"A Candle Loses Nothing By Lighting Another Candle" - Father James Keller

Thursday, July 9, 2009


So our blog post is late today – and guess why? For reasons of the very topic we’re chatting about!

Clare: The week has suddenly twisted up around me and I find myself trying desperately to get things done when virtually everything else is conspiring to prevent that happening! It’s my busy time at work and my hours in the office are stretching longer every day. At home, one of my sons has just lost his travel pass on the bus, and for reasons that’d take too long to explain and would bore you rigid, there’s a dismantled microwave on my living room floor. Online – though I’m really enjoying being here! - I’ve unwisely committed myself to more chat events in the next month than I can cope with. And I’ve just discovered I forgot to buy enough meat for family suppers this week yet I somehow managed (that’s online shopping for you!) to order eight underarm deodorants and a tin of sliced peaches I *didn’t* need.

Chrissy: I’m following along in a whirlwind all my own. June is always a difficult month with more than the usual outside the box events. We’ve had out-of-town company the last three weekends in a row with more expected Friday night. Of course, there are the dreaded *things that must be done* with said company – despite my barely hidden desire to wave hello and then run and hide in the basement with the computer. While I am happy in these current economic times to be employed, staff has been cut so bare at my workplace that in addition to the work of three people I’ve been doing for the last several years I’m now picking up the slack for the last two layoffs as well. I haven’t taken a lunch in ten years and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. Online? Well, as you can all tell, I’m reduced to the minimum of posts simply because I’m only online for a half and hour or so each morning and that’s if I ignore my employer’s online policies. Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone! By the way, this is a great time to extend my thanks to Clare for the awesome job of posting she’s been doing this week.

Clare: *wipes brow*. So that’s us today.

Chrissy: You’ll notice that we’ve not even mentioned writing.


Clare: The most common thing people say to me when I tell them I’m a writer is not – what’s your pen name? What’s your genre? How on earth do you know all those intimate things about male/male relationships?, but…

When do you write?

Chrissy: I’ve asked you that myself. Hey, how do you know all those intimate things about male/male relationships?

Clare: That’s for me to know and you to… speculate *cough*.

Returning to the *real* topic under discussion – it’s all about juggling the “plates” of life and trying not to let too many of them fall. Or at least, not all at once. Writing is a huge, consuming part of my life. I spend any free time writing, thinking about writing, planning writing, angsting over bad writing, bemoaning the fact I’m NOT writing, wishing I was writing, harbouring homicidal thoughts toward things and people who PREVENT me from writing…
Well, you get the picture.

Chrissy: And I get the emails. *blinks* What? Just saying. You did return that axe to the hardware store like we discussed, right?

Clare: Axe? You gotta ask yourself, do you feel lucky …?

But despite the compulsion to write, I have other things in life that are just as important. My family, my friends, my health, even my full-time job despite the fact I moan about it so frequently. I try to fit this gallon of a life into the pint-pot of time I’ve given (there’s an old-fashioned analogy for you!) and then try to cope with any strain.

Recently I received a link to a publication: Time Management: Finding and Organizing the Time to Write. And all I thought? I wish.

Chrissy: She then sent it to me. I thought it sounded brilliant. Someday, I hope to find time to sit down and read this article.

Clare: Me too *mwahaha*. Though I suspect I’ve been on the management training course, as it must rely heavily on basic time management strategies. I’ll be interested to know, however, how those processes deal with the random addition of microwave crises, bicycle punctures, excess toiletries, laptop go-slow and a Writing Muse who takes holiday on his own whim and doesn’t bother to keep in touch.

Chrissy: I wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me to pace myself or it all comes down to setting priorities, or that I try to get too much done. The simple reality is that no matter how many times we try to pare things down to the bare essentials the list of things that MUST BE DONE is always greater than the 27 hours in a day we are given.

Clare: Uh, Chrissy – there’s only 24 hours in a day.

Chrissy: Well, hell. No wonder I’m always behind.

Clare: So Chrissy and I are going to ask each other some of those questions we’re often asked by others – and dammit, we ask ourselves! See what answers we come up with. Then we’ll throw the floor open and ask any of you to pitch to us – any questions you’d like to ask, any experience you’d like to share.


So, the Big One first. When do you write?

Chrissy: Whenever I can. That sounds like a bad joke, but seriously, I always carry something with me to write on if I’m not sleeping. Which is not as odd as it sounds - I have a bad habit of falling asleep anywhere, anytime, within three minutes of stopping movement. It’s an art form called exhaustion. I make time on the weekends to actually sit at a keyboard to transcribe and continue. When I have a piece on a deadline I always plan to squeeze time in every morning before work, but then my bosses usually come in early to get me going on a project and that’s the end of that.

Clare : I’m a Snatcher – I take any and every time I can get. I have a quiet hour or so in the mornings before everyone comes into work when I can catch up with online marketing. Then I spend some time most evenings, if I’m at home. TV-watching has become a thing of the past! Weekends, I try to get a half-day free or other, longer patch of time.

What helps you write? Is it setting, environment, timing, props.

Chrissy: It’s not so much the outer trappings of the world around me as it is what’s going on inside me. Some day’s my brain is simply flatlined.

Clare : I like quiet, so it’s best when the rest of the family are out. My writing follows the ‘method’ formula, where I immerse myself in my poor old character and plot out what they’re actually saying or thinking. I like a vase of flowers where I can see it, coffee on one side and immediate access to chocolate at all times.

What plops barriers in the path of your writing every time? Is it setting, environment, timing etc etc, you get the picture :).

Chrissy: Heh, my biggest barrier is *me*. Well, not to sound like a broken record, but my lack of time. I know people say you make time for what’s important. Trust me; I’ve stripped away any and all pretence of what isn’t a priority. Just ask those that know me. (Sorry, everyone).

I often feel the fail in the social networking aspect of being an author. What do you think my choice is if I get an open hour? Am I going to write and do some research, or am I going to get to know people on Facebook and Twitter and amuse myself reading an insightful blog? That’s not to say I wouldn’t love to, I’ve met some amazing people online. But to my constant shame I have friends in real life that I neglect horribly. The whole online world is just added pressure that I can’t let myself dwell on.

Clare : (is nodding furiously :P). It's *anything* that blocks my quiet time! I have to compete with TV, games consoles, Son#1 practicing the electric guitar, Son#2 running a full commentary on whatever he’s watching, telephone, radio, washing machine, the sound of an axe falling etc etc etc

Who *is* your Muse and are they on Twitter?

Chrissy: I’ve danced around the elusive Muse question for years and will *cough* continue to do so simply because I never spent the time to sit down and think about it (see subject of this post above). I will say that whatever form said Muse may take - definitely NOT on Twitter.

Clare : LMAO. My Muse is a statue, sits by my laptop with an expression of bemusement – and sometimes despair – and tries to bully me into getting on with it. (and who's now insisting he gets a picture posted here with us).

What’s the most useful tip you’d pass to an author in the same position?

Chrissy: Ignore everything else I’ve said, cut yourself some slack and have fun with it. There’s no perfect way to do anything (where’s the joy in that) and balancing life/work/writing and double chocolate cake is no exception.

Clare : What fabulous advice! *files it away for future reference*.

Practically, I'd say carry a notepad and keep writing! (is that like carrying a big stick...?)

Chrissy mutters... "Or an axe..."

Be as organized as you can – always have the right version of the WIP file to hand (saves time trawling through those temp files where you saved it by mistake), keep writing, keep notes (however silly) of where you see the plot going, back your work up regularly, keep writing (even if it's garbage by now), try not to be drawn into obsessive editing. Keep writing!! Battle on when you get the time, then periodically try to 'book' yourself a quiet time to look at the whole and make some intelligible sense of it all.
Emotionally? Praise yourself for small achievements. 100 words a day average? Fabulous! Enjoy your words, use the best and the most enjoyable you can, make the writing a treat for the small snips of time, else you end up rewriting the same damned sentence every time you go in and look at it again.
Enjoy, ENJOY, or you won't WANT to keep writing.
Oh, and in my case (Hubby yelling from the other room) - turn off the f*g net.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d done better / earlier / differently?

Chrissy: I try to live without regrets. Things are what they are. I can only do my best to enjoy them.

Clare : Damned fine philosophy. However, I'm a little more fragile at the moment *cough*. I know I wish I’d spent more time learning how to outline better (if at all). Writing is easy when the story is bubbling at the forefront of your mind and virtually spills out on to the page when you get to a keyboard. However, when you have much more to distract you, it’s easier to lose the thread and the motivation.

What’s the one thing you’re really proud of that facilitates your writing?

Chrissy: I might say my curiosity about people and the world around me. Humans are quite interesting to observe.

Clare : God, she steals all the best lines! But it's true - I'd say my imagination, too, and my tolerance for all kinds of people and situations. I'm sure that an author's writing is much better if they have a healthy, two-way connection with the real world. Perseverance is good, too. And my filing's shit-hot *smirk*.

How many works in progress do you have open on your screen at this very moment?

Chrissy: Even though I am at work I will confess to having three open in the word processor. I love flashdrives.

Clare: SNAP! Three. OMG. I can’t really live in three different worlds at once, I admit, but I can pop from a novel to a short story without too much problem, And in true spirit of a Snatcher – see above! – if I have a spare fifteen minutes, I go for a quick hit on a short story.

Social Networking: Useful Tool or Time Suck?

Clare: A-ha! This is a late one I snuck in, though Chrissy commented on social networking above. I'm going - arrogantly - to reply for us both.

Well, obviously it can be both, to differing degrees.
Personally, I’m cautious of the time suck factor. I’m sorry folks, but if I’m chatting to you about my writing, I’m not writing! LOL. And dear God, we authors are so easily distracted by the shiny.

So instead, I have MySpace and Facebook purely to BE THERE, and I love my blog on Live Journal. I can touch base with most of my online friends there, not just people in the writing world. I also email happily and often - in fact I prefer to talk to friends on a one-to-one like that, and privately.

I stopped any IM-ing because I can’t write while I chat, and I’m sorry, but I want to write more than chat casually! And Twitter leaves me cold, even though people try to persuade me it can be used just for marketing and information and I don’t have to spend hours texting what I’m currently eating, how squee is Captain Jack (which he is, of course) and isn’t the weather hot for the time of year (yes, I’m British, obviously there's a specific genetic trait for chatting about the weather). But anyway, it’s a major Time Suck for me.

HOWEVER, this week I met the loveliest web designer ever who’s also a yogi, has a beautifully soothing voice, has a healthy disrespect equal to my own for the time wasted on social networking sites, but insists he can show me how to get a Twitter feed from mobile phone to website without me ever having to chat inanely. Entranced by his waist-length dreadlocks, I’m meeting him next week to talk it through. Oh, so easily seduced…

Thanks to the C&C Girls and of course - Clare's Muse.

So - anyone found the answer to Life Itself in amongst all that?
Anyone itching to say - no, no that's not how it is for me?
Or - equally - yes, YES, you speak for my tormented, tangled life?
Or just to borrow my axe?

Feel free to ask, to chat, to rabbit on.
It's been fun to talk to YOU!!!

only one day left to enter, see Monday's post for details!!!


  1. Ladies! I loved this post! (Now I need to go read ALL of them...darn it...timesuck in action.)

    It's not really timesuck if you're engaged, is it? Timesuck is maybe more of the compulsive next, next, next, well I might as well work to the bottom of the page now type of attitude.

    TV is a thing of the past for me. You know you're a writer when you forget to watch TV! I have one show. One. (True Blood. If Torchwood were on at the moment I'd have two.)

    I have a love/hate relationship with my day job. I've structured things so that my house is so cheap I could actually quit and live off my writing. (Not because I make so much writing, but because my place is seriously cheap.) But then there's the fear: what if, what if? What if I choke when my writing's my only income? What if I'm influenced by market trends rather than the story my soul wants to tell.

    I'm probably too chickenshit to quit anyway.

    Speaking of timesuck, you didn't mention promotional Yahoo groups! They're all getting so full of rules and regulations and snippy emails from the moderators about who broke which rule, I can't keep up anymore, so I've given up. My theory was they didn't generate any traffic anyway.

    (Hey Clare, remember how we were going to figure out where our web traffic was coming from so we used our promo time effectively? Sigh. Someone donate your extra hours to us so we can do that. TV watching hours. You won't miss 'em, honest.)

    Thank you for this post C&C! I smiled all the way through it.

  2. Jordan, what a treat to see you here, thanks for dropping in! Yes, we made it sound a bit more amusing than it sometimes in in reality *lol*, but I agree with you all the way. And I, too, have abandoned the larger Yahoo Groups, at least until the dust settles *sigh*. Not that I was ever very organised about joining in.

    Timesuck for me is ANYTHING that isn't on the priority list, that also isn't emergency *lmao*. I'm crueller to myself than you are. My standards are fierce and firm, but that's why I keep failing them!

    (you see I snuck in a variation of your a-few-words-a-day motivational tool?! sorry, I should have linked properly to Packing Heat)

    My biggest worry if I stopped employment for full-time writing would be that I dried up. Or no one wanted to buy me any more. Or I got distracted by something else and slowed down production. I consider myself nothing but a flash in the pan, you know. I despair at my own flakiness someimes.

    Yes yes yes, we MUST get together again for a Strategy Meeting. I still look at my stats but I don't know what to do with them LOL. I got 19 hits last week from a single site who just linked me, and I'm not even sure why :). I can feel a spreadsheet coming on... I must speak to my lovely new webguru about it.

  3. I can feel a spreadsheet coming on...

    Cripes! These are famous last words.

    Looking at statistics is actually another timesuck for me. Especially if I start to think, "Hm, I can make a GRAPH out of that." I think the key is to allow yourself to tinker with it, but only for a certain amount of time. For instance, on my stories where I can see in real time who's buying them, I have a "check only once per day" rule.

    Because it's so easy to get obsessive!

    Your output level is so high, your writing so tight and your reviews so squeeful that I have a VERY HARD TIME seeing you as a flash in the pan :D

    Although with the high output, I could see keeping up the pace being daunting. I guess that's what vacations are for!

  4. I'm quoting you on that soundbite about me and my flash in the pan, my dear...


In accordance with the new FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, Kiki Howell of An Author's Musings, would like to advise that in addition to purchasing my own books to review, I also receive books, and/or promotional materials, free of charge in return for an honest review, as do any guest reviewers.