The Eight-Hour Author

Today, I sit alone in my house.


Sunlight plays on the silver streamers left over from Biff and Bash’s fifth birthday. The breeze chills warm ground–Wisconsin, in transition.  Life is still lush and damp with dew that never quite dissipates, yet some of the older trees have already given up their leaves to gold and red.

Today, the school year has truly begun. Today, and now every weekday, all three kids will be in school.

Some of the time, anyway. Biff and Bash have begun attending preschool (aka 4K) in the afternoon at my town’s public school.

Today, and many days beforehand, I’ve been asked with a smile and a laugh, “Well, what are you going to do with yourself without kids in the house?”

For the record, I have not responded with my fist, damn tempting though it may be. No, I just glare, and say: “Work without vehicles flying in my face.”

Awkward pause. “Oh.”

Today, and God-willing for many days to come, I don’t want this time to be sucked up solely by teaching. It’s a fine excuse for people who don’t know I write, but for you, friends and strangers, you know how precious quiet time is. Day care is expensive. Babysitters take their cut. Family members willing to “help” would rather just sit and chat and watch you do all the parenting instead of the job you were supposed to get done. And once every child’s in school all day, you know your partner’s going to give you that look: the “now you can earn more income” look.

I know it. I already got it. And only by breaking down the time frame with the kids’ school schedules did Bo see that me taking on a 2nd part-time job just didn’t make any logistical sense.

So I’ve got one school year to prove that writing can and should be my second job. That I can I teach for a [mostly] steady income, meager as it is, while I strive to create, research, analyze, and reach out with my words to others…and ye gods, maybe get a little monetary compensation.

z8079-writerdayjob11-200x300So many writing manuals intend to guide you in making the most out of spare time: you can be a “night-time novelist”; you can “write your book in a weekend”; you can make more of mornings “without sacrificing the important things”; you only need help to “boost your productivity,” and so on. Let’s be realistic: with little kids, you don’t have a night-time, or a morning-time. Bash will get up as early as 5:30am and will sneak out of his bedroom long after bedtime to use the potty…and to talk. And sing. And wake his brother Biff, who gets equally ornery. Oh yeah, I have a daughter, too, she needs some attention. Plus I’m supposed to actually hang out with Bo at some point because of this whole “married” thing, so there’s my night gone anyway. Weekends are family time and when I teach my classes, so those are gone.

But today, and for every school day after, I have approximately 3 hours.

So, fifteen hours a week isn’t bad, right?

No, not even that.

Because we must, again, be realistic: I have to schedule appointments in those hours. I’ll have projects to grade in those hours. I’ll have to get off my sorry ass and do some walking or other exercise because writing ain’t exactly a move’n’groove activity.

So with the errands, the job, the drives to retrieve children from different cities, and the attempt to be healthy, I’ve got: eight hours a week for writing. At most.

I haven’t had that much time a week to write since before motherhood.

And unlike that time before motherhood, I will not waste the time I’m given.


Perhaps you’ve been struggling with this time management thing, too. Well, feel free to let me know how you maintain productivity, because I’m all for ideas and options. In the meantime, I’ve plotted thus far:

1. No social media during writing time. No scrolling, no “just checking quick,” no responding to those little infernal dings my phone makes. Unless it’s the police, Bo, or maybe my mom (maybe), the phone and social media sites stay off.

Woops! My half hour is up. Time to work on a story.


I’m back! Let’s see, where did I leave off…Ah yes, my attack plan.

2. Have project objectives for each day. Nothing depresses like a pile of unfinished work. I’m notoriously good at not finishing things: half-done crocheted blankets, half-organized book shelves, half-completed baby books, and so on. I’ve got some WIPs that have been sitting on my computer for years. Enough already. We’re getting those suckers DONE.

But again, reality here: nothing’s getting done at once. It’s going to take several hours to make decent headway on any old project. This doesn’t even include my current MG fantasy-in-progress Beauty’s Price, or the co-writing project “Eowain and the Boar.” Plus, I like writing here. And here takes time.

So let’s break the time up into wee snippets. I read in Writer’s Digest a while ago that 38 minutes is the ideal time to allot for anything; why that particular number I have no idea, but I’m really not far from that. By giving a project half an hour of the day, I can at least get somewhere on it before I move on to another task. So, I could write a little BP, work on the blog, send Michael some thoughts on E&B, and then edit a WIP for sending out. Nothing may get done in one day (like this post), but nothing’s getting ignored, either.

3. Experiment. Like the squeeze-your-arm-flab autumn sweaters I struggle with in a dressing room, I want to try on other styles of writing. They may also be equally pretty and irritate the bejeezes out of me, but how will I know unless I try? It’s been years since I attempted poetry. I’ve simply ignored flashfic. And outside of fantasy, I haven’t done much toe-tipping into other genres. Now I probably wouldn’t dedicate weeks to a poem, but half an hour? Sure, why not?

4. Be okay not writing sometimes. Aside from exercising, I do like getting out to take pictures when I can. I’m no professional, or even an amateur, but this place, this land where I live means so much to my writing state of mind: its hidden roads among the hills. The forests under siege by farms, and the farms under siege by suburbia. The marshes, the cities, the rock towers, the lakes. Together these elements make a world, rich and complete and all its own on the page. I want to share images of these places as best I can.


Day 3 on this entry. Yay, snippet-writing!

5. Start putting myself out there. In the past three years, I’ve queried all of three agents with an incomplete WIP. Yeah, not my smartest move. Repeatedly.

With these new hours, though, I’d like to both experiment and learn. One can’t be a published writer unless one actually, you know, publishes stuff. Traditional and online journals almost never take 10K-long stories, but essays and stories 1K and under would at least get a once-over before a refusal. During the school year I hope to get at least one short story published of my own creation. More would be awesome, but as I’ve learned the hard way, too many expectations promise derailment. I’m not making that mistake again.

I already have a story in the works to be published online with co-conspirator and fantasy author Michael Dellert. Can a pantser and a planner co-write successfully? “Eowain and the Boar” will be the experiment to find out.

Just as every moment with my children is precious, so is every moment I have to write. No more wasting. No more moaning. This is the time to create people and places. This is the time to explore and to chronicle. This is the time a Mommy can let her imagination run free. And unless the cops call that Biff and Bash are playing with chainsaws on the school roof, that’s just what what this Mommy’s going to do.


37 thoughts on “The Eight-Hour Author

  1. I hope Creativity gets to learn the times you have available. When I compose stuff, I know that unless Creativity turns up I’m dead in the water – and I’ve got all day to myself. I’m wishing you the best of luck. George

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hooray for writing time!!! Uf- ANY time. Those guides for using ‘spare time’ are definitely not geared towards people with littles. Generally if I get any time ‘alone’ I’m too sleepy to do anything with it. (Or, like now, as soon as I start doing something someone is weeping- currently the smallest’s ‘ears are unplugged’ and there is much sadness… I have no idea what she means, but I’m off to try and fix it…and clean up that suspicious wet spot in the bathroom… sigh…)
    Best wishes on all of your endeavors! You have the talent, my friend, here’s hoping that a bit more time will help you accomplish what you want to with it!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t wait to read and savor this post, not to mention the others, but this title reached out of my laptop and (gently) grabbed me by my tank top. Reading your post will my reward if I get some other stuff done first, LOL! Wish me luck, my javalicious pal – I’ll be back!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I keep saying someone needs to invent a microwave bed. Pop in, shut the door, three minutes later…ping! it’s like you’ve had eight hours sleep. Then, the night belongs to you because lets face it, even when your kids are out the door and gone for a few hours in the day your brain goes into dolphin mode (you know how they sleep with only half their brain, the other half alert for protection?), half your brain is focused on your writing project and the other half is preparing the logistics of their after school activities, meal preparations, laundry oh, and then your mum rings for a long chat. By the end of the day for me, there is certainly a lump in my throat. I have STOLEN time. Yes, stolen. I have finished my ms but I suffer now from falling asleep anywhere and everywhere. Because the time I used wasn’t mine.I now understand why people wait to write once their kids have flown the nest but I couldn’t wait that long. I and many others feeeel your frustration. And my children are a lot older than yours. Little children, little problems. Bigger children, bigger problems. Big sigh of support xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s important not to panic about the time it takes to write. Sure, you are in a hurry and want to have it done NOW, but inspiration and the right words can’t be forced or hurried. Let it flow over you. Even a passing conversation that interrupts your day might give you the nugget of an idea.

    Oh and when my youngest sisters (another set of twins) finally started school, my mother jumped up, clicked her heels together and let forth a mighty YIPPEE!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LMAO! Okay, that is awesome. I’d LOVE to kick up my heels, too, but…oh, Bash. Bash hasn’t been handling the new school thing too well. He’s had some good days, but already one violent day. Apart from some minor talk-back, Biff’s been doing very well, at least. So I’ve kicked up one heel. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yay! And firstly, be kind to yourself… It will take time to build up that writing muscle – and learn/relearn how you run. My writing buddy sets herself daily targets. I don’t bother – I simply cannot sit down every day and write creatively as I have far too much admin, etc to get through. It’s taken me years to discover exactly what best works for me, though. And these days I generally know my strengths and weaknesses, so try and run with my strengths and not run head-on into the weakness… Best of luck – I look forward to following your writing adventures:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m realizing that about my creativity, too. I’m going to keep nudging it along, since writing for half an hour on a story doesn’t feel as strenuous as writing for 2 hours, but you’re right–if I do fall into a groove, I’m just going to stick with it! But as the kids grow, and our family’s needs change yet again, who knows where my priorities get to fall…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes – you’re absolutely right to be very realistic about having to constantly adjust your writing rhythms to take account of the family as their needs also change… As been a constant factor throughout my writing career – and goes on being so with having the grandchildren as very regular visitors.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I applaud your pragmatism!!! You are one very sensible gal.

    As I read this post, a thought kept popping into my mind: “I can’t wait until my lovely friend has her tater tots in school for a lot more time than she does now – oooohhhhh!!!!!!!!” But alas, I know that seems like so far off. However, that thought won’t sustain you now, which is what really matters. You got a lot of great advice & wisdom, and I don’t have much except to remind you to invest in the best, most powerful and yummy coffee you can get – maybe just use it for the school days, LOL! I’m rooting for you on all counts. I’m also excited you’re contemplating different genres! You’re a superstar-in-the-making. Your time of writing glory will come— an agent will be secured, a book or 10 will be published, and your devoted Empress Percolatia will lovingly tell you, “I told you so!” 😜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks, O Empress Percolatia! I’ve got the coffee ever-ready and hope ever-endless. No more beaten m’self up for not mastering author marathons. Every step taken is a step forward, so every step counts! (and you got me blushing with all your cheering, you did. 🙂 LOVE IT!)

      Loads of hugs as October approacheth!
      xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Java Jeany Beany Teeny Keeny Leeny Weeny okay I’m stopping. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love what you are doing here and I have a way you can get a lot more time to do your project writing – make your blog posts MUCH shorter! A long time ago I read an article at Writer’s Digest – the perfect length is 400-700 words. I shoot for the lower. Time is short for readers, too. Plus, you perfect your writing by saying more in fewer words. Give it a try. I’d like to see you accomplish your dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: A Refuge from Words | Jean Lee's World

  10. I am seeing an emerging theme (emerging to me, ’cause this is only the second post I’ve read of yours); that is putting Biff and Bash on the thematic payroll. They are part of your blog post’s header (I’d love to know how you resize to fit your header) as well as the meat of the content.
    I love your repetition of the word “Today” to draw your theme together. And for the pragmatists of your readers, you did well to provide some organization tips. Huzzah! Great job Jean.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Why thank you! Well, I have to admit–Biff and Bash are the ones who spurred all this into motion thanks to that nasty bit of evil that is postpartum depression. Writing’s my medication, and I don’t dare stop.


  11. Pingback: #writerproblems: Balancing #WritingGoals in #storytelling and #Blogging During These #Uncertaintimes | Jean Lee's World

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