My life is pretty chaotic. I am a publisher, sometimes professor, mother, and wife. I have a house full of animals to care for and an acre of land to “husband.” My kids are grown, but they still turn to me to sort stuff out. And until recently, I had at least one aging parent to look after. With so much on my plate, how can I possibly find time to write?
I sign up for workshops and contests.
Some are free to join; some I pay for because they allow me to work with well-known authors who are also fabulous instructors. Most recent of these are Christine Sneed, and Siobhan Wright. Of course in each of these workshop groups, there are also other brilliant writers from whom I learn as much if not more than the group-leader’s comments teach me. I read my fellow group-members’ stories and marvel at their subtle complexity, their quirky points of view and magical twists of plot. They create the germs of ideas for my own work.
But probably the most important part of participating in writing workshops, for me, is that they actually force me to write new things and “turn them in” on a schedule. Yes the comments from the other participants are important, but not as important as the fact that I actually made the time in my busy calendar to write.
That’s the thing I struggle with the most—time.
Maybe it weighs heavy on my these days because I’ve watched it come to an end for my parents recently. I can see how quickly it runs out. That I am pondering the value of individual lives is clearly on display in the most recent things I’ve written and shared with my writing groups. I sit down to write fiction, but keep ending up with memoir, or at least, creative nonfiction. So, left to my own devices, I write about my parents, my life. At least for now. Maybe I just have to spill all those words on the page, to get them out of my system.
Writing for Contests.
One other thing I do to force myself to keep writing, is to write for contests of the timed variety. I think I’ve expressed before that I find it liberating to have someone give me a prompt—the more unlikely the better—limit my word count and give me a deadline. One such competition I keep gravitating to each year is the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction competition. This one is expensive to join—$50+, but it is fun to participate in. I can always clear my calendar for a weekend to write something based on their crazy prompts. I place a little higher each year, and that’s really saying something with literally thousands of writers participating. For the first two heats everybody writes and is ranked. The third heat sees only hundreds moving forward. These NYC Midnight folks run several other similar groups. I highly recommend them.
It sometimes gets me published.
What does all this get me? It keeps my material fresh, and sometimes it gets me published. I just learned this week, for example, that one of the stories I write initially for the NYC Midnight contest was accepted for publication by FLARE, The Flagler Review, a journal I’m quite proud to list among my publications.