On Multi-Tasking: packing more writing-related activity in the non-writing parts of our lives

Since last time, when I shared a 20-minute, time-saving recipe here on my blog, I’ve been thinking about the other ways we writers can make more time for the business of writing. Sometimes, when the rest of our lives are pared to the bone, it seems as though the only way to make more time would be to cut back hours on anything that does not constitute paid work: no more sleeping, no more eating, no more conversing with fellow humans. But that, friends, would be no way to live.

Those who know me well are familiar with my love/hate relationship with exercise. I love no longer being shaped like a Peeps Easter candy, and I love the sparkly and well-appointed gym I get to attend thanks to my husband’s work benefits (ah, that smell of chlorine in the air!), but I really hate taking time out of the day to go lurch around on various kinds of equipment. That’s time I could be writing, after all. In his On Writing, Stephen King commands writers to spend their workouts multi-tasking with a good book (really, he’s very serious about it), but I find that I become as motion-sick reading on the treadmill as I did when I was a small child riding in the back of my mom’s station wagon. (Sorry, Mr. King.) So I’ve been in the habit of cranking up the ipod to some inane dance music to distract me as the minutes tick away, all the while feeling guilty about the waste of my 60 minutes.

But recently, I came across a fantastic writing podcast, Writing Excuses, that has made me kinda-sort-partway eager to hit the gym. I hop on the elliptical machine, pull up a new issue of the podcast (or dig up an old issue from the very extensive archives), and suddenly, I’m multi-tasking. My pen may not be on paper, but my  mind is with my work. Writing Excuses may not have the world’s slickest-looking website, and the banter of the podcast’s hosts may even be a little corny from time to time. But Writing Excuses has become a major source of inspiration for me over the past few months, and has given me some fiction-writing tools I didn’t have before.

While I’m not big on reading or writing science fiction or fantasy or other “genre fiction” whatsoever (I rather dislike the term “genre fiction,” in fact. Isn’t all writing part of a genre?) I have noticed something I like very much about those who do work in the fantasy and science fiction worlds: they know their craft. Yes, the art of writing is important. But the craft of writing is what truly fascinates me, and it seems to be a very under-discussed area of inquiry in the writing world. So while you may not be dying to brainstorm ideas for an urban fantasy novel or a paranormal romance. But you can certainly learn a great deal from those who are.

So, if you’re like me and really do need to cram in some writing-related activity into all those non-writing parts of your day, I highly encourage you to give Writing Excuses a listen.

I dare you to listen to these and not be inspired:

In this episode, Perseverance, you’ll hear from a writer who went from bestseller lists to living on the street, never giving up writing.

And in this episode, The Author’s Responsibility to the Reader, a Bram Stoker and Nebula Award recipient talks about his life as a full-time writer, and how to treat your writing as your work.

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One thought on “On Multi-Tasking: packing more writing-related activity in the non-writing parts of our lives

  1. So you mean I don’t have to feel guilty if I don’t have a pen and pad with me 24/7? Some other drivers in my area will be glad to hear this. But seriously, I find that any fairly mindless task that allows for imagination, but doesn’t necessarily accommodate actual writing, is a good time to plot, fill in character and scene details, or brainstorm in general. Working out, walking the dog (as long as he doesn’t see squirrels), staff meetings at work (oops), and many others can help writers feel productive. The best part about those sessions is that when I finally do have time to write, I am usually inspired to get going on the ideas I’ve percolated.

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