Monday, September 28, 2015

The Balancing Act

September is almost gone, which means that school, whether it's high school, college, university, or teaching, has started. Our days of lounging on the couch and writing when we feel like it are gone, because we are just too busy. If I'm on the couch I'm either watching TV, feeling my eyes glaze over, or face-planted in the cushions taking a nap.

So how does one find the right balance of work, school, activities, and writing? Some people have said become a morning person. Great! I am a morning person! But I'm not just a teacher, I'm a coach. And I coach sports before school starts, which means I'm on the field at 6:30, getting up even earlier. And I can't function before 5 am.

Because I get up so early, I also go to bed early. I mean 8:30 early. I read for 30 minutes before I go to bed, because it helps me decompress.

So when can I write?

For me, I would like a good chunk of time to let the suck flow. At least an hour, preferably more. That means I'd have to start at 7 pm, which is just after dinner time. It's a tight schedule and it means no procrastinating! I try and get all my homework (aka grading) done in school, so that I don't take anything home. Because if I take work home, I have no time for myself.

I also need to learn to write in those stolen bits of time. Maybe I've finished my lunch, already made my copies for the week, planned out my lessons for the next few days, and finished grading (ha!), so I have some extra minutes to write. Or maybe I haven't made my copies, but I don't need them til tomorrow, so I "have" a few extra minutes to write, outline, or brainstorm. It's those stolen minutes that will add up down the line.

This tight schedule also means weekends are key, as are school holidays. Sometimes it's hard to force yourself to write on the weekend when all I want to do is be face-planted into couch cushions (see above), but I know I'll feel better if I've accomplished some writing during the day.

How do you balance your every day life with writing? Do you have any tips or advice?

Monday, September 14, 2015

First Drafts Suck

First drafts suck. I know this. They're meant to suck, to just get the words onto the paper so that you can then make them not-suck. But it's hard.

I am constantly second-guessing myself with the draft of my new WiP. I have an outline (kinda), so I know where it's going, but I just know it's missing things. And that's okay. I just have to keep reminding myself that (which is why I like that quote on the right).

This WiP is especially hard for me because it's focused on characters. To me, characters are the most important, but writing them is not my forte. I like creating worlds and languages. Which is something I haven't done for this WiP yet. I decided, for some reason, to do that for round 2, so that I could get the story down first. So I have half a world.

School also just started and I am trying my best not to be overwhelmed by it all this year. I want to do things other than just lesson plan, teach, and coach, like exercise (kinda important...) and write. But because I've been second guessing myself, I've kinda been stuck, and I haven't had time to let the suck flow because of school, which just makes me second guess myself more.

So I'm taking this first draft a little at a time. I wanted to give myself a goal of 1k every night, but, at least for now, that's too lofty. So I'm going to settle on 500 words, that way I can manage my days better. I feel guilty doing that, since 1k had been my daily goal for so long, but it's just not reasonable. It's okay to reassess goals, so that's what I'm doing. It might not mean I get my draft done as quickly, but at least by the end of the school year, it should be done. And then I can take that time to make it all shiny. Because you can't revise until you have words on a page :)

Monday, September 7, 2015

High School Book Club: Year Two

Photo by Jenny Kaczorowski
School starts on Tuesday (err, um, tomorrow!) and I'm already thinking about the Book Club I started last year.

I was setting up my classroom when one of my students saw me in the hall and excitedly said she finished reading all the books we decided on. We'd taken a vote and came to a consensus of reading 5 books over the summer. Now I didn't know if that was too much for them, because I've never run a book club, but they were ecstatic, so who am I to say 5 is too many? So when she told me she finished them all, I got really excited. (And if we're being truthful, I only finished 4/5. I've read more than 5 this summer, just most were not on the reading list).

But this is one of the things I get excited about for going back to school: to be able to discuss YA with real YAs. They get excited about all kinds of things (Ms. Sessa, did you know it's 22 days until Christmas?!? Are you excited??) and I'm glad that books are still one of them.

Stories are things that I think will never get old, but once you start assigning books in class, there is always some push back. But here they get to choose what books they want to read (and by "choose" I mean vote, so they don't always get what they want) and they're doing this voluntarily. It's so interesting to hear what they liked and didn't like, and what they want to read next.

I also decided to incorporate a novel into my biochem classes, which I'm really excited about, but that's a tale for another day :)

Were you ever in a book club in high school? Or are you in one now? How did you get started with it?