Making Time To Write (As a Mom), Part 2

To continue from yesterday, on finding time to write in our busy, busy lives… well, I find that really everyone is pretty busy—I don’t meet many who say they are bored—and the best way I’ve found to make time is twofold:

1. Scheduling

Every other week, I choose a day that is typically slower with grading, and put “write” on my to-do list. It isn’t the only thing on my list, not by far (I will not show you my list—it is overcrowded and it makes me look crazy)—but having it on my list reminds me that when I do have some alone time in the evening, that I must dedicate the first thirty minutes of it to writing.

Sometimes I run over that thirty minutes, writing poetry in a mad-dash, sometimes I just read poetry and take notes. Either way, I find this fairly productive, and it’s much easier to accomplish then doing a for-real “artist date”, where I must leave the house and everything. I consider this the “work-out video” equivalent of writing time—maybe not quite as awesome as a five-mile run (equivalent to the writing residency?) but a workout nonetheless.

2. Gap Times

If you really pay attention to it, most of you, no matter how busy, will find that you have tiny three and five minute gaps in your day where you could possibly fit writing in, if only to jo down an idea, image, phrase.

Some of the best gap times for me are while the girls are eating breakfast, absorbed in playing with each other but also not hitting or fighting with each other (three minute segments, here and there), while I’m cooking dinner, and while I’m driving to work (just kidding on the last one, ha). I try to keep a notebook and pen handy at all times—I’ve been doing that since my first creative writing class, and it’s a habit I plan on keeping my entire life.

Also, pay attention to where you are wasting time. I rarely watch TV or spend time on the internet, aside from work, so that frees up a lot of time for me. I also don’t fold clothes very efficiently, iron EVER, pre-rinse the dishes as well as my husband does, or make my own bread from scratch—I’m ok with that.

Figure out what you are OK with cutting from or cutting back on in your schedule—you may have time for writing that you didn’t realize you had, if you make writing more of a priority.

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So that’s my secret, how I make time for writing. Using those methods, I typically write two to three poems a month, though my “goal”, if I have one at all, is only 1 poem every two months. I write less and have less time for it, but I use my writing time much more efficiently—when I sit down to write, I WRITE!

I hope that some of these tips will give you ideas so that you can do the same!

31  Days

What are your time limitations? What are some activities you could cut back on to make room for writing?

Making Time To Write (As a Mom), Part 1

The laundry turns over and over again, in the heat of the dryer, buttons clicking together in the tumbling. Outside, crickets—no heavy hum of cicada, now that fall is here. The children are finally sleeping peacefully in their beds, my husband is in the middle of his late-shift job, and I enjoy the quiet of the last couple hours before I sleep.

downloadExcept the “quiet” of those hours doesn’t mean that they are necessarily restful hours—there’s always grading to catch up on, and dishes, and preparing for meals tomorrow, work tomorrow, odds and ends of housecleaning I didn’t get to during the day.

Even when the girls are asleep and I have time to myself, it is difficult to use that time for writing. Men have their own challenges with finding time to write, I’m sure, and I can’t speak to those, but what I can tell you is that it is difficult to make time for writing, even if it is your passion, when you are a mom.

My family’s needs are more pressing—there’s keeping house, cooking, grocery shopping, and making time for fun, then add a full-time job on top of that and where does writing fit in? Is it that important?

I say yes. Not only as a spiritual practice, but, if you are made to be a writer, like me, then it’s something you need to be doing, it’s part of your DNA, your make-up, making and creating like our Maker, our Creator.

I realize though too that there are some seasons of life where it is easier to put more time into your art than others, and the years where Bryan and I are growing our family are likely Not going to be the years that I am most productive in my writing. At first this idea made me feel like a failure. If I was a man, I would be free to write like I was meant to. If I didn’t have a family, I’d be free to write like I was meant to.

But those are lies! Sure, I probably would have more time to write—but that is not the only thing God created me to do, and God takes as much pleasure in his creation creating at the snails-pace of a work-mostly-at-home poet-mom like me as he does in the super-charged career-poet guy who can wake up writing and go to sleep writing.

So, making time to write—while I do think it is important and can be done in the busiest of schedules, there’s no hard and fast rule as to how much art you must “produce” in a year.

No need to beat yourself up as an artist for not writing as much as so-and-so or as you used to, or winning that prize, or snagging that publication. No need to doubt your calling if you don’t write everyday.

Especially when you are busy raising blue-eyed, lanky-limbed poems, wild and running free.

God gave us art just like he gave us his creation—to enjoy it, and, in enjoying it, to worship and enjoy Him.

31  Days

tomorrow, part 2!

The Marriage of Text and Tune

Today is going to be a little different.  After a brief “how to worship God with our writing” exercise (song lyrics), I will be mainly exploring a way to take that writing a step further (setting it to pre-existing music).

In the last three posts, I introduced three different ideas to explore for possible song lyrics.  Today, I challenge you to implement one of these and write a song, but first it would be a good idea to brush up on meter.

For those of you who have never written lyrics before (and especially for those of you who don’t know anything about music theory), I would suggest sticking to an 8.6.8.6. iambic (common meter), 8.8.8.8. iambic (long meter), or 6.6.6.6. iambic (short meter).

Once you are satisfied with your lyrics, choose a tune from a hymnal you have lying around for the tune.  You don’t have a hymnal?  Go ask your pastor or music minister, chances are you will walk away with 3 or 4 different hymnals from the boxes and boxes of them your church has in storage.

In the back of the hymnal are several indexes listed the hymns by author, title, tune title, and tune meter (plus or minus one or two other criteria depending on the hymnal).  When you finish your lyrics, start looking through the tune meter index to find all of the tunes listed with the meter you chose.  Try singing your song to a few familiar and a few unfamiliar tunes (if you can’t read music, type in the hymn name into www.nethymnal.org to listen to a midi version).

It is very important to find a tune that matches the lyrics well.  You have a specific feel in mind when writing the lyrics, so you should find a tune that best gets that feel across.  One example I like use a lot is Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.  This link takes you to see the lyrics and hear my favorite tune for it: EBENEZER.  In 1991, however, the Baptist hymnal decided to change the tune from EBENEZER to HARRIS.  In 2008, the Baptist hymnal kept the HARRIS tune.

In my opinion, switching from EBENEZER to HARRIS was a huge travesty.  First of all, the lyrics to the song are filled with water imagery, and the rhythm of the tune EBENEZER feels like waves crashing on the shore.  The HARRIS tune, however, feels like a pub song.  It seems to me that the editors of the 1991 Baptist hymnal wanted to shy away from tunes in minor keys, so this song was given a tune that made it feel more upbeat and “happy”.  What it loses, though, with this is change is a proper marriage of tune and text.

When you are selecting your tune, do not think about which tune makes you feel happiest.  Think about which tune carries the same message that your lyrics carry.  Only then will a song truly work to speak the message it was meant to speak.

31  Days