Monday, June 13, 2011

Writing in "snippets"

     My workshop students often express how they struggle in finding time to write. I always share my “snippets of time” suggestion: if you can carve out 15-20 minutes here and there, you can write a few paragraphs at a time until your draft is finished. Then you revise 20 minutes at a time.
      Basically, if you want to write badly enough, you’ll find time, even if it’s snippets of time. My students appear dubious. Have I really done this?
     I have. For about five years, when I worked a full-time day job, this was the only way I could write. I used my “snippets” during my lunch break. Later, when I found a job that allowed me to arrange a 4-day work week, I still used the “snippets” to work on one magazine article a week. At this job I receive an entire hour as a lunch break. Though I didn’t need an entire hour to eat, I did need to get away from my desk so I’d spend the rest of my lunch hour researching the next article topic, reading a book about writing, writing a few paragraphs, drafting a cover or query letter, or researching markets. Every Monday on my way to work I’d mail off a manuscript or query letter.
      Eventually, the credits added up, led to other writing credits, and finally to my first book series: Kids Throughout History for the PowerKids imprint of Rosen Publishing. When I took on that project, I left that 4-day-a-week job for a half-time job at the District Library in that town. That job offered resources and encouragement from library staff and patrons. I doubled my output of writing—and accumulated bylines. 
     Now that I write full-time and teach part-time, I still use snippets on occasion. This method comes in especially handy during Season when the number of writing workshops I teach increases and it seems I’m teaching more than I’m writing. I can always find 20 minutes here or there to create a paragraph or a page at a time because writing is that important to me.