Category Archives: Perils of a Mom Writer

Finding Time to Write (With Toddlers in Tow)

By Emily Schneider

There’s a scene in Sister Act 2 where Whoopi Goldberg confronts a young teenage girl about joining her school’s choir. She describes the book “Letters to a Young Poet” as follows: “A fellow used to write to him and say: ‘I want to be a writer. Please read my stuff.’ And Rilke says to this guy: ‘Don’t ask me about being a writer. lf when you wake up in the morning you can think of nothing but writing…then you’re a writer.’ ”

Writing requires energy. It requires strength of mind. It requires emotional fortitude. Most of all, it requires your heart. If your heart’s not in it, then it will not go well.

This is all well and good as a philosophical concept. And, as a young girl watching this movie, I totally identified with it. I wrote because it was the only way I could think of to get what was in me…OUT of me. And it was easy, because I was a child, and didn’t have any other demands on my time.

Finding Time To Write with Toddlers In Tow

But what about now? What do I do when I want to write, but find myself bogged down in the real world tasks of adulthood?

There are the lucky few who are well-published, successful, writing-is-my-life-AND-my-job types. But what about the rest of us? What about those of us buried beneath a mountain of dirty laundry, overdue projects, and what have you? What about those of us scrambling to hold down multiple jobs, or to take care of multiple kids, or are just struggling to make ends meet or to hold OURSELVES together?

I think, honestly, you’ve still got to ask yourself, “Am I a writer?”

Is writing something you think about every day? Do you long for five minutes to yourself to…

If the answer is yes, then my next question is this, “What are you willing to give up?”

Because, the truth of the matter is, you’re going to have to sacrifice something. Every successful writer you’ve ever heard of put blood, sweat, and tears into their work. Every unsuccessful writer has done the same. It’s a requirement of the brotherhood (or sisterhood, as it were) that you suffer for your art. Because, the fact is, unless you’re willing to give something else up, then you’re never going to find time for your writing.

I came to this conclusion in the fall of 2014, after having spent four years as a stay-at-home mom. My three children were four, two and a half, and just under six months old. They were all equal parts needy, irritating, lovely, and adorable. But I missed having something more, I missed exploring worlds of my own creation, of building characters and stories beyond the one I was living. So, I made the decision to join the 365K club, a group of writers attempting to write a thousand words EVERY DAY for the following year. It’s not that I didn’t want to enjoy the time that I had with my kids while they were little, or that I didn’t appreciate the fact that I got to be at home with them, or that I didn’t cherish witnessing their precious childhood moments.

I just wanted to write. I wanted to try, anyway. Besides the fact that I believe you often cherish your kids more if you don’t spend EVERY WAKING MINUTE with them, I wanted to look back at that year and feel that I had achieved something, that I had lived out my passion…at least for a year. The biggest question, then, was how?

How was I going to make the time to do this thing?

Katharine Grubb, a brilliant writer, and friend has a great method of writing for 10 minutes a day to work towards your goal. However, the key to this method and most methods is choosing WHICH ten minutes a day. For me, I am not Ann Voskamp and refuse point blank any waking up before dawn nonsense. I am almost certainly a vampire, and late at night is when I jam. However, you are a different person, with a different schedule and a different household.

So you have to decide- what are you going to sacrifice? What are you going to give up, to find that precious ten-twenty minutes a day? 

TIP ONE: Choose Your Sacrifice

  1. Give up other forms of entertainment: That hour you spend catching up on a favorite TV show, scrolling through Facebook or Youtube, reading a trashy novel- all of those should be the first things you consider giving up in order to get in a daily writing session.
  1. Write during your lunch break: Before I had kids, whenever I was at work, the best way to find time was during my lunch break, when I would isolate myself somewhere nice so I could eat and read (in this case, write!) in peace. The nearest bench or spot of grass did marvelously for me in the summer, and in the winter I would try and find a lonely booth to plop down in at a mostly empty McDonalds or Chipotle. In case you doubt this as an effective method, never forget that JK Rowling wrote a lot of her story down on napkins in a diner (so I’m told). If you can eat with one hand, then you can write with the other. After kids, I still stole time at lunch. Often I could give the kids lunch, and work at a nearby desk while they ate.
  1. Use your commute: As long as you don’t get motion sick, writing while on the train or the bus can be a great solution. I can’t vouch for this, as I don’t commute anywhere, but anytime my husband has to write he will do it on the train to and from work. If you drive to and from work, you’ll have to find another time, but listening to books on audible might help to inspire you still.
  1. Give up your clean house: Let’s be real- being a bit messier will not kill you, and it will give you time to write if you vacuum once a week (or, you know, once a month, which is how I roll) instead of every day. I am not opposed to leaving mountains of dishes if it means that a blog post was finished.
  1. Give up a little sleep: This is personally not my favorite way to make time, but if getting up early or going to bed late is the only way, then do it. If I had to take this route, I went to bed late and drank a crapload of coffee the next day.

 

Let’s imagine then, that you’ve set your alarm, gotten up half an hour early, and are just about to start drafting a blog post or a new chapter when the children barge in demanding to be fed. What do you do if you have other people living with you that tend to constantly interrupt you? (I’m talking about children, but I’ve known roommates and spouses that do this too.)

I found that the best bet to getting your time to be YOUR time is to make sure these other folks are busy.

TIP TWO: Occupy the Others.

  1. Turn on a show: Now before you get up in arms, one episode of a television program will NOT rot a child’s brains. Remember, we’re talking about finding just ten-twenty minutes per day to write. Even the most highly active children can usually sit still for ONE episode of something they really like. I would highly recommend this tactic for the interrupting spouse or roommate as well.
  1. Give Them an Alternate Activity: Again, most kids (and adults) will sit still for 20-30 minutes doing an arts and crafts project. Play dough, watercolors, chalk, whatever- everyone likes that stuff. For those less inclined to cleaning up a giant mess afterward, you can have them play in their room for 20 minutes. For the younger kids, you can put them in a playpen or pack-and-play with a ton of toys and set a timer, then work on the couch nearby. You can even put your kids in the tub and sit on the bathroom rug typing if you have to. No matter what activity it is, if the interrupters are occupied (and safe!) that will give you the time you need.
  1. Give Them Food: No matter young or old, if you give someone food, they will most likely leave you alone for ten minutes. I’ve already mentioned lunchtime as an opportunity, but what about for younger kids? Well, for those toddlers eating solid foods, I have (on the advice of a good friend) put them in a high chair with cheerios or frozen peas while I worked at the nearby kitchen table. What about if you’re nursing? My friend, if you have a nursing pillow, and enough desperation to finish a sentence, you can type with one hand. I know, cause I’ve done it.
  1. Make Them Take a Nap: Naptime is a golden time to get a lot of stuff done. Instead of getting the house clean, why not work towards your word count? Also, it’s okay to encourage your spouse/partner to take afternoon naps (because who’s gonna turn down a nap, really) or to let him/her go to bed before you. More time for writing!

With all of these things in mind, there are a couple last things I want to say. I mentioned at the beginning taking on the 365K challenge for the 2015 year. I didn’t meet that goal. I didn’t meet it in 2016 either, and I didn’t sign up for it this year. But, you know what I did do? I wrote. I wrote almost every day, which is something that hadn’t happened for a long time. One thing I didn’t do: give up time with my loved ones. This is something you should NEVER give up. Well, okay, maybe if you’re about to publish and need to edit your final draft you can hide in a closet typing for three days. But don’t do this too often. Because your family and friends are your support system. They bring you joy and anguish, but they are the ones that are there to help you keep going when the going gets tough. And, at least for me, that’s more important than even writing.

So, there you have it. Find time to write, even with toddlers in tow. Go for it.


“In my mind, when I call myself a domestic engineer, what I mean is that I am “arranging, managing, or carrying through by skillful or artful contrivance” the management of my 3 children and the piles of dirty dishes and laundry that seem to accumulate in every corner of my house.” Emily lives in Boston, Massachusetts, and blogs at domesticengineering301.wordpress.com.

Eleven Truths I Learn When I Delegate Responsibility

If I didn’t delegate my household chores, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.

To delegate responsibility means to give a task to someone else. In a way, by allowing someone else to do something, you’ve doubled your efficiency. (I have five kids. This means I can do a lot more than double mine!) To delegate means more than just getting more work done. Delegating also brings people closer.

11 Truths I Learn When I Delegate Responsibility by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve learned since I’ve chosen to delegate my household tasks. Here are a few:

Trust builds relationships. When you hand off a job, and allow someone to work for you, you’re saying, “I trust you. Show me what you can do.” Around the house, the stakes are low, so it can be easy to build trust. (I don’t suggest you take this approach with an inexperienced electrician.) Ideally, a volunteer with a job to do will be grateful for that trust. I believe, that given the right situation, they will rise to the occasion and do well because of that trust. With the completion of the job, the bond between the two parties strengthens. This is how teams are build. The joy that can come out of good relationships is far more valuable than the completion of the task.

People are more important than tasks. It is easy to get so wrapped up in the job that needs to be done, that you snap at others. A bad manager will be overly critical or shame workers. Often, this communicates to them that they are unimportant or replaceable. In your delegation, stop and consider how you can communicate to your volunteers that they are valuable regardless of what they contribute. This feeling of acceptance will help insure that they will want to help again.

“If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to learn to delegate.” 

—  Richard Branson

By giving someone something to do, you’re inviting them in on your mission. Of all the reasons to delegate responsibility, this is the best. “Do you want to help?” is a question that, if asked correctly, can be an invitation. The reward for saying, “Sure!” should be shared thanks, credit for a generous contribution and satisfaction for a job well done. When my children were small, I tried to use the word, “blessing” when it came to doing chores around the house. “It blesses me when you pick up your toys.” Or, “when you ask to help, it’s a huge blessing.” Or, “who wants the blessing of doing something for the house?” I wanted to communicate to them that sharing responsibility was a good thing. To this day, they do their chores cheerfully. They are still on mission with me and receive the full reward of it.

People learn by doing. All the verbal instructions in the world can’t substitute for holding something in your hands. If I’ve learned anything in my years as a homeschooling mother, it’s that learners need to see processes and instructions a variety of ways before it clicks. Some are quicker learners than others. A good teacher will be happy to demonstrate, explain and review. Agreed, it does take time to do this well. But this little investment of time can pay off big later. If you delegate responsibility, you’re taking advantage of a teachable moment.

“The inability to delegate is one of the biggest problems I see with managers at all levels.”

— Eli Broad

Few mistakes are fatal. If I am really honest, then I have to admit my tasks are not life-threatening. If they don’t get done, the worst could be is that we’re inconvenienced. I need to communicate this to my helpers. They need to know that I value them, I value their contribution, but their mistakes are rarely upsetting. If a mistake is a critical one, then I try to handle it calmly and reassuringly. I don’t want any mistake they make to taint our relationship.

Others may have a better solutions than I do. Little kills a spirit more than squashed creativity. I’d love for my helpers to come up with good, creative solutions for the tasks I give them. I always retain veto power, but by letting them have a chance to create, I’m demonstrating trust and good will. They may show me ways to change how I do things.

“No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.”

— Andrew Carnegie

 I need to separate myself from the task at hand. After good instruction and proper tools, I need my helper to feel free to be themselves in the task. I need them to be confident in the job. I believe the more freedom they feel, the better they’ll be. Even if they mess up, I want them to see the whole task as a positive experience so they’ll be willing to help me again. I believe that my separating myself from the task supports this.

Short term tasks are rarely as important as long term vision. I want my kids to participate in the household responsibilities cheerfully, but more importantly I want them to always feel like they are loved unconditionally by me. This means that I can’t risk losing my cool with them over their mistakes and negligence. I do confront it. I do correct it. But I don’t say hurtful things that might damage our relationship for the future. Short term tasks are important, but certainly not the most important. 

 “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.

— George S. Patton

I have it in me to fire others. Sadly, I’ve had to pull people aside and give them a good talking to. Sometimes they haven’t responded well. Sometimes I’ve had to let others go. This is not something I enjoy. Despite my hard work to be diplomatic and gentle, I don’t like firing people, especially volunteers. But I’m very proud of the fact I can do it.

 I really do need others. I’d love to think that all of my accomplishments are mine alone. No, I’ve had lots of help. Because I chose to delegate some of my responsibilities to willing parties, I’ve come to love them more deeply. I need them not just for the tasks at hand. Others encourage me when I am down. I need to do the same for them.  We are bigger than the sum or our parts. If I played the Lone Ranger game with my life, I’d be pretty miserable.

“I don’t have a problem with delegation. I love to delegate. I am either lazy enough, or busy enough, or trusting enough, or congenial enough, that the notion leaving tasks in someone else’s lap doesn’t just sound wise to me, it sounds attractive.”

–John Ortberg

Efficiency is a poor teacher. Sure, I can always do things faster myself. But that doesn’t teach anyone anything except to get out of my way. It’s far better for me to guide my teams now, teaching them as I go. When they get the hang of it, I’ll have someone to do work for me. I’ll have gained a lot more in the long run.

I’ll need to work myself out of a job one day. This is especially true with children. By asking them to take responsibilities around the house they are gaining practice for adulthood. They are learning more and more about how to function in the world. Someday they’ll have to make their own meals and do their own laundry. That transition is hard enough, by having skills, at least it will be easier.

I want my people to go on without me. If I do all the work and never allow them the chance to work, then that makes me irreplaceable. While I do want to be irreplaceable in their hearts, I don’t want to render my survivors helpless. If they share in the responsibilities then when I’m gone, temporarily or permanently, they’ll be able to function. I want this for them. I want my purposes to last.

“The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then guide the horse with loose reins and seldom use the spurs.”


– Sandra Day O’Connor

Everyone should share in the glory of a task. I like it when my kids beam when I say, “I couldn’t do it without them.” This glory basking is a sweet thing to share. I want their team experiences to be pleasant ones. Taking all the credit is a pretty lonely task. I’ve found it only feels good for a second. But sharing credit sows seeds of goodwill that will reap big rewards later.

Micro-managing doesn’t suit me. I feel icky when I constantly correct someone in how they’re doing something for me. I them to volunteer to do it again, so I feel like micromanaging what they do tells them that I don’t want them back. If I micro-manage, I tend to slip into neurosis and I’ve never thought this was an attractive look. Whenever the urge to micro-manage strikes, I try to step back and remind myself that the relationship I have with this person is more important than any detail.

I have five children and live in a modest home.

I have lots of other responsibilities and goals. Because I chose to delegate tasks to them, I not only have met my personal and professional goals, but I’ve also seen them grow into responsible teens and pre-teens. I’ve learned much about the value of delegating. As my children grow and move away, I’m taking these same lessons into other parts of my life and seeing similar success.

By delegating my responsibility, I have become more efficient with my to-do list.

But, in truth, my team has given me much more  than a list that says “Done.”

Top 10 Ways To Beat Insecurity (At Least Temporarily!)

We are insecure for a lot of reasons.

We’re insecure because we probably have artistic temperaments that makes us feel deeply. We overthink and over analyze. We find it’s easier to dwell on what it negative in our life rather than what is positive. We may have lived in environments in which confidence and boldness was discouraged and despair was fertilized with lies and fear. We may lack skills. We may fear failure. We may long for approval and we know it’s hard to achieve it anywhere, much less in this field. We’ve been burned before. The last person who read our work was mean or hateful or didn’t get us. We’re  bound too tightly to the failures of yesterday. We speak a lot of negative words to ourselves. We compare others’ highlight reel to our bloopers. We are so aware of our weaknesses that we can’t comprehend that we have strengths. We’re too worried about what others think.

This insecurity is a poison.

It can seep into our lives, into our motivations, and into the words that we put together. This poison can infect our subconscious, our thoughts, and our habits. It has a paralysis that freezes all of our dreams. It’s a hallucinogen that creates ravenous monsters  that devour our hopes in one bite. It’s contagious. You can be given this pestilence by someone else with their disapproving looks, their snide comments, and their general disrespect of you.

You know how unattractive insecurity is in your friends or your romantic interests  Just think about how you’re coming across to others if you’re insecure about your writing?

Top 10 Ways To Beat Insecurity (At Least Temporarily!)

 

Here are my Top 10 easy fixes for some short term relief from insecurity. The long term fixes my need bigger guns! 

1. Practice writing. You will get better with practice. Set a word count goal or set a time limit, even ten minutes will do, and put in your effort to get better. Strengthen those writing muscles with daily workouts, even a small one.

2. Read. Read books by authors that you would love to be compared to. Study what they are doing. Look for things that you know you can do like them, like character development or dialogue. Look for things that inspire you and analyze why it moves you so.

3. Take time alone. Get away, even for a few minutes, from any people or environment that is not completely supportive.

4. Practice positive self talk. This is tough and it takes practice. Write down truths about who you are.

5. Make a list of things that you are really good at. They don’t have to be writing related. But these are your strengths. And you should be proud of these.

6. Make a list of your accomplishments. Big or small. Things that you did that were hard and you succeeded at. These things should make you hold your head up high.

7. Go for a walk. Or exercise in some way. Exercise releases endorphines and those will make you feel better about yourself. My therapist said that 20 minutes of exercise is worth one dose of Prozac. I totally love this.

8. Write down personal goals. Make them small and measurable. Something for the day, something for the week. Something for the month. And then work toward those goals. Then reward yourself for meeting them.

9.Identify the toxic, discouraging people in your life and do your best to remove yourself from them. This is not easy, but emotional and verbal abuse can wear on your self esteem and wear you down. Stay with healthier people. This means weird, clingy girlfriends. 

10. Eat well. Without getting militant about it, you will feel better and have a better emotional health if you minimize processed foods.

Want more? Stay hydrated. Limit stimulants. Get enough sleep.  Write about why you want to be a writer. What prompted this goal in the first place. Join a writers group. Like 10 Minute Novelists. See a therapist. Seek spiritual help.

Now all of these are practical steps. But this is not a complete list.

You’ll be a better writer and a better person if you’re secure. 

 

 

 

Top 10 Ways To Love Yourself When You’re Sick

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

You know when you’re playing Wii Golf and you hit the ball way to hard? That was the noise I heard in my ear whenever I blew my nose.

I didn’t have the flu, a sinus infection, an ear infection or bronchitis.  I didn’t have the fever to warrant antibiotics and I didn’t have enough symptoms to make even a trip to the ER worth it. I knew they’d say, “yup, your ears are stuffed up”.  I knew that the treatment would be a combination of Mucinex and Benadryl and Motrin for pain and rest. Lots of fluids.

This stupid virus was interfering with my life! I had plans! Big plans! I was spending over an hour every day on the treadmill. I was writing 1000 words a day in addition to  leading the fastest growing writers’ group on Facebook. I was marketing my new release. I was homeschooling 5 children. I couldn’t afford to be sick.

And for a moment or two there, I thought I had let myself down. I can’t meet my goals if I’m sick. 

 

It’s hard to go from Super Mom mode to snothead. It’s hard to decide that you just don’t have the energy to write today.  It’s hard to realize that the Benadryl is making it way too difficult to do anything but watch The Lego Movie for the millionth time.  It’s also easy to slip into self pity when you’re confident that the amount of stuff that’s come out of your nose is way more than the volume your nasal cavity can hold.

I should have taken the opportunity to be kind to myself.should have said this: Just rest. Just close your eyes. Just think about something else. Don’t think about the things that are not getting done. Don’t think that your book will not be marketed properly because you coughed up three lungs today. Don’t worry about it.

 I should have fought against the self condemnation in the same way that antibiotics would have fought off an infection. If someone around me couldn’t fulfill their obligation to me because they were sick, wouldn’t I have grace for them? Why don’t I have grace for myself?

I know why. Or at least I know partly why. I know that my mother never reduced my workload when I was sick. I was taught to tough it out. I was taught to shut up and get over it because there was work to do. I was taught that sickness was for the weak. All I’m doing this for is attention. If I had been working harder, I would have never been sick.

I need to change my thinking. I need to learn to love myself. 

Top 10 (28)

  1. Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Pushing myself mentally or physically when I am sick is rarely a good idea. I need to stop comparing the productivity an on fire good day to a wiped out sick day and just enjoy the extra sleep. 
  2. Take cues from your body and your family. If any of us is physically down, then a change must be made. As the mom, I need to figure it out. I’d be the first one in my family to send them to bed if they’re sick, I need to be just as bossy with myself. 
  3. Stick to a schedule, a survival life schedule. This means eating regularly, sleeping regularly, spending the minimal amounts of time doing the basics. Even one load of laundry a day, when you are sick, will keep the mountain from growing in the laundry room. 
  4. Get back to the basics. Enough sleep, water, right food etc. I have a mental list of what Survival Life looks like. This means the most basic of hygiene, the simplest of meals, the past of least resistance in everything I do. When I’m sick, I need to just default to this setting and live with it. 
  5. Lower your expectations. When I am sick, I need to just set the bar on the floor and try to step over it. I also need to not beat myself up for this, listen to negative thinking or feel the least bit guilty. 
  6. Celebrate what you can do.  Get the whole family cheering when you can take a shower without passing out or eat a simple meal without losing it. 
  7. Don’t compare yourself to others. This is great advice for all of life, but when you’re already weak, it’s even more of a bad idea to look beside you. Someone will have it better than you: their kids vomit in the toilet instead of the bed. But then, someone will have it worse: it’s not the flu, it’s Lyme disease! This division of mind will never be productive if you are trying to recover. Just don’t do it. 
  8. Ask for help. Delegate responsibilities. Ask to move the deadline. There is grace in this season. Regardless of how humiliating it feels at times to ask for help, you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask kids, in-laws, neighbors, or anyone within reach to ease your life just a bit while you’re down. 
  9. Say no. This should be a no-brainer, but somehow we believe that we have to say yes, even when we don’t have the strength. While you’re sick, make sure that you have steadfast boundaries with those around you. 
  10. Think positive thoughts. Generally speaking, most minor illnesses go away in time. Keep it in perspective. You can catch up on reading, you can buy a new coloring book, you can finally get the rest you need. 

There is no shame in being sick. There is however, a lot of shame in not believing that you’re worth the effort of self-care. Maybe I’ll learn my lesson and be a better patient next time. 

Now, to print this and paste it next to the Mucinex and Benadryl.

How about you? What do you to care for yourself when you’re sick and weak? What else can be added to the list? 

Top 10 Ways Good Marketing Is Like Good Parenting by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist and Mother of Five

 

Becoming an author is like becoming a parent. 

The writing of the book, was the pregnancy. You conceived the idea in a romantic, intimate moment.

You developed it secretly in the dark. You wrote while stuffing your face with all kinds of snacks. You tried to explain your characters and your plot to others and they just didn’t understand. And the length of the ms got bigger and bigger. And you wondered will I ever get this done? Will I be waiting for the arrival forever? 

And the big day comes!

You get your little bundle of joy from Createspace or some other expert labor and delivery establishment! You count all of the pages to make sure that it is all there!  You think that your book is the most beautiful and the most amazing thing that was ever created! And you tell all your friends! You post it on Facebook! There has never been a book before this book! No one will be a better author than you!

And then the novelty is over.

The well wishers have bought their copies. You realize that you’re the one up all night with the little buggar. You second guess yourself, are you the best marketer you could be? Amazon Kindle sales are nice but the reviews aren’t as complete as you’d like. The sales are only trickles. You thought that perhaps something significant would happen now, something bigger? The blues come on you and you don’t know what to do. One star reviews smell like dirty diapers. Rejection letters are the mean toddlers who throw sand on the play date. And then there’s that other author close to you who says, “I would never do that to my book! What are you thinking? What kind of an author are you?”

This metaphor can go on forever. 

Just like parenting, we often don’t know what we’re doing when it comes to marketing our books. Just like parenting, we read good advice and we try it, but it doesn’t always work for us. Just like parenting, we have great aspirations, but sometimes we get caught up in our own inadequacies and our own faults. Sometimes the frustration of knowing what is best for us is overwhelming.

Like parenting, if we are going to market our books, we kind of have to figure it out as we go. 

Top 10 Ways Good Marketing is Like Good Parenting by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

1. A good parent does what they can when they can. You don’t fill out college applications the day after coming home from the hospital. A good marketer understands that there are seasons for their book, look at the process in the long term and gives themselves grace.

2. A good parent has low expectations. A first time author should have them too. I haven’t  met a mother of a toddler yet that  didn’t. If you’re a first time author, understand that you won’t sell thousands of books. That’s okay. You’ve got your future ahead of you.

3. A good parent attends to the basics automatically. For a parent, that means having baby fed, washed, nurtured and well rested. For an author, that means having the manuscript well-written, well-edited, well-covered, and accessible to readers on the most basic of platforms, like Kindle direct. As your platform and skill set grows, your accomplishments will too.

4. A good parent doesn’t compare their kid or their style to another parent’s child or style. A good book marketer doesn’t either. What works well for your friend’s book, Amish Zombie Princesses won’t work for your book, Lint Art for the Lonely.  Like parenting, our marketing journey is a personal one and we have to choose what’s best for us and not judge others’ choices.

5. A good parent knows parenting is a game of inches. Children don’t master good manners in one lesson. It takes years. Authors who market should understand this too. A first book gains a few readers, the next book gains more. This game — parenting and marketing — is not for the impatient.

6. A good parent uses their community. Who hasn’t asked a friend, neighbor or family member to watch a child? What parent hasn’t depended on a social group to help them out? Authors need community too. If nothing else, an author’s community can encourage him, help promote, help fine tune and show how things can be done.

7. A good parent manages their time the best they can. They have an understanding of what must be done and figures out ways to get it done. A marketing author does this too. The engage with their readers without being too distracted. They delegate. They learn how much they can do in 10 minute increments.

8. A good parent takes reasonable risks. They want their children to stretch themselves, try new things and grow. A good marketer does this too. They aren’t afraid of speaking to the librarian at their local branch or calling the local paper. Both parent and marketing author knows you never know what great thing could happen if you try!

9. A good parent knows the “rules” but makes them work for their situation. A good marketing author does too. They’ve read marketing blogs, they understand generosity, they’ve taken great notes. Then they get good ideas and apply the principles their way.

10. A good parents sees the differences in their children and nurtures them accordingly. A good author may also see that each of their books opens doors that the other one can’t. They also aren’t afraid to learn from their mistakes and do better with children and books this time around.

Authors should take another lesson from parents — just because you do everything “right” doesn’t mean that there are guarantees. Parenting is fraught with heartbreak, disappointment, pain and expense. But then, it’s awesome and joyful and exhilarating.

But like parenting, marketing will take hard work, trial and error, risk-taking, expenses, time, energy, possible humiliation, disappointment, regret, sleepless nights, and the list is endless.

So are you a good parent/marketer?  What other similarities do you see? What has parenting taught you about marketing?

Top 10 Signs That You May Be A 10 Minute Novelist by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Are Your Big Writing Dreams Worth Finding the Time?

Writing a novel takes hard work. It takes order. It takes discipline and planning. It takes courage and determination and tenacity. Anyone can do it, even if they have only ten minutes a day. (How do I know this? I wrote a novel in ten minute increments. Hence the name of this blog!)

I am a 10 Minute Novelist and I Have Amazing Friends
I am a 10 Minute Novelist and I Have Amazing Friends

Sometimes we think that we also need long, uninterrupted hours, an isolated cabin in the woods, a whiskey habit and a carton of Marlboros to be a writer too. But we don’t. Sometimes we need to stop thinking about how much different our life is from the idealized writer life is and just do what we can. We may have been in the habit of thinking that we can’t write at all unless conditions are perfect, the kids are more cooperative and inspiration strikes.

But I’m here to tell you that there are no such things as perfect conditions for writing.

There are, however, writers out there who make the most of what they do have and accomplish their dreams in less than ideal increments. I call these folks 10 Minute Novelists. 
Great gifts for writers
Mug says, “In the time it takes to drink this coffee, you could have written 300 words.”

Are you a 10 Minute Novelist? Ask yourself these questions and see!

1. The baby wakes you at 4:30 and after you settle him back down, your first thought is “How many words can I get in before the whole family wakes up?”

2. While watching a crime show, a prosecutor mentions “solitary!” Your first thought? Solitary confinement? That sounds heavenly! I could get so much done there!

3. You’ve said to yourself “one of these days, when I have the time, I’ll get that book written!” Except that you’ve said it so many times no one believes you.

4. You treasure time alone in the bathroom to collect your thoughts and you may have a notebook and pen stashed somewhere just in case you get inspired.

Why can't I write?
That hashtag? That’s our Weekly Chat on Twitter! Join us!

5. Whenever you hear someone say they wrote 3000 words in one day, your first thought isn’t “good for you” your first thought is, “will they press charges if I slap them?”

6. There’s an inch of dust on your laptop.

7. You think that real writers have sprawling desks, live in isolated cabins, chain smoke, drink themselves silly, wear a lot of black and possibly own several cats. Then you decide, well no wonder they write so much, no one could stand to be near them!

8. If you’re honest with yourself, you think that your dreams are selfish. That your responsibilities are far more important and lofty than any silly, childish fantasy. That the desire to write a book is nothing but a vain attempt of mortality. And then you don’t know why you’re so sad.

9. You’ve watched Two And A Half Men and thought more than once, “I could write better dialogue in my sleep!”

10 Somebody once told you that you had talent, but you’ve never found a way to express yourself in writing. And that kind of bugs you. And you don’t know where to begin. Click this to find out how to squeeze in ten minutes to pursue those dreams of yours! 

If any of these are true about you then you may be a 10 Minute Novelists. That means that you are time-crunched writer with big, big dreams.

Join our Facebook group to meet hundreds of writers from all over the world who are just like you. This is such a cool place to hang out, that Writer’s Digest named us one of the best websites for writers in 2016. Many of us are just starting out on our writing adventures. Some of us are very experienced. Some of us have book deals and agents. All of us though know what it’s like to squeeze writing goals around a busy life. Want to start finding an extra 10 minutes today? Here’s how!

Your dreams are worth 10 Minutes. Find them. Put down some words.

Be amazing!

Top 10 Things I Do On A Daily Basis That Make Me More Productive by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

I am NOT perfect. I make a LOT of mistakes, but one of the biggest things I did right was decide that I would make time for my dreams.

(I wrote a book about it too! Look over there on the right!) 

I realized that if I was going to actually write in 10 minute increments, I would have to organize my life. Now, I’ve been doing this 10 Minute Writer/Novelists gig for nine years, so I’ve streamlined my procedures pretty well (and THANK GOD, my kids are older!)

But I still have 10 Things I think about on a daily basis that makes my organization and productivity possible.

Top 10 Things I Think About On A Daily Basis That Make Me More Productive by Katharine Grubb

 

1. I know where everything is.  I minimize clutter, assign places for everything and have no trouble throwing things away. Need help with this? Check these top ten blogs for organizing! 

2. I have a plan every day. Most of the time I keep it in my head — but I also write lists and keep a calendar. I’ve also discovered that daily schedules have to be flexible, especially as my family’s needs change. Passion Planner has the coolest free stuff for people who want to keep lists too! 

3. I know how long each task should take me. I figured this out when I was devoting my housework to 10 minute increments. Ten minute tasks include: starting a load of laundry, folding one basket of clothes, starting  meal prep, cleaning the bathroom, emptying the dishwasher, emptying all trash bins, vacuuming one floor of the house. Having this information helps my plan my day. I owe one person for this method. I love you, Flylady! 

4. I communicate my time needs to my family. I started training my children when they were young that I would need 10 minute increments to work. Generally speaking, they understood it. Now that they’re older, they have no trouble respecting my need for some alone time. Need a list from a great resource? Try this! 

5. I model good attitudes to my children regarding staying organized. This is the most important item on the list. If I whine and complain about anything I do, my children will, most assuredly echo me. If I want them to be happy cleaner-uppers, then I need to whistle while I work. It’s cheesy, but it works. Need a song? Try these! 

6. I set a lot of timers. Thank you Apple! My iPhone has what I need: alarms, timers, and world clocks to tell me if my friends in the UK are up to talk! Oh, I kid. I’ve now graduated from my microwave timer to my phone, which is better because my microwave didn’t fit in my pocket. How about this one? 

Great gifts for writers
Mug says, “In the time it takes to drink this coffee, you could have written 300 words.”

7. I plan my meals in advance. Generally speaking, I know what we’re going to eat every meal of the week. I also cook the same things every weekend. I love to be creative in the kitchen, but the “old standbys” go faster. I have a couple dozen recipes that I always have ingredients for and I’ve practiced cooking them so often, that I’m pretty fast at it. I also couldn’t function without my crock pot and rice cooker. Wanna go a little crazy? Try once a month cooking! 

8. I don’t waste time shopping or doing other errands. I keep orderly lists and go out as little as possible, combining as many errands as I can. If an item didn’t make the list, then it has to wait a week. It’s brutal, but that’s why we buy four gallons of milk at a time. I use this app to create my lists. 

9. I multitask if possible. I use down time to get stuff done, but I also understand when multi-tasking isn’t such a great plan. Like for all of these reasons. 

10. I delegate household tasks. This is my secret weapon. My kids have always had a lot of responsibility around the house and the older they get, the more jobs are given to them. Some people think having five children is hard work, are you kidding me? Because I do have five, I have an army that cleans the house every Saturday morning, tidies every afternoon and cleans the kitchen twice a day. How do small families do it?

 

All of these took practice, but none of them were too difficult. If you’re  new to the idea of working in 10 minute increments (and perhaps a little intimidated) pick one of the things on this list and practice it for a few weeks until you gain confidence. Then pick up the other one.

know you can find time to pursue your dreams.  Even in as little as 10 Minutes a Day!

Top 10 Things You Can Do When You Are Stuck, Either Literally or Figuratively

 

You’re stuck.

This post is exactly what you need, assuming you’re not so stuck that you can’t read a screen.

If you’re stuck figuratively in the writing of your novel and you need a clue on what to do next, this list is for you.

If you are stuck literally: you have gum in your hair, you’re dealing with Super Glue or you’ve driven into a ditch, I can help you there too.

I’ve got all kinds of unstuck solutions for you below. Why do this? Because bouncing back and forth between the literal and the figurative isn’t the least bit weird. 

Top 10 Things You Can Do When You Are Stuck, Either Figuratively or Literally

 

Figurative Stuck Tip #1:

Go back and remember the requirements of your genre.  So this is a romance? You need a misunderstanding. This is fantasy? There’s something magical in his pocket and he doesn’t know how it got there. This is science fiction? You just lost all your oxygen. Do something, fast, or everyone is dead! This is Young Adult? You’ve either been inspired by your favorite poet, you’ve written bad poetry that you want to share, you have to write a book report about a poet or your Emo sister thinks she’s Emily Dickinson. This is a mystery? Oh, someone needs to drop dead. Right here. Under mysterious circumstances. Even if it’s a red herring, do it anyway. My point is that sometimes we get too close to stories and we forget what we are trying to accomplish. If you go back to the “rules” you may be inspired.

Literal Stuck Tip #1:

If you get gum in your hair, rub it with coconut oil and then comb it out. Or you can try these other options from WikiHow.

Figurative Stuck Tip #2:

Have your character take a rest. Pull back a little. Let the main character sit down and eat or sleep or rest and rethink all of what their up to. Remind the reader the mission that’s at stake. Why? If you have a lot of drama, action or intense scenes, your main character needs a breather unless his name is Jack Bauer. He needs to process all the action and so does your reader. You can always cut this later, but you may find that this helps you see the big picture and give you an idea on what to do next.

Literal Stuck Tip #2:

Your crazy aunt has gotten into the Krazy Glue again, hasn’t she? When will you learn to keep it out of her reach? When will you learn how to unstick her fingers? The good folks at Krazy Glue have answers. Here’s a tip, don’t let the person with Krazy Glue on their fingers have access to the computer’s mouse.

Figurative Stuck Tip #3:  

You may need a good tornado to shake things up a bit in your story. Not seasonal? Not the right part of the country? Then an earthquake! A hurricane! A blizzard! A freak thunderstorm! And with every natural disaster you could have power outages, flash floods, injuries and deaths! Never underestimate the power of the earth to cause some great drama for your story!

Literal Stuck Tip #3:

Allstate Insurance apparently has had a few calls about this. So many that they apparently had to write a blog post about how to get your truck out of the mud. I suppose that’s helpful of them, but maybe you shouldn’t be driving in the mud to begin with? Oh, I get it. The flash flood from the previous paragraph did this! I swear this list is getting very dramatic!

Figurative Stuck Tip #4: 

Bring in your antagonist’s antagonist. Someone is out to get your bad guy. He’s a bad guy, he’s made an enemy or three, right? Your bad guy owes someone money. Your bad guy or gal is connected romantically with the wrong flirt. Your bad guy or gal is getting a little too big for his britches among the powers that be. This is a force that can stir up some interesting trouble in your story and maybe can be used for your protagonists advantage.

Literal Stuck Tip #4:

Let’s say you’re out camping and you wake up in the middle of the night needing to um, shake the dew off the lilies. But you can’t get your tent zipper open! It’s stuck! Perhaps in your camping gear, you packed any of these nine household items that can unstick a zipper. But keep in mind, that stuck zipper could be all that’s between you and bears. You may want to leave it stuck.

 

Figurative Stuck Tip #5: 

A innocent needs help and needs it right now, like say, she needs to tinkle and can’t get out of her tent. How better to demonstrate the virtue and goodness of your protagonist (and make him interesting and likable to your reader) than to put in in the way of someone who really needs help?  A small child. An unwed mother. A hurt puppy. Have your main character stop everything, because they have that streak of goodness in them, and possibly WD40, and help them. And in the middle of the helping of them, they realize the clock is ticking or opportunity is missed, or they dropped their gun or THEY SAW A BEAR something happens that will keep them from accomplishing their ultimate goal. They need to not only be delayed but also regret, even for just a minute, thinking about someone else when they needed to care for themselves.

Literal Stuck Tip #5:

You find it hard to swallow. I’m not talking about this literal/figurative list, I’m talking about actual food. This is a video that demonstrates how to administer the heimlich maneuver. People, slow down. Chew your food thoroughly!

Figurative Stuck Tip #6: 

Someone from your main character’s past shows up. The ex girlfriend/boyfriend, the one that he thought he was going to marry, shows up and has a really good reason to talk to our main character. Maybe she misses him. Maybe she’s changing her mind. Maybe she’s really a psycho who just likes toying with him. It almost doesn’t matter what genre you write, everyone has a past. Use it to mess up your character’s plans!

Literal Stuck Tip #6:

As a homeschooling mother of five, I have a lot of quick fixes to big problems. I’ve divided a candy bar into fifths and had five content children. I’ve explained all they needed to know about the facts of life, in a whisper, during a church service, in 7.5 seconds. I can make dinner for my large family in 15 minutes if everyone is out of my way, but I’m no MacGyver. You could do a lot worse in your literal stuckness than if you read this book and be prepared for anything. 

Figurative Stuck Tip #7: 

Your sidekick has second thoughts. Up until this point, your sidekick has been the person that your main character has depended on to keep going.  Kind of like Pete Thornton or Jack Dalton or Murdoc. Kinda.  But now the sidekick should get kicked to the side. Forget MacGyver, let’s think Hobbits! You know how in The Return of the King when Gollum tries to make it look like Sam at all the lambas bread and then lied about it? Frodo, understandably because he was a complete basket case at that point, kicks Sam to the curb and is willing to go on without him. Sam’s explanation is harder to swallow than lambas bread. And neither of them appear to know the heimlich maneuver. Of course, if this hadn’t happened, then Sam wouldn’t have been able to save Frodo’s sorry butt yet again, but this little bit of drama was awful. Can you set up a situation like that where your sidekick either disagrees with your main character, or speaks the truth when it’s not welcome or sees something your main character doesn’t see? This will add to your conflict beautifully, especially when sidekick comes up just at the right moment and saves the day.

Literal Stuck Tip #7.

If you are ever out fighting a Ringwraithe and you get stabbed by sorta dead king, it’s great to have an elf on your side to race you to Rivendell. And Kingsfoil. That helps too. I bet Arwen knows the heimlich maneuver just fine.  Yes, I realize that my literal stuck tips are getting kinda figurative. Here’s another tip: When you don’t know what to write about, throw in a hurt hobbit. 

Figurative Stuck Tip #8.

What is your story’s big finish going to look like? We all know that the big climactic moment is the doorway in which Act Two moves into Act Three, and you may or may not know what you have to do to get there. Why don’t you mentally jump ahead and list a few necessities. Like, what kind of trap will your hero have to be in? What kind of mutually exclusive choices will he have? What pressures will he have? What will the antagonist have at that moment to make life miserable? How can you get our hero out, without it making look too easy? Once you’ve answered these questions, work backward. (Here’s a hint: your reader has no idea in what order you wrote your scenes in!)

Literal Stuck Tip #8:

I’m a mother of five. That means that at some point, I had five toddlers. Sometimes more than one at a time. So when I say that you really need to know how to unstick a clogged toilet, I know what I’m talking about. This video can show you more. This is a serious life skill. I wonder what MacGyver has to say about this?

Figurative Stuck Tip #9:

Think Third Act. Even if you don’t have your climactic moment all sculpted out, ask yourself what do you want to accomplish? Every good ending is a permanent one that makes sense to the reader. What do you want your ending to be? If you can write out in a paragraph what you want from the ending, then you can think backward from this point too and try to see the steps necessary to put your protagonist in that situation. Your antagonist needs to be foiled. How will you foil him?

Literal Stuck Tip #9:

 Here’s a bunch of photos of unusual things stuck in unusual places. I have no idea how they got them unstuck, but I tell you what, this could be a great way to unstick your story.

Figurative Stuck Tip #10: 

In a couple hundred words or so, tell the story from the point of view of another character. This may give you fresh insight into the conflicts. It may reveal a misunderstanding or hidden motive. It may clarify something that’s been bugging you.

And the last Literal Stuck Tip #10:

All I need to say here is Don’t Do This. Any of this.

Being stuck can be state of mind. It can also be an issue of physics. Regardless of whether or not your stuckness is figurative or literal, your story may be helped one way or another with these tips.

What do you when you’re stuck? And please, this is a family friendly site. Thank you for not telling me everything.  

Top 10 Questions To Ask About Authority Figures That Could Beef Up Your Conflict by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

I may know a thing or two about conflict: I have three teenagers.

Conflict is really great in stories, it raises the stakes, it drives characters and it makes the story more interesting. In life, I could do without it.

I’m the mom, so I have something besides gray hair and tax files that my kids don’t have: I have authority. I have more power, more wisdom, more responsibility and more invested in them than they do. (Note: I didn’t say more money. They have more money than I do.) A regular source of our conflict is them lamenting the fact that they have less. And they want more. It’s this imbalance of more/less that I’ve noticed in a lot of relationships. This is the stuff of conflict. I’d like to suggest the more we analyze it in our fiction, the richer our story’s conflict will be.

Top 10 Questions To Ask About The Authority Figures In Your Story That Could Beef Up Your Conflict by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Understanding the nature of the authorities in your fiction will help you define your characters, it will beef up your conflict and it will clarify your antagonists. Your main character has less. The authority figure has more. As you are planning how your main character can get in and out of trouble, consider how this imbalance can build and sustain your conflict.

Regardless of whether or not this relationship is a formal or an informal one, the person or institution with more is the one with the authority. I am the parent, so I have more maturity, more power and more responsibility over my children. The local police department has more power and responsibility, so they are the authority when it comes to traffic laws. Your boss could have more influence and seniority. Your elderly parents may have more money. An authority figure can have more wisdom, more age, more experience, more power, more and they use that more to try to control our protagonist.

Use these ten questions to analyze the imbalance between your protagonist and your antagonist to make your conflicts more interesting.

1. What expectations does your authority figures have of your protagonist? The greater number of expectations, the greater the imbalance of power, the more potential for conflict. Consider having your authority figures demand more from your main characters — this will create more sympathy from your reader and a sense of justice will be a bigger drive.

2. How well does your authority figure communicate these expectations? The more unclear or cloudy that communication is, the greater your conflict! Consider shaping your antagonists personality in such a way that they are poor communicators, they give mixed messages or they set your protagonist up to fail.

3. How does your authority figure demonstrate inconsistency with their expectations? This falls into the classic “do as I say, not as I do” mindset. If you have an inconsistent authority figure, your protagonist may face a moral dilemma, which can add depth and meaning to your story.

MOM! Really? Can we? No? But MOM!
MOM! Really? Can we? No? But MOM!

4. How much empathy does your authority figure demonstrate to those who are under him? A more empathetic antagonist will encourage sympathy from your reader — not such a bad thing. A less empathetic antagonist will make the evil villain even more obvious. Think of empathy as the dial on your antagonist that makes things more or less fuzzy. If you want your reader to really wonder who to root for, make your authority figures more empathetic. If you want your reader to only root for your protagonist, then make your authority figures cold and unfeeling.

5. How does your authority figure react emotionally when their authority is threatened or the rules are broken or expectations are not met? Do they yell and scream? Are they quiet and unresponsive? Do they manipulate circumstances to make them pay? The more surprising their emotional response, the more interesting the story. You may even consider making a list of all the things the emotionally distant father could do when he finds out is son is in jail, then choose the most unexpected result.

6. Is your authority figure someone that your main character has chosen or is it someone who is just put in their life? This distinction will make a huge difference in the way that your authority figure is viewed and respected. Parents are not chosen, so the teens under their authority have to live with the authority whether they like it or not. (Ahem.) An employee, however, has chosen the authority figures in their lives. If they don’t like the situation, they can always quit. Or put another way, how much power does your main character have in this position? The less power they have, the more potential for conflict, the better your story.

7. Does your authority figures have authority figures over them? This can also add to your conflict. Let’s say your main character’s boss is a softie: they look the other way when main character comes in late. Yet, the CEO of the company finds out that boss isn’t doing their job. This conflict trickles down to main character and creates conflict. Examine your authority figures in your story and ask yourself, who do they have to please? Who has power over them? How can this create trickle down conflict?

8. Does your setting create new levels of authority that contemporary life doesn’t have? For example, your 16-year-old heroine in 2016 has far less authority in her life than a 16-year-old heroine in 1916. In your research, make a list of authority figures your setting will demand. Specifically list how this affects the life of your main character. Use this list to create conflict.

9. Do the authority figures in your story want more authority than they are entitled to? Your main character’s landlord already has an expectation of rent and respect of his property, what if he wants to enter the house without knocking? What if he parks his car in the driveway? What if he wants our main character, the tenant, to hide stolen goods? By increasing your authority figure’s expectations to the unreasonable or unexpected, you can create new levels of conflict and that can enrich your story.

10. How does your authority figure react when they lose their authority? Our main character quits his job so his psychopathic boss can’t harass him anymore — unless he follows him home. If your antagonist goes beyond the expectations of his authoritative position, this can add elements of surprise and drama to your story. More conflict!!

If I’m having conflict in my house, I can almost always bet it’s an issue of authority.

If I’m having conflict in my stories, (which I want!) the first and best place to look is in the relationship with authorities. So give your authorities more attention, you may be pleased with the results.

 


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

How To Write In 10 Minute Increments The Messy Way

My timer and I have a love/hate relationship. 

Ever since I started calling myself the 10 Minute Writer, back in 2006, I’ve realized that either I’m racing against the timer, or the timer haunts me for my lack of skill and speed. 

Let's Write (1)

During the first minute, it’s like priming the pump, I just write words, any kind of words.

During the second minute I may think of a metaphor and I get it down quickly. The third minute could be a silly stretch of the metaphor (I always want to stretch my metaphors as far as they can go). And my fourth minute is the second guessing of that metaphor and perhaps where I slip into my frequent neurosis about the original idea and I may check the time to see how much I have left. And the fifth minute I wonder if I’ve got anything else left to say. And the sixth minute is remembering what I’m going to do after this is over. And the seventh minute is a reminder to myself  that hey, at least this smattering of words is something. (And something is always better than nothing!) And the eighth minute is rereading everything I’ve written so far and resisting the temptation to waste my time editing. And the ninth minute I wrestle with more self-doubt. Or maybe I remember the puzzle pieces of a quote I’m going to have to look up. I don’t want to waste time on that yet.  And the tenth minute, of course, I’m inspired because I have an new take on the idea and just about the time that I realize that I can make some sense of this idea, the timer dings and I get to make a choice. Do I go back to the housework or the to-do list, or do I reset my timer? Today I’m going to go to the housework.

Enough 10 minute segments like that and eventually I’ll have something worth editing. And even that happens in 10 minute increments. 

I must keep writing in any increment of time. I must keep putting the words down. I can’t be afraid of stream of consciousness or a brain spew.

Because of this method, I’ve learned to write faster. I’ve learned to ignore the self-editor. I’ve learned to plan my non-writing time effectively so I can make the most of this time.

Do you need help writing in short spurts? 

Try this:

  1. Get your document ready.
  2. Send your inner editor out on a fruitless errand so you can work alone.
  3. Get all those little things you think you need, like the right music, the right font or the right beverage.
  4. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  5. Describe why this topic you’re writing about (or the story, the character, the setting) is so important.
  6. Go as quickly as you can. Try not to backspace for errors.
  7. If you’re stuck, go back to the beginning and just rewrite what you wrote. You may like a second version better.
  8. Don’t look at the clock if you can.
  9. Add fluff words, descriptions, back story, or nonsense. You need this to teach your self-editor who the boss is, to practice writing quickly and you never know, you may strike gold.
  10. When the timer dings, walk away. Don’t analyze it. Don’t start editing.
  11. Spend the next segment of time doing something mindless or necessary.
  12. When you return to your writing, keep going until you have a natural stopping point. Don’t edit until you have a good chunk to work with.
  13. Repeat as needed.
  14. Be flexible with this system. Figure out what works. You may want more time. You may want less. The point is, you wrote words. That’s all that matters.

My original words are just mediocre. I know that they’re nothing magical. I know that most of them will cut, twisted, refurbished, pitched, smashed and smoothed.

But the point is that I have more now than I did 10 minutes ago. 

Let's Write all the words in 2016 by Katharine Grubb
Click the image above for the link to the fastest growing writers group on Facebook!

You can do this too. 

We have 1,460 10 minute segments available to us in 2016. You’re not going to write in all of them, but you’ll write in some. Do what you can.

I think you’ll be pleased with the results.



Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

How My To-Do List is Often Like a Misbehaving Toddler (And What I Can Do About It!)

My to-do list is long. It taunts me.

As soon as I cross something off, three more things jump on.

The battle I have with my to-do list is like chasing a naked, hungry, willful toddler through the house. I yell and reach. I grab and contain. I wipe, dust, clothe, scold and hug and yet there are more things to do. My list is ever demanding, ever whining, ever messy. 

I asked for this.

I asked for the expanding boundaries and the places of influence. I asked for the blessings and abundance. (And it comes with more responsibility and more tasks?) I asked for more people in my life with whom I run the risk of disappointing. I asked for more opportunities with which I run the risk of missing. I asked for more challenges and I now stare at them,  convinced I won’t rise to meet them.

The one thing I must do today is look at these things, these tasks and these events and call them what they are.

They are symbols of my blessing.

They are connections to people. They are the pathways to my bigger dreams. And I am in control of all of them. They submit to me, not I to them. I will not let their tyranny, their demands nor their temper tantrums control me. 

How should I face my to-do list?

I will tackle each task with grace. I will be calm and discipline in doing them. I will not fear failure. I will anticipate success. I will inhale this truth — that few of these are life and death issues. I will exhale power and confidence. There is no deadline I have written down that owns me. My failure will never materialize if I handle these tasks in my best. And if the worst should happen, if I fail, if I disappoint, if I crumble, my identity is not wrapped up in this list. 

I am more than this. 

These tasks are what I do.

They are not what I am. 

I will do my best today. I will hold my head up high, grap this to-do list by it’s hand and say, “I’m the boss of you. Now let’s get busy.” 

And watch it behave as it dutifully complies. 


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The first email is coming January 4, 2016! Sign up today! 

I love January. It’s so full of hope and promise. This year, I tell myself, will be the year that I hit all those goals, that I become a better person, that I change for the better.

You can do it too! I believe in you! 

Top Ten Things To Do If You Feel Burned Out As A Writer

My 2015 was full.

I released three books. I spoke two times. I attended four live book selling events. I launched a podcast. I was featured on three other podcasts. I wrote more than 365,000 words (that averaged 1000 words a day).  I was successful in Nanowrimo, writing my 50,000 words. I launched my weekly encouraging newsletter. I also took on a part-time job as a homeschooling tutor. I did all this while maintaining my household, hosting two chats a week, homeschooling my five kids and baking my bread from scratch.

This all looks very impressive until you pull the curtain back and see the truth: I was a nervous mess for most of the year.

I worried about the various launches. I was disappointed in my subsequent sales. I was disappointed in  the trickling reviews. I lost sleep. I spent a three month period, between mid-August and mid-November in severe pain in my neck and shoulders.  Also, from January to December, I had an almost nonstop struggle with various relationships over this theme: I have boundaries now.

By the end of my amazingly productive, amazingly stressful year, I was completely knackered. I was so exhausted that I was ready to walk away from writing fiction, from blogging, from ever publishing anything ever again.

Fortunately, I had the good sense not to make any rash decisions. I was tempted, more than once, in this down time to confuse fatigue with failure. I found that it felt good to not have a deadline or a project or an event to plan. But in I way I felt empty too, like I should have been doing something. 

Instead, I just sat back for a few weeks. I unplugged figuratively and literally.

Sometimes the best something you can do for yourself is nothing.

This is what I did during this six weeks or so of resting.

Top Ten Things To Do If You Feel Burned Out As A Writer by Katharine Grubb www.10minutenovelists  

 

  1. I didn’t  feel guilty. I needed a break. I needed to retreat, go back and rethink what my next writing and publishing steps are. I’m still not completely sure of them, but I’m not going to stress about the unknown in my life.
  2. I didn’t feel rushed. It’s almost always better to move thoughtfully and purposefully than harried and hurried. This can apply to most things in life.
  3. I didn’t have high expectations. This was the toughest thing I had to let go.  I set aside a month to avoid writing and rest. But in the back of my head, I was, at times, convinced that this month was the key to the really big idea that will launch me into fame. Those expectations will make me crazy and neurotic. I don’t think it’s worth it to worry about the future.
  4. I practiced good self care. During my time off, I tried make sure I was doing everything I needed to do. The obvious: sleep, water, exercise, good food was just a beginning. I also took a few hot baths, got massages, read a lot of books and stopped anxiety at the door of my mind.
  5. I had a plan. Kind of. I started by asking myself what was the most important thing to me. I was surprised at my answers. It was from this clarification of my values that I was able to envision 2016 a little clearer.
  6. I looked for answers. I spent this down time reading books (and discovered how much I like travel nonfiction!).  I asked trusted friends for advice. I read old notes. I went back and remembered the highlights of 2015. What do I want to repeat?
  7. I tried new things. This meant for me new books and introducing my teen girls to The Gilmore Girls.  I also listened to the Ted Radio Hour and This American Life. I think the novelty of this entertainment kept my mind distracted from listlessness.
  8. I curbed negativity. This is probably the hardest and most important thing on this list. My negative thoughts will have more of an impact on me than anything. My wails of despair and disappointment are not as powerful if I distract them with happy memories and positive thoughts.
  9. I paid attention to the stories around me. That’s why I love Ted Radio Hour and This American Life. They have fascinating fresh stories that I believe will take root in my self conscious and give my future art depth. This is what I think it means to be filled up with art before you can overflow.
  10. I wandered both figuratively and literally. I walked on the trail behind my house. I let my thoughts go to happy, unpredictable places. I invented dialogue for ghosts of characters that will never materialize. I couldn’t plant a stake in an idea, but I didn’t let it bother me.

I didn’t do all of these perfectly, by no means. And I didn’t have this list to go on — I just let things happen. And truthfully, I’m in the middle still of this rest period and I’m still figuring it out as I go.

But I think it’s a reasonable expectation for an artist to have down times.

I think there is nothing abnormal about a dry season or a hiatus or a holiday. Our minds and schedules need breathers and even though it had been years really since I had been able to take one, I’m glad I did.

I still don’t know what my projects for the future will look like, but I’m determined to approach my words as if they are my toys, not my taskmasters.

I’m going to be nice to myself and enjoy this time between deadlines. I’m not going to worry about sales or rankings, because those figures have rarely brought me joy.

2016 could be my best year yet.

What about you? How have you rested in between projects? What did you do to take care of yourself? 

 

How I Write: The Image, The Reality, and The Twitter Jokes

 

This morning I woke up with a backache. I decided I would postpone the start of my day until after I felt better. So, what do you do with a little extra time on your hands? You hang out on Twitter!

What luck! #HowIWrite was trending! I enjoyed very much reading suggestions from writers all over the world on the specifics of their process.

How I Write: The Image, The Reality and the Twitter Jokes by Katharine Grubb

 

You know, the hows of our writing is similar. We all sit with keyboards (a few with notebooks), we all daydream, we all fiddle with music and other ambient issues, we all drink ungodly amounts of coffee or tea and we all work at this.

Naturally, I had to write a few jokes about it.


 

#HowIWrite With the probably mistaken assumption that my readers will savor every details of character backstory.

#HowIWrite Surprisingly fast when I listen to banjo music.

#HowIWrite With unflickering white hope I will be loved by the world except for that reviewer who 1 stars me because of a misspelled word.


 

But I DO have a method.

It used to be that I worked in 10 minute increments around the needs of my small children. Now my kids are older and more independent. My increments are bigger, and I am way more productive, but I still have a method.

I’ve created this image that I run around my house like a headless chicken turning off timers and chasing toddlers. But it’s really not that crazy.

I make a to-do list with 8 columns: Newsletter/Blog, Branding, Homeschool, Reading, Projects, Release, Marketing, Podcast.

Under each column is a list of things that need to be done. Sometimes I mark the most important items. Then I work on each column for 15-20 minutes. When the timer dings, I get up and do something domestic like laundry, or check the kids or tidy the kitchen. Then I come back to the next column for another 20 minutes.


 

#HowIWrite Obsessively since we all know that only five star reviews can fill the blackest holes of our hearts.

#HowIWrite With an infinite number of fellow chimpanzees. On my manual typewriter.

#HowIWrite By deliberately, exhaustively, completely, purposefully and maniacally removing all adverbs.


 

But not everything on the list is writing.

Sigh. It’s not. It’s also blogging, emailing, tweeting, marketing, proofing, editing, reading, revising and staring out the window. It’s also running a household, homeschooling and glancing ambivalently at the welfare of the children.

All of my life is broken down into very small steps and I tackle as many as I can in a day.

When I do write, I do a word vomit or a brain spew of every conceivable idea. I don’t self-edit because I don’t have time for it. I want something on the screen so I can work with it. Daydreaming out the window is all well and good but you can’t rewrite something that isn’t written to begin with.  I have to have the raw materials to work with.


 

#HowIWrite With an intimate knowledge of which Hollywood actors will play every role.

#HowIWrite With those magical people the pros call “characters” and that thingy, a “setting” and, what is it? Oh! Plot!

In iambic pentameter just to come off as pretentious. #HowIWrite


 

I also don’t fret too much about deadlines.

But not every writer has this luxury. My deadlines are self-imposed and it’s rare that someone gives me a firm date. But I don’t tell my brain and my fingers that. I want to work fast and furiously in every increment of time. I find that by challenging myself this way I am way productive.


 

By allowing my children to run naked and unfed through squalor. Meh. #yolo #HowIWrite

With a holey, cat hair covered sweater, in a fog of cigarette smoke, an empty gin bottle next to me.#HowIWrite #myimageofarealwriter

With intense, white-hot jealousy of George R. R. Martin. I’ll knock you off YOUR Game of Thrones, bub. Winter IS Coming Indeed! #HowIWrite


 

In my fiction, I pants my ideas to death.

I make tons of notes and create little beads of characters or anecdotes or conflicts. Then I rearrange them and look for patterns or connections. The outline that will somehow develop will be the chain that links every bead together. At that point, I’m not pantsing any more. I’m drafting. And there’s plenty of room for improvisation.


With a gun to my muse’s head. Figuratively, people! Figuratively! #HowIWrite

Type ten words. Pick cuticles. Type five words. Change music. Type fifteen words. Go watch Netflix. #HowIWrite


 

I also have a mental list of books I want to write.

They are all lined up in a queue. I get to them as I can, with ten minutes here and there. I want to write a book on marketing, one on self-publishing, one on local connections, one on speaking. I keep them written down on the columns and touch on them as I can. Someday they’ll move up to a higher priority.

The danger of asking other writers how they write is that we compare our method to theirs.

We think that if we copy them then we’ll succeed too. But that’s not true at all. We need to find our own way and discover how WE write. The best writers are happy writers, who are comfortable with their method and their process. Don’t be afraid to try new things, tweak others’ suggestions and fail at times.

And if you can’t come up with a how, don’t worry about it. Make it a when instead.


 

On my left, with pillow between my knees, a mask on eyes, in a cool-ish room, for 8 hours. Wait! That’s how I sleep! Same thing. #HowIWrite

 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward, PTSD survivor, and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day.Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community.

She blogs at www.10minutenovelist.com. She lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her new novel, Soulless Creatures, which is about two 18 year old boys, not vampires, will be released August 2015.

Want to win a free copy of my new release Soulless Creatures?

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Soulless Creatures by Katharine Grubb

Soulless Creatures

by Katharine Grubb

Giveaway ends October 10, 2015.

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Why I Write: A Guest Post By Carolyn Astfalk

I only recently pondered why I write. I simply knew that I had to write, so I did.

My love affair with the written word started with clumsily-illustrated stories and spelling bees and grew to student newspapers in grade school, high school, and college. My affection for pen and ink led me to try my hand at calligraphy. During summer visits, I sat spellbound as my aunt, my mother’s only sister, analyzed my handwriting as well as written samples from my family members, friends, and teachers.

My penchant for fiction grew out of Nancy Drew speed reading competitions with my best friend and blossomed into the memorization of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and my love for Margaret Mitchell’s classic Gone With the Wind. I savored the beauty of classical Latin and Greek in college and later became known as the resident “Grammar Lady” in my office. At one time or another, I devoured the content of sundry magazines and newspapers, blogs, and nonfiction books.

Why do I write?
Why I Write: A Series from the authors of 10 Minute Novelists

My love of books eventually moved me from a self-proclaimed loather of libraries to one of their biggest fans. (To be fair, the gloomy, musty local library and a snippy librarian had more to do with my enmity than books themselves.)

I kept a daily journal from the age of thirteen clear through to twenty-five, recording mundane details, events, and feelings (a lot about boys who didn’t like me back). I poured out boredom, heartbreak, confusion and joy in slanted cursive created with blue ink.

I continued to write as part of my work in public relations and communications. There were news releases, summaries, newsletters, columns, and position papers. I dabbled in short fiction with a community college course in short stories and a library class on children’s writing.

I was still a newlywed on the beach in St. Martin when I started scribbling notes and dialogue in the back of a journal, trying to capture all the details of a story that started as a dream and evolved into a drama.

It wasn’t until National Novel Writing Month in 2010, while my husband travelled for work and my children slept, that I dove headlong into the craft of novel writing. Without a clue as to what I was doing, I set my sights on writing 55,000 words in thirty days, an unprecedented feat for me.

I began with a printout of a newspaper story that intrigued me and the vague idea my protagonist would be a teenage girl. There was treasure, intrigue, and a light, innocent romance. Then day after day I stared at the large, white expanse of a new Microsoft Word document and proceeded to make stuff up, following every tangent as if it were the lifeline that would save me from leaving my muddled morass incomplete.

I emerged from that experience with a horrible first draft but a concrete means of transferring the stories that flickered like movies in my mind into coherent, concrete products.

Until that point, I hadn't realized that the cinematic scenes that played out in my imagination while I cleaned, drove, or showered, could be translated into a coherent mass of words with arcs, themes, tension, and plot. -- Carolyn Astfalk

Until that point, I hadn’t realized that the cinematic scenes that played out in my imagination while I cleaned, drove, or showered, could be translated into a coherent mass of words with arcs, themes, tension, and plot.

The more I indulged the words and scenes in my head, the more they flowed, often unbidden and intrusive.

I scrambled for pens and scraps of paper, afraid of losing any nugget of potential literary gold. The words and the ideas multiplied faster than rabbits in spring. That was when I conceded that I had to write, if not for my love of words then for my love of sanity.

There are other, lesser reasons I continue to write.

Yes, I feel “called” in a sense to write, to share particular stories, experiences, and themes that I hope will edify, entertain, and glorify. I’m certain I’m neither the most talented nor most skilled writer (not even close), but perhaps there is some small way in which my work has purpose beyond the sphere of my small and short life.

How else could I explain the time, energy, and bits of my soul I’ve poured into writing, reading, and attempting to improve my skills? For nearly five years, this fiction-writing gig has amounted to a part-time job, one for which I’ve not yet earned a penny.


 

Carolyn AstfalkCarolyn’s debut novel, Stay With Me, will be released on October 1, 2015. At that time, she hopes to earn a few pennies to contribute to her family’s wealth and offset the time and financial drain of her word habit. Until then, you can find me playing with letters and words at My Scribbler’s Heart Blog. Carolyn resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania.