5 Things Sona NEEDS to Write

The penguin rocks the peacock chair.
The penguin rocks the peacock chair.

NOTE: Don’t want to be a Deb downer, but just want to acknowledge the date, and that it’s a hard anniversary for many of us, myself included. So I’m keeping things light here. Hence the penguin!

This week on the Ball, we’re sharing our writerly must-haves — necessary objects and other things we need to get the whole writing thing done. I always find these lists so fascinating, because every writer truly is different — as you can see from the fascinating posts this week! Sharing my space with a fellow writer, my husband, I’ve seen these differences play out firsthand, and occasionally we have clashing “must-haves.” (He likes hot cocoa or mint tea; I need iced coffee or adraki chai.)

In any case, here’s my list!

5. A Deadline: As a journalist — and master procrastinator — I can’t get motivated without one. I need the pressure of the deadline, the seconds escaping me, the threat of that old monster, failure, breathing down my neck. An outside deadline (like one set by taskmaster Dhonielle) works wonders. But sometimes a self-imposed one just has to do.

4. Productivity Trackers! And of course, there’s an APP for that. Two, in fact, that I utilize whenever I sit down to work. The first is called Wunderlist, and it is truly wonderous! It let’s you create categories — mine include Life, Freelance, Fiction, Fun (yes, fun!) and CAKE (the company, not the dessert, although it would be fun to have a list just for desserts!) — and then set tasks within each category, along with a deadline, notes, and even an alert. Then you can sync the app across your devices, so you can’t escape your tasks! Whoohoo! The second app that keeps me on track is called Pomodoro, and it uses the tomato philosophy of doling out tasks in 25-minute increments, then offering a break. It rocks. Those concentrated 25 minutes are just enough time to chip away at a task before you need a break. And miraculously, sometimes I work right through and it’s two hours later. Amazing!

3. My Peacock Chair: Okay, okay, the aforementioned husband will note that I hardly ever sit in my gorgeous, peacock blue velvet chair when I’m working. (In fact, most of my writing this summer has happened at the coffeeshop around the corner, where iced coffees with raw sugar crunchies have been a constant, faithful companion.) And he’d be right. (Yup, at this very moment, I’m sitting across the living room — which is all of eight feet wide — from the chair, gazing lovingly at it from the fake brown leather sofa that I despise. My chai is nearby, always handy.) But I don’t need to sit in it. It’s what the chair represents that I love. The idea that one day, we will no longer be four people living in a one-bedroom apartment, and that I’ll have an office — like a whole separate room! — with a desk, and bookshelves, and yes, this lovely peacock blue velvet chair. It’s like a little piece of the future, right here, right now. And I love looking at it. (And occasionally sitting in it.)

2. TV. I know, I know. Weird. This is another thing my writer husband and I differ on. He needs peace and quiet to work. I need background noise, distractions — otherwise I go looking for them. It harkens back to my days at People, when I had the TV on all day long. (Hey, it was part of the job to be informed about the antics of Beyonce and Lindsay Lohan. But I digress.) Favorite light distractions include Days of Our Lives, House Hunters, and the Food Network.

1. Childcare. Let’s face it, as the mama of a four-year-old and a seven-month-old, without this, shit just ain’t getting done. Through this summer, I’ve been stealing an hour here, two hours there, trading off with my husband so we could both get some work done. But last week, Kavya started pre-K 4 (dual language, which she’s super-excited about), and my little baby started daycare. There was much weeping. And admittedly, it was all on my part. He’s doing fine. We’re doing fine. We’ll all adjust. But it will take a minute. In the meantime, I’m thrilled to have some breathing room, and a little bit of my brain back. Things are getting done. It’s amazing.

What’s on your writerly must-have list?

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An entertainment and lifestyle journalist published by The New York Times, People, ABC News, MSN, Cosmopolitan and other major national media, SONA CHARAIPOTRA currently curates a kickass column on YA books and teen culture for Parade.com. A collector of presumably useless degrees, she double-majored in journalism and American Studies at Rutgers before getting her masters in screenwriting from New York University (where her thesis project was developed for the screen by MTV Films) and her MFA from the New School. When she's not hanging out with her writer husband and two chatter-boxy kids, she can be found poking plot holes in teen shows like Twisted and Vampire Diaries. But call it research: Sona is the co-founder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book development company with a decidedly diverse bent. Her debut, the YA dance drama Tiny Pretty Things (co-written with Dhonielle Clayton), is due May 26 from HarperTeen. Find her on the web at SonaCharaipotra.com or CAKELiterary.com.

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This article has 8 Comments

  1. Such a great list, Sona! As a fellow journalist, I’m so with you on the deadline. And writing to background noise, which I maintain quiets that part of my brain that’s easily distracted by EVERYTHING ELSE and allows me to focus. I’m so going to try those apps — desperately in need of something more than my calendar and notepad these days. Enjoy the solitude school/daycare brings 🙂

  2. #2: I can’t write to TV (I don’t have TV – – too addictive), but I do write to news radio, probably because I grew up with it on all the time, sometimes almost subliminally low. And to director’s commentary tracks on DVDs.

    I was pretty sure I was the only one who did this, until I saw a comment about the same thing on the AV Club website. I can’t write while watching movies with the actual sound on, but hearing some director drone on about which lens was used in this scene, and how this effect was achieved while saving money, and so on – – that’s pretty much the DVD equivalent of background music. 🙂

    1. Don’t have TV? You have more willpower than me! (Although, in my defense, I frequently write about TV “for work.” Yup, sticking to that!)

      Haha, director’s commentary would be fun to try. But I worry that between that and the blank page, I’d conk out instead. Especially being as sleep-deprived as I have been, thanks to the baby.

  3. First – ((hugs)) for you on this day.
    Second – I want some of your special adaki chai tea – that sounds delicious!
    Third – I am so with you on the deadline. No matter how much time I have, I will wait until the last minute, when panic sets in and lights firecrackers under my creativity. It’s a little like magic.

    Loved your post!

    1. I so can’t do sports, Shelly. It would just put me to sleep. Or I’d stare at the screen, pondering how to figure out what was actually happening!

      Dogs, kids, same diff right? I can’t work with them around either. Kavya has like a gazillion questions, and still doesn’t understand the concepts “quiet time” and “working.” I once told her to use her “inside voice” and she said, “Mama, I don’t have one!”

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