Monday, August 20, 2012

August is Awesome Because of Cristina dos Santos

Today's awesome guest is one I've actually had the pleasure of meeting in person.  She and I attended Orson Scott Card's writing workshop a couple months back.  While I attended the first two days, Uncle Orson chose her to be among the select few to attend the following four-day workshop. (Yes, a congrats to Cristina is in order for that!)

Cristina's family is blessed to have a wife and mother awesome enough to prioritize her life.  Yes, we love writing and most of us have big dreams and ambitions, but those who are wise prioritize.

Please welcome the awesome Cristina dos Santos!

 

Carving Out Writing Time
by Cristina dos Santos

Two years ago when I decided that I was going to be serious about my writing, I never imagined how difficult it'd be to actually find the time to write. I thought that with being a stay at home mom--between naptime and late night hours and plenty of random quiet minutes throughout the day--I'd be a writing machine.

But somehow, with all that "free time"(ha!) I was still struggling to get enough words down to move my story along--managing only about a couple hundred words a day. And then, there there were days when I couldn't get any words down, because you know, life happens, and two little people can keep you super busy. And apparently, I'm a super slow writer though I blame that on my inner editor.

Cristina's Inner Editor
At one point, I started to feel discouraged. On the days I wasn't getting any writing done, I was feeling like maybe I wasn't cut out for this; and on the days when I was getting it done, I was feeling guilty because it was at the cost of time with my children. And as serious as I am about my writing, I don't want to ever look back at my life and feel like I missed out on time with my babies (they are only this little for such a short amount of time, you know?)

But I wasn't going to give up either. So I tried all kinds of schedules and in the process I learned a whole lot about myself as a writer: I learned that I can't write in short spurts because my brain needs time to ease into the zone. I'm useless late in the day and at night. I need sleep or I can't function. I'm never ever going to write a book in two weeks ;) Writing first thing in the morning gets my brain in the zone--and this has changed everything for me.

When I start my days with writing, I'm able to write more (I'm averaging between 1000 and 1500 a day, huge improvement) and the actual writing is better because my brain is rested. I now get up at 5 am, before my family, so that I have uninterrupted writing time. I find that if my brain goes into that place as soon as it wakes up, it stays there all day. So even though I have to stop after an hour or two to tend to the rest of my life, I can ease right into it throughout the day.

Who doesn't love sleep?
It also means that I need to get to bed at a reasonable time, so my brain is rested and alert in the morning. Sleep is so important for our general health. You can't write books if you're sick, right? And, I need days off or I burn out. So I write for 4-5 days straight, and then take a day off and sleep in.

And, besides getting those words on paper at a pace that feels good and keeps me excited about my story, I'm not shushing my kids, telling them to go find something to do, or that I'll play with them later because I'm busy. And that is worth getting up every day before the sun and the birds!

I'd love to hear from all of you. How do you find the time to write?


About Cristina dos Santos:

Cristina dos Santos is awesome!
Cristina dos Santos, when not being a wife or mother, is writing YA fantasy/paranormal stories and reading as many books as she can get her hands on. And that's about all she does with her time and is not complaining. Not one bit.

Visit her Once Upon a Time blog.

35 comments:

  1. Wow, I admire your dedication, getting up at five most mornings. My best writing times are afternoon to evenings. I'm not an early morning person, more's the pity. So to make my writing time I try to get all important things done in the morning/early afternoon, and then get the writing done mainly in the evenings. It's not ideal, but some things, like study, just have to take priority over writing.

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    1. Imogen, I HATE getting up that early, LOL... but it's actually getting easier to do do

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  2. Finding time to write can be so difficult when there are other responsibilities we have to deal with. I usually write best in the evenings which is good because it allows lots of time through the day to do everything else! :D

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    1. Hi Kyra :)
      I wish I could write later in the day and into the night. I've tried to train my brain to do it, but it didn't budge. oh well.

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  3. Thank you Jeff for having me over for the August is awesome series :)

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    1. You're quite welcome, Cristina. August just wouldn't have been as awesome without you!

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    2. I'm cracking up at the picture of my inner editor. It's perfect, LOL.

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    3. My internal editor stands ready with an 18" plexiglass ruler poised to pop my knuckles at each misplaced comma. Poorly worded sentences warrant a hallway encounter. And don't even ask what happens when silly spelling mistakes find their way into my document. She doesn't believe me when I claim they're typos! ::ouch:: :)

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  4. I'm in the same place, little kids, constantly changing schedule, slow writer. If we're serious about it we keep plugging away, finding time wherever we can.

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    1. yes, plugging away is all we can do, right? school starts in just a couple of weeks, and if I can be honest, I'm excited to get three mornings a week to myself. guess what I'll be doing. ;0

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  5. Wow, you are SUPER woman. Seriously, 5am? That's awesome dedication!! I'm glad you found a routine that works for you. I really admire moms who are writers. It's hard to imagine finding the time, but somehow they (you) make it happen. My best writing time is during the day, but that's not really an option for me unless work is slow, so for now I'm forced to write at night :( But we do what we gotta do!

    And nice to meet you, Jeff!

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    1. if you saw the mess that is my house, LOL you would not call me SUPER anything ;)

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    2. My brother in law says that a clean house is the sign of a broken computer. Alternatively, there's a saying (and I can't remember who said it at the moment). "Quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep, I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep." Then there's the last, and I'll shut up about it. Momentarilly.

      A dirty house looks like someone actually lives there.

      Lauren

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    3. thanks for making me feel better about my house Lauren, LOL

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    4. Likewise, Amanda! Stop by anytime!

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  6. I've tried changing my schedule to nights, I've tried staying up late, I've tried working early in the morning. I learned that for me I just need to train my mind to get into writing mode quickly so that I can drop into the words at any time.

    At this point I'm always in writing mode.

    Speaking of which, had another "complete story line" dream last night, but it wasn't fantasy or Sci-fi. Weird.

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    1. always in writing mode? oh that sounds heavenly :)

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  7. I think if I could start my days writing, I would be better off, but I hate mornings. Yes...HATE!~ Grrr. Sometimes I am amazed at the time I find to write, but other days its next to impossible. One day I might motivate myself to wake up early. For now... I hope the kids find a source of entertainment allowing me a few minutes of writing bliss :)

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    1. Leigh, I hate to get up early too and LOVE my sleep. but after 5 years with children who insist on being up at the crack of dawn... well, I have no choice but to be a morning person ;)

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  8. It's sooooo hard to find that writing balance... I swear I've tried every angle possible... but I know that for me, I feel happy/accomplished as long as I'm pushing myself---as long as I'm stretching beyond what I think I can do. Great post. Thanks for having Cristina here today, Jeff! ;)

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    1. it is a balance, and I know that this schedule I have going will probably have to change as my kids' needs change... but for now, I've finally found something that works and that makes me very very happy :)

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    2. It was my pleasure, Morgan. I'm glad she agreed. She's so awesome!

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  9. I am totally like you. I love the mornings. Never used to be like that before writing. Now, I fight with my husband if he tries to take them away from me (like if he tries to go to work early or go exercise or something). Gosh dang it, I need my writing mornings!

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    1. the other day the husband wanted to start a movie at 9:30 pm... and I was like.. oh hell no, I need to get to bed so I can get up at 5, LOL.

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  10. I'm very pro-morning as well. Right now, though, it's easy to find time to write since I'm unemployed! YAY. XD

    Much luck on the journey!

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    1. yay for no job!! LOL I'm going back to work through the end of the year to cover for someone who is going on maternity leave, and all I can think about is how it's going to cut into my writing time, then I remind myself that there will be a paycheck as well and it makes it all better. almost ;)

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  11. Man, I wish I could get up that early. I think if I showered and had a cup of coffee I might be able to write before work. But I still can't get myself to get up. Oh well. You rock as a mommy and writer! And I'm glad you found something that works for you.

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    1. first step is to have a coffee maker that you can program so that the coffee is ready at 4:55. No joke. If my coffee wasn't ready I would never make it :)

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  12. You are an absolute inspiration, Cristina. I can tell what's important to someone by what they spend their time doing. It's plain to see that writing is important to you. Good for you, girl!

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    1. aw, thanks Emily. you are so sweet!!!

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  13. I felt like I was reading about me! I too, need time to get back into 'writing mode', so it takes a bit for the momentum to build up. There are days when I'm like, 'ok, kids are playing nice together, should I clean or should I write?'

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  14. Hi Jeff and Cristina! Cristina, I'm with you. I have to do it early or else I'm too burnt out later, I can't catch snatches but have to ease into it. And you are so right about spending non-shush time with your kids. They fly the coop all too soon:)

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    1. Hey, Gwen! I think I have potential to be productive in the mornings, but I can't bear to bring myself to rise with the chickens. Evenings and nights normally work well for me though--if I'm not too tired.

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  15. You are an inspiration, Cristina! I find it the most easy (and the most productive) to start writing as soon as I get up, too, but getting up early is a torture. I need some of your capability of self-discipline! :)

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  16. Cristina seems beyond amazing, especially the not complaining part ;)

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