As I read this Q&A about how author and time management expert Laura Vanderkam tracked her time (down to the half-hour), I was inspired to find more time in my own schedule — for writing. Her point is not to obsessively track every single moment of every day (“If I ran on the treadmill for 27 minutes and spent three going upstairs and getting water, I’m calling that 30 minutes of exercise,” Vanderkam says) but to figure out how your life sketches out on a daily basis and whether you are happy with how you’re spending your time.
We all have things we know we could skip doing in order to write, and this article (and the simple spreadsheet that Vanderkam used to track her time) came across my screen at just the right time. I’m just past the My Last Continent book launch but still have months of events to go — and one thing I’m wondering is whether I can start tipping the scales from promotion to new writing. I’m still writing articles and doing interviews and spending much more time on social media than I’m used to…but taking a close look at my schedule, hour by hour, has shown me that I can gain writing time without losing promotion time.
What I’m into right now is “found time,” which I see as similar to the artwork based on found objects — with art, it’s turning discarded or lost things into works of art; with time, it’s turning little moments into treasures by making the most of them. To offer one example: Currently, the moments after which my cat wakes me for no apparent reason at 3 a.m. have become the most creative moments of my day. I have a notebook by the bed, and in the past couple of weeks I’ve been working (in this notebook, in the middle of the night) on a new short story and a new novel. Next, of course, I need to set aside some time to flesh out all these ideas — but thanks to making the most of this found time, I’m inspired to do just that. And the more we become everyday writers, the more time we’ll end up making in our schedules to follow up on the ideas discovered in these seemingly idle moments.
One thing we all have to remember as writers is that downtime is a good thing. As Vanderkam says in the article, “There’s nothing wrong with sitting on the porch drinking a glass of wine and staring at the trees.” This is especially true for writers, for whom staring into the distance (and drinking wine) can lead to our most productive work. We need time to think before we make time to type or scrawl.
Most of all, what are you doing instead of writing that doesn’t feel right to you? As Vanderkam points out, this time-tracking exercise should be for the person doing it, not for anyone else. So give it a try and see what might open up your writing life a bit. The most important question this exercise will answer for you is amazingly simple: “Are you happy, or not?”
I am delighted that My Last Continent has just launched in the United Kingdom, and while it would’ve been fantastic to do an in-person tour of the UK, I loved doing this week-long blog tour, which was the next best thing…and tons of fun.
I got to chat about My Last Continent, Antarctica, penguins, and so much more — and I got some terrific questions and enthusiastic reviews.
A million thanks to all of the fabulous bloggers who made this possible — and check out the tour stops via the links below…
I’m looking forward to teaching two workshops at San Diego Writers, Ink on Saturday, July 23, and I hope you’ll join me!
The morning workshop, Say Anything: How to Write Great Dialogue, is from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. From portraying character to moving the plot forward, dialogue works hard in any story. In this hands-on workshop, we’ll study examples of good dialogue and discuss how and why these work, and we’ll go over tips for how to create your own authentic, realistic voices, with writing exercises that will reinforce the major tenets of effective dialogue.
In the afternoon, join me for Looking Beyond the Web: Research Tips and Tools for Writers, from 1 to 3 p.m. Whether you’re mining your past for a memoir or researching a new subject for a novel, the amount and quality of information you gather makes all the difference. In this workshop, we’ll discuss the importance of going beyond surfing the web, as well as the best ways to tackle research, including making contact, shadowing subjects, and conducting interviews.
For more details and to register, visit San Diego Writers, Ink. Writers are welcome to attend either workshop, and there’s a discount for taking both!
Join us for drinks at 6:15, followed by a reading and discussion of My Last Continent — as well as all things Antarctic and penguin! — and then stay for a screening of the Academy Award-winning film March of the Penguins. I look forward to seeing you there!
The first two weeks of the My Last Continent book tour have been incredible — it was such fun to visit Boston, New York, Portland, and Seattle, as well as to celebrate here in Ashland.
As many of you know, my travel companion is Admiral Byrd (those of you who have read My Last Continent will know why he’s so named), and he’s the one who’s been photobombing all my book tour photos. The most frequent comment I get when people see Admiral Byrd in person is, “I thought he was so much bigger.” In fact, he’s a tiny little thing, given to me by a dear friend just before My Last Continent was published. It seemed so fitting that he should join me on the tour.
I’m heading to Southern California soon for another month of events (check them out here!), and in the meantime, here are a few scenes from the past couple of weeks. Join me on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter to follow Admiral Byrd’s (and my) adventures as the tour continues!
New York included visits to my brilliant agent and the amazing team at Scribner before a reading at Shakespeare & Co. that evening…
The Ashland event at Bloomsbury Books was so festive, with an overflowing crowd of more than 60 friends and readers…
Powell’s City of Books was especially fun as the crowd included a group of young writers whose energy and great questions made it a lively evening. (And if you’d like a signed copy of My Last Continent, you can order it here!)
I’m so excited for my hometown book event in Ashland tonight at 7 p.m. at the lovely Bloomsbury Books.
It’s great fun to see My Last Continent in such good company here at the store … and with the temperatures reaching for 90+ degrees today, I’m looking forward to an evening of ice and penguins and all things Antarctic!
Antarctica is a gigantic continent — it’s about the size of the U.S. and Mexico combined, and nearly twice the size of Australia. While many think that visiting the continent means going to the South Pole, most travelers, in fact, visit the Antarctica peninsula, on the western edge of the continent — which actually quite far from the South Pole.
For those of you who are wondering about the islands visited by the characters in My Last Continent, below is a detailed map of The Cormorant‘s journey. And check out MLC’s book club kit for more about the continent, as well as to meet the penguins!
Check out my Facebook page today for a #FacebookFirstReads live event, during which I’ll read from My Last Continent and chat about a scene from the book (at the location in Boston in which it is set).