Can You Juggle?


Goodgodbird_publication I won’t be self-indulgent enough to claim that I'm already some expert on having a career in writing. I am, however, someone who has been suddenly (and awesomely) thrust into the position of leading a double life.

I have my one life, in which I teach 6th grade English and Reading in my mid-size Louisiana city of Shreveport. And then I have my second life, wherein I am traveling to and taking phone calls from New York, editing my manuscript in coffee shops, and social-networking to help build up a fan base.

So far, I haven’t noticed my “day job” of teaching being greatly affected by my writing life. I will say, however, that I have started to find it hard to focus the attention (I think) I need to writing. Being a writer has changed for me with all of these recent revelations. For one, I am no longer a lone writer, hoping desperately to be read by someone, ANYONE, someday. I am, instead, a writer whose debut will be on sale in less than a year. I am also someone who has only been able to work on his second novel enough to scrounge up about sixteen pages. This is the part that is worrisome.

I have the great fortune of having a job that allows me some amazing vacation time, though. I am about to be off work for nearly three months and I hope, between road trips and sleeping way too late for my age, to finish my second novel and start the process of editing it as well. But, for those of you who don’t have the luxury (and there are few things about teaching I’d call luxuries) of extended vacations, I find myself wondering (and standing in awe of) how you manage to juggle your two lives?

So, to change things up a bit, I’d like to ask you to share any tips, stories, etc., you may have that might provide some insights to all of us WeBookers who sometimes find it difficult to reconcile what we HAVE to do with what we WANT to do.

Happy Juggling,


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  1. Do you have someone who could check in on you weekly this summer? Someone who could say "you owe me a hundred bucks if you don't get 3 thousand words by Friday", for example.
    Keep something with you at all times so that if you get an idea at a stoplight, you can scribble it down. You probably already know all this. :-)
    Reward yourself for reached goals. Set a timer and say "I'm going to do a 10-minute burst before I have coffee."
    Stuff like that. Rooting for you!!!

  2. One thing that I find helpful sometimes is not to go in order. Say, for instance, that you know there's a certain scene you want to include in your book about midway through, but you're stuck on chapter three. Just write down the scene you want! Trust me, this has gotten the juices flowing for me more than once.
    And as far as juggling...well, I'm not even close to being a published author, but I do know what it's like to get a great idea when I'm nowhere near a computer or notebook. I use the notepad feature on my cell phone. I type in my idea, then when I get home, I spend at least a few minutes to an hour each day pulling them out.
    Congratulations on your success!!!

  3. Finnean Nilsen19 May 2010 at 05:11

    I can only imagine the pressure you're under. On the one hand you're finally getting to where you have been aspiring too, making all of us proud and just a hair envious, on the other you are under pressures that so many of us have never had. When you write for yourself, waiting, as you said for that one person to actually read it, it's easy to take a day off, say "I'll work on that tomorrow, I have other things to do." You have no such luxury. The pressure is on, and it won't let up anytime soon. My only advice would be to budget your time. I personally put deadlines on myself from the very beginning, and try to put aside two to three hours a day to do something to do with writing. Whether you're just re-reading something, writing, editing, or reading something in the same genre, just put aside that time, right into your schedule. That way it becomes second nature, and you'll find that your juices will start flowing at the same time every day. That's what worked for me. Good luck, everyone's rooting for you.

  4. I was a third grade teacher last year, and though I am nowhere near to being in the position that you are currently in, (though I hope to be)I found that teaching required too much of my time in order to write as well. A good teacher needs to be disciplined and focused on the betterment of their students, in my opinion. Would you be able to take a leave of absence that will allow you to work on your writing rather than try and juggle both? This year I am working for Demand Studios doing some basic freelance writing stuff. The pay is nowhere near what I made as a teacher, but it's covering the basics, doesn't take too much of my time, and allows me the flexibility to work on my creative projects as well. Just food for thought. If you can find a way to give your students what they deserve and give yourself and your writing the attention you need, then hats off to ya. Good luck.

  5. i am humble in the face of your good fortune. wondering what it is you do write. i think that you might benefit from a regular tape recorder. you can talk on it where ever you are, get down thoughts quickly, and it can go anywhere you go. think how much time you can come up with even in the bathroom, kitchen, on you way to work, whatever. we waste more time then we realize just doing ordinary things. saundraadams

  6. Wow.
    I'm so glad this post has already gotten such great responses.
    Zoe-great idea about the self-made deadlines. I have a few friends I can rely on to hold me accountable.
    Andrea-I actually used the same method you mention when finishing my first novel. I wrote the very last paragraph several weeks before the final chapters. It helped tremendously. I'm with you-I say write what comes to mind WHEN it comes to mind and let it guide you.
    Finnean-I love your idea of devoting some time each day to writing or related interests. It's going to be my new summer goal.
    Bryan-I'm about to have a pretty lengthy summer vacation, which should allow for me to get a lot of work done. I am, however, considering a leave/sabbatical in the future in the case that book promoting, etc., call for it. should help answer your first question.
    Also, I recently upgraded to an iPhone, which is already helping me stay more organized and, I am glad to say, includes a tape recorder.
    Everyone-your support, tips, encouragement, and overall willingness to share your passion as part of this community of writers is quite inspiring and means more than you know. Keep routing each other on.

  7. J. Edward Griffin20 May 2010 at 03:38

    I feel that the tasks that we have set before us far outweigh the jobs that we actually commit to on a daily basis. I feel that this is solely because the tasks we have set before us usually consists of monumental responsibilities that require inclusion, reflection, and devotion. It's usually a goal that we are trying to reach that characterizes these jobs. Your job as a teacher is the job you commit to on a daily basis, or has been thus far. Im sure in the midst of having this job, you always dream of doing something better, something far more greater than that job will allow. That is where the TASK BEFORE YOU comes into play. When you know there is more out there for you, you are going to do so much more in support of that profession. It is only fair that you commit more time to the job you have before you than you do the job you commit to on a daily basis. I don't think there actually is a successful way to juggle the two with impressive results. One will outweigh the other. There might, however, be a way to keep focused on both tasks, and that is through the process of time management. I also as a writer, who is struggling to get a literary agent to look at my query letter, (I confess, still) have to try to juggle my responsibilities of being a machine operator from 3pm - 1am on a 10 hour shift with that of my writing pursuits. I have to continually tell myself, "One day someone is going to see the beauty of my writing", but most of all I have to keep writing. I commit at least an hour to it each day when Im working, and then on the weekends polish up my query letters and send one out again, and await a rejection. Its part of the process. At least you have past that stage and are on your way to literary bliss. Well I hope the earlier part of this piece might put a little more perspective on your pursuits.

  8. Andrew McQueen20 May 2010 at 05:40

    I feel you. I spend up to eight hours of my day off from work to write my graphic novel and other projects. On my work days, I spend two hours or more. Even with my work schedule, I try to juggle with that and the other. Take whatever time you have on you have with your working schedule. Wish you luck.

  9. I love the 5 minute rule.
    I've found this talked about in writing books as well as a time management technique for greater success.
    Basically it gets yout to utilse those small pockets of time you would normally 'waste' such as commuting to work, waiting to meet someone, or even ad breaks. When you have a brief moment like these, use it to write.
    It may not seem like much, but it adds up. Being such a short burst of time also gets you to focus intensely just for a moment.
    I personally find it really effective on my commute to work on the train.

  10. Finnean was right when he mentioned being envious. Since I was very little, it's been a dream of mine to be a published author and/or screenwriter. I've worked on numerous projects of mine with very little success or actual progress, mainly having to do with a grumpy attention span, myself setting humungous goals that a writer at my stage would never have the hopes of reaching, and a constantly increasing level of boredom with all of my work as I develop them all. It's, to say the very least, infuriating.
    I am very happy for you, that you found what you wanted, and were able to taste a bit of the success that we all crave.
    For me, writing is like oxygen, if I don't do it for lengths of time, I get very depressed that I'm not moving forward. I do have a full-time job, and a life with my wife at home. I admit that it's very hard to actually set up time during which I write, and I actually find myself getting more done at work than at home.
    I also want to go back to school for a degree, and I know that will, also, greatly diminish my time for writing. In terms of what I do to solve this, I use the "wait and see" method wherein I write when it comes to me, which helps contribute to that aforementioned depression. But it has helped, writing out of order, and I've actually made good progress on my latest project because of it. Here's to focus, and to luck for us all.


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