Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Writing When Life Interferes

Kathryn Page Camp
I’m a full-time writer, so I don’t usually have a problem finding writing time. But even when I worked in Chicago as a lawyer, I managed to find several hours a week to write. I could do that because my life had a routine, and I slotted my writing time into it.
But what happens when something explodes the routine?
My husband just got a knee replaced, and I went from full-time writer to part-time writer and part-time caregiver. I still have some writing time, but it doesn’t feel like enough.
Writing is in my genes. It’s also what keeps me sane even when I’m tearing my hair out looking for the right words and trying unsuccessfully to avoid clichés. I can’t not write. (Yes, the double negative is intentional.)
So what do I do? I look for every spare moment and use it.
Roland’s knee surgery is a good example. I spent a lot of time waiting that day. No, that’s wrong. I spent a lot of time reading as research for my next book. If I wasn’t in research mode, I could have taken my laptop and written. Or, more likely, I would have done it the old-fashioned way.
I keep a notebook labeled “WIP” (Work in Progress) that I carry with me when I expect to have a few minutes of writing time away from home. I use it when I take my elderly mother to doctors’ appointments, and I will use it when I take Roland for follow-up and physical therapy.
My WIP notebook contains four tabs.
The first tab is for typed notes such as:
·         The basic story line/plot, which is a short summary at the beginning of the project and a chapter outline later on;
·         Character sketches;
·         Notes that I made as I thought of things out of sequence, recorded so that I can add them to my draft at the appropriate spot; and
·         Anything else that I may need to refer to as I write.
The second tab contains the current manuscript. I double-side it to save space, and if it is still too long, I only take those parts of the manuscript that come right before the section I am working on now. (Or before and after for a second or third draft.) Having the entire manuscript is better for continuity, because I can look back if I can’t remember what my character did or said in the past or what the living room looks like. But if I don’t have that section, I make a note to check it when I do.
The third tab is for photocopies or printouts of any research documents that relate to the current part of the story.
And the fourth section is the most important. It has lined notebook pages to write on.
Have you ever thought about setting up a WIP notebook? You don’t have to follow my categories. You can even do it on your laptop if you prefer. But make sure you have something you can grab and take along whenever you might have some waiting time.
Because that may be the only way to write when life interferes.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her most recent book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), is a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at

No comments:

Post a Comment