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Monday, November 18, 2013

Keeping Focused While Writing and Working from Home (Guest Post + Giveaway!)

Editor and fairy-tale expert Kristy Stewart of Looseleaf Editorial & Production is here today! Not only does she have great advice regarding balancing home- and work-life, but she's giving away FIVE copies of The Familius Christmas Anthology: Just for Kids, which you can read more about here. It's a great book for family nights, and a great gift! Just leave a comment below and I'll announce winners next Monday, November 25.



My newest Christmas anthology, The Familius Christmas Anthology: Just for Kids, just came up for purchase in online retailers. In the process of putting the anthology together, I ran into a whole host of
scheduling nightmares and stress-inducing deadlines. But Charlie and I both have issues with the idea of people saying things like “I don’t have time to write.” The way we fill our time is made up of choices, which are based on things we value. If you value something enough, you’ll make time for it. Sometimes writing (or some other activity) is not as valuable as other things (providing for and parenting children, etc.). Even so, I completely empathize with people who have difficulty balancing all the things they value. I currently have a very active one-year-old boy, I’m earning a master’s degree in English, and my husband and I are both working to pay for rent, books, and tuition.

I do almost all my work from home. With all the different claims on my time that I value, it can be hard to focus on one project, but when I’m drowning in a bottomless pit of deadlines, there are a few things that help me manage to come out alive.

Know Your Assets

Early this year, when I was figuring out how and when I would put together this Christmas anthology, I had to analyze the assets I had available. I had quite a few:
  •  Naptime. This was irregular, but oh so precious, and my son is a good sleeper once he gets going. It’s important to know when you have time available. That time may be at 5 AM, between 10 PM and midnight, or during the precious hour(s) while your infant slumbers.
  • My husband. At the time I was putting the anthology together, the hubby didn’t have a lot of time to help me free up some of my own. But he was still awesome at helping me calm down and find guinea pigs for my recipes (i.e., his family).
  • Grandma. Not every new mother has access to a grandma within a seven-minute drive, but I do, and I take advantage of her when I need to. Knowing who in your circle of friends or family can help you free up some time, talk through an outline, or speed up revisions is vital. These people care about you, and it’s okay to ask for a few favors now and again (and also very okay to reciprocate).
  • My co-editor. Rick Walton is great to work with, and every year he gathers all the stories and poems we need and gives me some summaries so I can figure out which ones work best with any theme or organization we choose for our book.

Be Realistic

Despite all these assets, I couldn’t go crazy on this anthology. This year we were slated to do the theme “around the world” (some retailers still have the old description text) and “just for kids” was for next year. But “around the world” was going to take a lot more research, and I knew that I needed more time than I had by the publisher’s deadline. So I asked Rick and the publisher if we could trade the topics for this year and next. “Just for kids” was easier for me to do in my time constraints, and next year I’ll have finished my degree and will have the extra time for research. I had to be realistic about what I could accomplish in the time I was willing to commit to this project.

Choose Priorities

After I made the change to “just for kids” and turned in a sample chapter for Familius’s sales team, I had four months or so to put together the anthology before the deadline. But I was also in the middle of a semester in which I was studying topics I wasn’t familiar with, my son was starting to be less okay with the stick-him-in-the-baby-carrier-and-study method of survival, and I was working as a teaching assistant and a webmaster on top of completing projects for freelance clients. The anthology, at that point in time, could not be my priority. So I decided which month I would dedicate to the anthology: I gave it July. Since I planned ahead, I was able to schedule freelance projects around the anthology (so I didn’t disappoint clients), I wasn’t taking any classes, and I knew it was a good month to ask for help from Grandma too. Pre-scheduling and making my priorities clear to myself and those around me made it possible for me to compile my parts of the anthology and take pictures all in one month.

It’s never easy to balance all the things we value, but with some forward thinking, realism, and humility, you can finish your novel, meet a publisher’s deadlines, or make it through another hectic holiday season without completely losing your mind.



99 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good addition to my holiday planning! Would love to win!

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  2. Organization is key. I'm in awe of everything you've been able to do.

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    Replies
    1. I credit the humans on my "assets" list. There's no way I could do all this craziness without them.

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  3. This anthology looks awesome! -tenille

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  4. This anthology looks awesome! -tenille

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  6. This anthology looks awesome! -tenille

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  7. This anthology looks awesome! -tenille

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  8. This anthology looks awesome! -tenille

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  9. Very cool. Goodness, I know what you mean about prioritizing and time management. Calendars are amazing things, and without one I would drown in the overwhelmingness of "it all."

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    Replies
    1. Calendars have never really worked for me. But I think it's important for people to figure out what DOES work for them. I'm glad your calendars help you keep your head above water!

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  10. Amen to nap time. It depends on the day what I do while my son naps, but it's very valuable time that I try not to waste.

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    Replies
    1. It's the BEST. Sometimes I had to use it to do dishes instead of write ... but the dishes had to be done for me to test recipes, so it was still part of the process (in addition to making my home a better place to live in).

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  11. Double amen to nap time- what blessed golden hour(s)! I love the cover, it's spot on 'Christmas-y'. =)

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    Replies
    1. Familius has some awesome cover designers. I love this one too!

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  12. I love your well written words of wisdom. With good planning and hard work you managed to accomplish much this year.

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  13. I love "be realistic". Sometimes that's the hardest thing to do! This anthology looks great.

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    Replies
    1. It's one I struggle with, too! It's so easy to bite off more than you can chew or to expect more of yourself than you can give. Glad you like the look of the book!

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  14. I'm really, really impressed with your organization and planning. You're right - that, more than anything, makes it possible to do the things you want to do. I appreciate the advice, and the inspiration :)

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  15. Nap time is also my number one asset. In every situation.

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  16. Well said, and this sort of organization and planning can apply to pretty much everything. @_@ I have less to worry about than a lot of people (no kids, plenty of alone time), but I still schedule my writing time and make sure I'm in my chair and ready when that starts.

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    Replies
    1. Very true. This is hardly restricted to writing. And back when I was childless and single, I needed to schedule things too. ;-)

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