Writing Recipe #2

Guest post
by Ellen Plotkin Mulholland

I have two problems that make it difficult keeping up with this world.

First: I don’t have a lot of time. Wait; let me place that in context. Life is busy, and I don’t have the hours I once had to sit lazily on the porch and read the Sunday paper all afternoon.

Second: My attention span is not what it used to be. Blame it on our over-indulged world of fast food, 140-character summative quips, or the impatient and impulsive adolescent wiring that just won’t go away.

As a consumer and reader, I can deal with it. I read the headlines, listen to TV news summaries while I cook dinner, fold laundry, check my email and answer my daughter’s homework questions. I somehow manage to keep up with the world outside my home while navigating the numerous details inside.

As a writer, I daily and desperately seek to find balance in my world. Time to live. Time to write. There must be some middle ground, an oasis nearby in this desert of over-scheduled lives.

Don’t expect this next line to reveal the hidden truth. I have found no magical answers. I have, however, discovered some tricks to getting the most of my own undivided attention.

First, I set aside time to write just as I would time to do laundry, cook dinner, or exercise. I don’t chastise myself for missing my writing time. Just with the laundry, it’ll be there later. Just with dinner, it might not be my best, and it may be later than usual, but we’ll eat. I’ll write. For me, early morning before the day works best. As with exercise, when I’m not feeling in the mood, I find that once I get warmed up, I am truly grateful afterwards for having carved out the time.

Following along with the exercise metaphor. Some days it’s a longer cardio session. Some days it’s brief muscle-toning sets. In short, I alternate my writing moments with long and juicy to short and punchy. I do what I can when I can. I am always happier for having written at least three sentences than none at all.

I work with the time I have.

Second, I impose a world of Zen around me. I tune out the business of my life, my desk, and what’s outside my window; I tune in the deep and active world of my imagination. Like meditation, this takes practice and commitment. I find a mantra. I can do it. I tune out and tune in. I find my rhythm. I pull myself inside the scenic lives of my developing characters and allow them to carry me further into their worlds. Soon, my world falls away, and I am cascading within a landscape that moves from unfamiliar to familiar.

I stick with it. Tune out. Tune in.

If writing is your passion, find the time and joy to be with it. Consider how you complete all the other not-so-enjoyable tasks in your lives, and take that system and apply it to what you love.

Work with the time you have. Tune out. Tune in. Create. Find your joy.



Ellen Plotkin Mulholland teaches academic strategies to middle schoolers in a small Northern California town. She is a former freelance journalist and a newly published author. She is the author of two Logos Publishing House young adult novels, Birds on a Wire and This Girl Climbs Trees. Ms. Mulholland is available for readings and speaking engagements. Learn more about Ellen from her website.

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19 thoughts on “Writing Recipe #2”

  1. Hi Ellen,
    I too write early in the morning for a couple of hours before the day clutters up my brain and silences the muse. Finding the writing joy is soooo important.

  2. “I don’t chastise myself for missing my writing time.”

    Thanks, Ellen. That’s important. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to feel guilty.

    And Lita has a good point. Getting to it early in the day works well for me. The creative process begins early and promotes more ideas as the hours pass.

    1. That is so true. Do you find yourself thinking about your writing later in the day? I do. I keep a small notebook handy always. If I write early in the day, my characters stay with me and marinate. 🙂

      1. The earlier in the day I start, the more creative thoughts I have as the day progresses. I keep sticky notepads in several areas of the house, and I also store memos on my smartphone. Occasionally, I’ll dictate something into the phone if I don’t feel like struggling with the digital keypad (hate it).

  3. “I pull myself inside the scenic lives of my developing characters and allow them to carry me further into their worlds. Soon, my world falls away, and I am cascading within a landscape that moves from unfamiliar to familiar.”

    So true Ellen, I find the more I stress about writing the less of it I do. Then I have to remind myself of why I started writing in the first place – for the love of writing and dicovering the characters and their environments. Writing is the passion, the rest (being published, promotion etc.) is just business.

  4. I agree. Writing has to have its time and place otherwise the rest will suffer. Not finding time to write will make al other things more difficult to bear with. It’s a common thing to hear from non-writers: I would write a book, but I simply have no time to write. Usually they also give you “the look” as in “you have too much free time for yourself. Jobless? No family? No kids?”

    This is where you have to be honest with yourself.
    http://massimomarinoauthor.com/2013/09/desperately-seeking-time/

    1. It seems I did not reply on your comment window:

      Haha! We seem to all struggle with the issue of Time. You’re right. THose who say they don’t have time for exercise or writing or whatever probably don’t have the Passion. That’s okay. We just need to be honest with ourselves. In fact, I used to say that I didn’t have Time to write when my kids were small. I did have Time. I just chose to use my free moments for sleep! Haha. I am so grateful to have found the Time now to enjoy my Passion. Thanks for sharing your blog site!

  5. Haha! We seem to all struggle with the issue of Time. You’re right. THose who say they don’t have time for exercise or writing or whatever probably don’t have the Passion. That’s okay. We just need to be honest with ourselves. In fact, I used to say that I didn’t have Time to write when my kids were small. I did have Time. I just chose to use my free moments for sleep! Haha. I am so grateful to have found the Time now to enjoy my Passion. Thanks for sharing your blog site!

  6. First thing in the morning is the best time for writing in my world too…but I’m not a natural early bird and it’s so easy to spend that precious time catching up with social media. -cough- as I’m doing now -cough-

    I do like the idea of making writing time one of the ‘must do’ parts of life. Congratulations on balancing your inner and outer worlds so well!

    1. It’s always a work in progress – the balance. I have tried tricks to avoid the Internet – close my browser and have on only my wordprocessing. I also play relaxing classical music in the background to satisfy my need for multiple stimuli.

      Fact is, if we want distraction, we’ll find it.

      I will not deny that social media pulls at my attention, too. Sometimes, the quick scroll provides me with backstory for my characters. Why not let my protagonist have a 50lb dog that needs to lose weight?

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