Thursday, November 6, 2008

Time Management - Not for the Faint of Heart

How about if we get this straight, right off the bat – every single other Seeker on this loop is more qualified than me to be offering advice on time management. No kidding. They are all amazing. So that said, let’s get going on How To Write A Novel In Your Spare Time : )

First of all, I can’t tell you how important it is to give God His piece of your time pie. You may have two hours, or you may have twenty minutes to write, it doesn’t matter. When I don’t thank God for the precious moments He’s carved out for me and seek His direction for my writing time, all I end up with is gobble-di-gook. I flit around from topic to topic, from task to task and find at the end of my time, I’ve accomplished nothing.



Or at least nothing of my novel I’d care to share with anyone. Then I get frustrated with myself for not thinking things through, for not getting organized – oh wait, Organization is another installment of my Not for the Faint of Heart series, coming to this blog in a couple months, after I’ve found the spreadsheets and colored sticky notes : )

See what I mean? Attention span of a gnat. Definitely a gift of my Attention Deficit Disorder. So, all you ADD-ers, buck up! There is hope! If I can find a way to work in spite of myself, I know you can, too.

Scrap the notebook. I’ve been told to keep a notebook and pencil handy for all the brilliant ideas that pop into my mind at inopportune moments. Good advice for those who remember to take a notebook with them, then can find it when that moment strikes. Instead, I keep an arsenal of pens in my purse at all times and I don’t have to dig deep to find receipts or envelopes in my purse for those precious ah-ha moments. After I spread the ink, I either stuff them back into my purse, or write an email to myself when I get back to work. Works great, especially if I remember to clean out my purse : )

Learn to listen. Make yourself wait for the ideas to brew instead of throwing everything, including the watering trough, into your book. This leads to contrived plots. Just because I thought up this nifty disaster for my characters to overcome doesn’t mean it belongs in this book. I’m currently re-vamping a series that did well in contests, but garnered very little interest from editors. I’m starting at the beginning. I’m praying for guidance. I’m using the same characters and plot, but the methods those characters are using to resolve their problems is vastly different from my original version. God didn’t give you a Writer’s heart only to abandon you. The toughest lesson I’ve learned is to patiently wait on God to guide me. He’s doing an awesome job, too.

It’s okay to have a life. You know the ol’ story about stuffing 10 lbs of crumpled up paper into a single item McDonald’s bag? Story of my life. I was so focused on writing quantity, I lost track of quality. My little pea brain had the hardest time letting go of the notion that if I produce, someone is bound to buy it. I shut the door of my office on my family, my friends, even my dog. But you know what? Life is short. Kids grow up, parents grow old, relationships may whither. Don’t take a chance on it. Again, if God has called you to write, He will make His plans come to fruition in His time. I’m not saying let everything get into your lunch. I’m just saying learn to divvy out the hours of your day. From the time I get home from work through dinner, it’s family time. When everyone is settled in front of the TV, I go into my office, close the door and write for an hour. I’m focused, I’m relaxed, I’m inspired. If I stick to my method, often I creep out of my office in time to watch House. Ahh, life is good : )

These steps may help, or they may not. The important thing is to identify what the time issues are in your life. Quality is the lock; balance is the key. It’s not easy. Even though this system works for me, I still have old habits rearing their ugly heads. Do a GMC on yourself and your writing.

Think. Identify. Conquer.

Time can be your friend when both of you stand on common ground.

Blessing to everyone!


  1. Audra---

    Think. Identify. Conquer.

    Simple. Succinct. Wonderful.

    I love your take on all this, God first, listen for direction, but take active steps. Nothing is achieved by inactivity. (Reminds me of Tina's Nora Roberts' quote...

    Grabbing the fickle muse and dragging her sorry butt back to the keyboard!)

    Thanks for a great reminder that we don't all think alike, plan alike or have similar time frames.

    Hey, in honor of Audra and Tina's mountain heritage, I've brought a whopping batch of Rocky Mountain Candy.

    Imagine a swirl of white and dark chocolate, studded with snips of snowy marshmallow, peanut butter and fresh roasted peanuts.


    And to further mimic the mountains, we have a full espresso/cappuccino bar to the back of the room. Rule of the day: You must pile whipped cream onto something to represent our allegiance to snow-covered mountains everywhere.



  2. Audra,

    Your comments are wise and much appreciated. Thanks for including the time to post on your to-do list :)

    Cathy Shouse

  3. Audra said: Quality is the lock; balance is the key.

    Dear Lord, I wish I'd said that, girl, because that is absolutely WONDERFUL and oh, so true!!

    And as far as the #1 thing being to give God His piece of the time pie, that is DEAD ON, something I've had to learn the hard way!! As I'm sure all writers can relate, if I have a scene burning a hole in my mind, it can be pretty difficult to focus on God. I can't tell you how many times I sit on my deck swing in the morning with the Bible in my lap, staring into the woods as I plot three chapters down the road. There are even times, if the call of the computer is sooo strong, I'm tempted to pass on my usual Bible and prayer routine to pound the keyboard.

    BUT ... I have discovered that when I stiff God, I basically stiff myself and my writing. In fact, it JUST happened to me this week. Had a scene breathing down my neck, so I rushed through the Bible and ditched my prayer/quiet time with Him so I could dive in. The result? At the end of the day, I had a scene that was awful and left me depressed. It wasn't until I went before God and got it right by putting Him first, repenting and begging for His anointing and direction, that I rewrote the scene, and it came together beautifully.

    You want to write or do ANYTHING really, really badly? Cardinal Rule #1: Put God first in your day.

    Great post, my friend.


  4. Julie said:
    You want to write or do ANYTHING really, really badly? Cardinal Rule #1: Put God first in your day.

    Okay people, what Julie means here is if you want to write or do anything really, really WELL--put God first.

    Putting God first will not ensure you do things really, really badly.

    Or, put another way, if you want, very badly, to do something well, put God first.


  5. And now I've decided, after reading Audra's post today, and Diana's yesterday and Tina's and Vincents and Erica's and back and back, everyday, that stopping by here first thing is just exactly what I need to give me fresh energy and a renewed spirit to write.

    Think. Identify. Conquer.
    Wonderful. It's like I come away grounded in my writing skills after reading the Seekerville post of the day.

  6. Mmm, Ruthy, Rocky Road Ice Cream, too? I just love chocolate, marshmallows, and nuts all mixed together : )

    Yep, our minds are all wired differently. I used to get so frustrated when I'd hear, *you have to write every day. . .you have to set a goal. . .you have to.......* Drives me crazy!

    God gives me brilliance in spurts : ) That's about all I can handle : )

    coffee done yet???

  7. Hi Cathy,

    My to-do list is ever growing. Do we ever catch up??

  8. Great post, Audra. Just this past weekend I became really convicted for not making time every day for Bible study and prayer. No wonder I've been spinning my wheels and getting little done. The time I give to God He gives back to me, and then some. It always seems to work that way. Wonder why?

    Trust trust trust. That's my lesson for the decade. I'm a slow learner.

  9. I've been with you on that proverbial porch swing, Julie, with Bible in hand saying I was doing my devotion, when actually I was thinking about a knot in my current scene. How rude!

    I've thrown away many scenes I didn't pray over first, and I'm sure it won't be the last.

    God help us all!

  10. Audra, I loved your post! We're all wired differently and have to find our own way to produce quality writing.

    I've learned the hard way to put God first. I've also come to understand that life is short and I don't want to let it pass me by. So for me that means my job is in third place, still a nice slice of the twenty-four-hour pie. Using that time well is my struggle.

    I read in a Beth Moore study that God knows more about our work than we do so we should make Him our partner in whatever we do--a new concept for me. I believed that whatever I did, I should do my best as if working for God, but hadn't seen God as my partner. Imagine writing a co-authored book with creative God!


  11. Audra, great post. I especially loved what you said about, if God gives you the heart of a Writer then He won't abandon you.

    And I hope your newly revised series garners tons of interest from publishers.

    May you go to auction, baby!



  12. Hey, Tina, when I read your post on Tuesday about Deadline Dementia, I almost went back to this scheduled post to say, *yeah! What Tina said!*

    Good, good motivational stuff.

  13. Mary, you are one the most grounded people I know. . .

  14. Hi Melanie : ) I'm with you on the trust. And disipline. And patience. Can you see an emerging pattern in my life????

  15. Hi Janet, you are exactly right! And it's taken me a long time to realize it. Going through Write His Answer by Marlene Bagnull makes me realize where I'm prone to being a *lone soldier* and only running to God when I get my rear in a bind.

    Tough, tough changes to make : )

  16. You're too funny, Cheryl : ) But thanks for the pat on the back : ) And the wishes for a bidding war, ha!

  17. Ahhhhh!!!!!!! I typed a long post and it disappeared when my internet spazzed!!! Windstream internet is awful!!!!!! Don't choose it if you can help it!!!!!!

    Okay, I pulled myself together and will try once again.

    Audra, we really are twins seperated at birth! Cute little notebooks do disappear, but I always have trash in my purse. :) In fact, I do have a stay-at-home notebook for each manuscript, and the notebook for my first sale, Her Unlikely Family, has an bank deposit envelope stapled into it. While chaperoning my dd's 1st grade class, the kids fell asleep on the bus on the way home, and I dug that envelope out of my purse and got to work. I also wrote on the back of an old grocery/to-do list. As soon as I got home, I stapled them into my notebook. :)

    Hey, someday when I'm famous, they'll put those in a museum somewhere. HAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!


  18. Straightforward and pointed.

    Directly at me.

    Thanks, Audra. I too do the receipt thing more than the notebook thing, although I keep a computer doc with story ideas that's about 30 pgs long.

    But I have to give more energy to putting God first on each individual day. Sometimes I lose Him in the sauce and don't realize it until after the day has soured or is over.

  19. LOL

    House is my reward too!

    And... my verification word is PALIN

    That's funny.

  20. Ooo, Missy!! Dangerous how we think alike! I always have trash in my purse, LOL!!! I love the look of organized systems, but hey, I guess cluttered is my label for this lifetime : )

    thanks for reaffirming, : )

  21. Grin, Mary, thanks for clarifying for me, sweetie. Cannot believe I wrote it that way ...

    And yes, you too can be published if you write this poorly ... Geez Louise.

  22. Hi Patricia,
    My computer file for each book has dozens of keep-me-straight files. . .Toss file, Maybe Later file, I even have a photo file. I start all of them with the best of intentions, but they're just not habit.

    My time with God is beginning to become habit--at least I feel really guilty when I write before I chit-chat : )

    Keep up the great effort!!

  23. I love House too.

    How weird are we?

    And of course I want someone to be that special to him that he abandons his self-defeatist attitudes and does a Trace Adkins 'Wash me clean in muddy water' baptism, marries Cuddy and they have four beautiful, doctor-smart well-adjusted kids.

    And a Golden Retriever or Golden Doodle from


    Shameless plug!


    Hey, I'm in on the Rocky Road ice cream. And a lemon cake with white mountain frosting????

    To die for.

  24. I didn't even stumble over your wording, Julie. Hmmm, I guess I was born to be one of your fans, LOL!!!

  25. All right! Jessica, Ruthy, pj party at my house with a House marathon and endless popcorn and Rocky Mountain Chocoates famous toffee!!

    Watch the medical thrillers arise, LOL!

  26. Allow me to use my snazzy live link skills on Ruthy's shameless plug.

    Unconditional Love With Fur

  27. Okay, failure to launch (you might say)
    Trying again.

    Fuzzy Puppies

  28. Great post!

    I, too, am of the disorganized, ADD camp!

    And with three kids five and under, I don't have a lot of time to sit an focus!

    But that's where my ADD comes in handy- I write a few sentences, then discover someone needs a diaper changed or a snack, or help with math, or whatever.

    I get it done little by little, in between my life activites.

  29. Hi Audra:

    Thanks for your very enjoyable post. This is a wonderful site.

    As a philosopher, I have a little different take on “work” and “praise,” and on time spent “with God” and time spent “at work”. I believe in the sanctity of work. I believe authentically motivated Christian writers are doing the work of the Lord. There are many people who are un-churched, or who do not like being preached to, who draw strength from the experience of reading a well crafted Inspirational novel. While a preacher often “tells”, the romance author usually “shows”.

    Reading a well written Inspirational can be more spiritually fulfilling and faith affirming than the same time spent in an average church service where one may feel obligated to attend and where everyone else may know one’s business. I believe that most Christian authors have a more direct and more personal connection with their readers than a typical preacher maintains with his Sunday service attendees.

    In a novel like Cheryl Wyatt’s “A Soldier’s Family” you see a demonstration of faith without the preaching. You see people with pain and conflicts showing a willingness to forgive and grow in their faith. The story shows how ordinary people can live their faith, do the right thing, show great strength of character, find healing in helping others – and do this all as a natural outcome of living a Christian life.

    I think sincere Christian authors have a calling and that their work is the work of the Lord. I think you can talk to God through your writing as well as through your prayers. If during prayer, one is inspired to rewrite a passage in one’s novel, it just might be advisable to take that as an order from God to get back to His work. I believe there are many ways to put God first. Living a Christian life is surely one of the best ways. Each person knows best how he or she should put God first.

    I think Christian romance writers are doing a lot more good on a day-to-day basis than they are aware of. I, for one, depend on you.



  30. Yes, Avily, you're so right! A little bit here and there, and the book gets done. I remember when my kids were under 5, but then, mommy was a big one for boring them to death so they'd take a nap, LOL!

    I just need to remember to write the fleeting thoughts down, and believe me, that's tough road!

    Keep at it! Us ADD-ers are special : )

  31. Well put, Vince! I agree the inspirational writer will reach people with the message of Christ's love and redemption that may otherwise be tossed by the wayside of those driving by church and not stopping in. God uses many avenues.

    And along those many avenues, those that are blessed with the attention span of a gnat, like me : ), need to learn to follow a set course, or nothing gets done.

    I so envy (in a good way, LOL) the folks who are organized, almost OCD. I do wish I could be deep in prayer and think, aha, that's the way out of the knot I've created in my scene. But I know me. And I know I need to learn to focus or I won't accomplish anything, or at best, what I did accomplish wouldn't be worth my time at the keyboard.

    Thank you for the kind words regarding Christian romance writers, Vince. These men and women are the best : ) Which wouldn't be possible without the Lord's guidance.

    Ahh, such a vicious cycle : ) But one I wouldn't trade it for the world.

    Have a great day!

  32. Hi Everyone -

    If you had one of those Followers widgets, I'd be the first to sign up. I love your articles.

    Audra, I'm with you. I've tried more time management programs than I can count. Many of them are excellent, but it's the maintenance end that takes a chunk out of my hide.

    My latest brainchild is a reverse task list. Don't ask. Someday, I'll do a post on it.

    Like you, keeping the Lord first is the only way I stay reasonably on track.

    Susan :)

  33. Hi Susan,
    I like that idea - a reverse task list - if I don't catch it coming, I'll catch it going. LOL!

    Thanks for the advice : )

  34. Audra, love your post, especially the "it's okay to have a life" part. You're so right. We have to live life before we can write about life. Sometimes we have to put our writing aside because life takes precedent and real needs surface. Once they're resolved, then we go back to our computer.
    Thanks for sharing!

  35. Wow so true!

    I arose early for so many years to squeeze in writing time before kids and school and work that now it is second nature.

    People cringe when I say I'm up at 3 or 4 am - but hey, that's what works for me.

    Of course after a full day, I'm usually too tired to do much in the evenings, especially as I get older, but as long as I have my mornings and weekends, I'm happy.

    Great post!

  36. Add me to the House marathon! I'm actually recording the whole season so my son and I can watch when he comes home from college for Christmas. I miss having him here to watch with! It's just not been the same.


  37. Hi Pam and Debby,
    Life happens, right? It's so important to find that balance that makes us who we are.

    Debby, I just took a couple months off for mental health and feel so energized to write now!

    LOL, Pam! I spent years getting up at 4 am before my day with the kids started just so I could have my writing time. Seems like forever ago : )

    Thanks for stopping by, guys!

  38. Missy, you such a mommy : ) Guess that's why I love you : )

    Ah, that and you love House!!!!