Must get my butt in gear. But first, coffee…

  2. I think the real fiction is the folks who blog about writing for hours straight every damn day. I’m not buying it. I start my day with coffee, then start rolling through blogs. I try to set 9-11 aside to write, but lots of things beckon–laundry, e-mail, my kids. And then there’s the elusive “I just need to let my mind wander so I can figure out where things are going in the book” which sometimes involves working a crossword puzzle, checking my amazon numbers (and similar books so I can see how I stack up), googling my name to see what’s new. I think you get the picture. If, at the end of the day I’ve hit my magic 1500 word mark, I’m happy. Then I’ll start over tomorrow. As for now, it’s creeping up on 9, so I better head out to my writing porch.

    Judy, ALL THE NUMBERS, Ballantine/Random House, July 2006

  3. Oh my… so when you’re like me and DON’T have a book deal it’s even harder to stay on track. I’m say, 200 written pages in (got to make money before a laptop is affordable), and it’s so easy to just leave it behind. Even when I do write after an hour or so I get distracted with titles and pen names. Then I remind myself that the sooner I get a publisher to look, the sooner I’ll switch my major to English. Which is wonderful motevation. It’s nice to be reminded that all writers, even the published ones, have trouble keeping their minds on writing.

    P.S. I love the Shakespeare referance.

  4. Bev, if you’re reading this again then it’s a sign you have to get back to work!

    Judy, I’m glad to see I’m not alone. Maybe it’s realistic to give oneself a little bit of “play time” at the start of every writing session, but set an alarm or something to put a stop to the googling, blog-reading and so on. I have noticed that any time things get hard, that’s the moment I decide I simply MUST unload the dishwasher or check forecast or whatever. That’s when I really need to force myself to push through and then take a break when I actually deserve it. I like your 1500 words a day. It’s reasonable, doable, and at the end of a week you’ll have respectable progress.

    Catherine, I have to laugh about the pen name. I spent a ton of time obsessing about that, not sure if I wanted to use one or not (and worrrying about my relatives reading some of the racier scenes and being embarassed to know me, etc.) When the time came and I actually had a deal, I realized I couldn’t bear to have any name but my own on the book. Glad you like the Shakespeare ref. I have a theatre background and a huge love for the bard.

    Larramie, thanks! And yes, I put the water in on purpose. Glad you noticed!

  5. Welcome to The Ball, Danielle! Great post, and yep, I do the same thing. It seems that every time I sit down and write about seven words I find a reason why I HAVE to get up. Right then the dryer stops, right then the dishwasher makes that weird noise that has to be investigated, right then the dog starts whining to go out. It’s never ending. *sigh*

    BUT, it’s a hell of a lot better than going into an office and working for someone else!!

    Okay, now back to my poor, anemic WIP. Thanks for waltzing by, Danielle!

  6. My downfall is blogsurfing! I suppose somewhere deep down I think if I read enough about writing, I’ll be able to do it perfectly, when I finally get around to it!

  7. Wonderful post, Danielle! This very afternoon, I had a couple of hours to write while my partner watched our three-year-old. First, I decided I needed an iced coffee. Which was a good excuse to go to the new bakery. Seeing as it was a new bakery, I had to take my time looking around. When I finally got home (iced coffee and cinnamon bun in hand) I sat down to write, but ended up playing with my Houdini doll (more on that in my post tomorrow…)and answering emails instead. Before I knew it, two hours had flown by and I hadn’t even opened Word. Now, I’m off to a reading at Barnes and Noble. But I have great hopes for getting some writing done later tonight(when the bakery is closed…)

  8. Great post, Danielle! And, like Bev, blogs are certainly a major procrastination tool for me. (Not to mention going to the BookExpo with you yesterday. That was fun.)

    Writing time is the most precious thing, no matter what a person’s situation. It cannot be squandered. Now, if I could only do as I say…

  9. Thanks for the welcome, Kristy! I’d be happy to dance again, any time someone needs to sit one out. And you’re right, writing sure does beat an office job. Sometimes, though, I need an imaginary boss, one that’s looking over my shoulder and growling. Or maybe the ghost of some long-dead literary figure…

    Nienke, thanks for procrastinating here. A good place to do it, if you’re going to do it anyway!

    Jennifer, your day sounds delightful, if not productive. I can only imagine the trouble I would have with a new bakery opening up and I can’t wait to hear about your Houdini doll. (Does he write the books for you? If so, I need one!) Hope you had a good reading and I’m sure you’ll make great progress tomorrow.

    Hi Maureen, thanks for procrastinating with me yesterday AND today! And now we have all those books to read too. That’s work, isn’t it?


  10. Your day sounds great – it just doesn’t help you turn out the pages, does it?

    My day is like that. My evenings, mostly. I tell myself I’m going to write. But then I blog. Read other people’s blogs. Do email. At the most I get 500 words in. But this is just lately… I’ve written two (as of now unpublished) books in the past year and a half.

  11. As a non-writer but avid reader I just want all of you to keep doing whatever it takes for you to keep writing! Because your writing provides me with my escape from everyday life….

  12. I am not a writer, but also a mom-entrepreneur. I am glad that the world is not getting the wonderful experience that I have had for years… and that is Danielle. I am sooo excited to be a part of this whole writing experience. Danielle and I have been through many different creative experiences and her journey in writing has been driven by passion and talent and I have learned so much from her drive.

  13. Hi Danielle:

    Great post. Can’t wait to read your book. Your writing day sounds much like mine. Incredible how the hours can go by while you drink coffee, make calls, eat chocolate. This is the first time I’ve surfed the blogs in months–just eats up too much time and takes me away from my WIP. I miss all you Debs, though.

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