Monday, May 21, 2012

Guest Carol Baldwin

Today's guest is Carol Baldwin, author of "Teaching the Story." Carol is currently working on her first fiction piece, an historical YA novel, Half-Truths. I can't remember my first contact with Carol, whether it was by her blog which was kind of by accident and then in person or if it was in person and then I found her blog, but I've had the opportunity to take a workshop that was presented by Carol as well as attend an SCBWI conference with Carol. Carol also has a newsletter that she co-writes with Joyce Hostetter, which goes out quarterly. I enjoy reading the newsletter even though most of them are geared toward teachers. Carol wears many hats and I've asked her to write an article on "juggling" and balancing everything.

Juggling the Writer’s Life
by Carol Baldwin

When I worked on my high school newspaper and literary magazine, I didn’t realize that I should learn juggling skills along with reporting and creative writing.

But as I research and write my first young adult novel, teach an adult education writing class at Central Piedmont Community College, co-publish Talking Story (a digital newsletter), blog, write occasional pieces for the SCBWI Bulletin and Pen & Palette, coordinate a critique group and a tutoring program, help friends with their manuscripts, judge stories for the Center for Writing Excellence, PLUS maintain connections with my children, grandchildren, and friends, juggling would have been a good skill to have in my back pocket.

Although my inferior hand-eye coordination rules out juggling, I use several principles to keep up with these tasks.

Time management

I am the freshest in the morning, so I allocate that time for working on Half-Truths, my novel. After answering email and doing a quick Facebook check, I quit Outlook and Facebook and try to devote two-to-three hours to writing. My goal is not to interrupt this time; if the phone rings I check caller ID before answering it.

If I need to check on a fact, I try to wait until after lunch or in the evening to call or email. Once my email program is opened; it is almost impossible not to read and respond to incoming mail.

On a good day, I will conclude my productive writing session by printing out the pages I have written and read them at lunch. Afternoons are devoted to a combination of housework, yard work, and exercise.

Since I work part-time at my husband’s dental office and take my elderly mother to her doctors’ appointments, I don’t always follow the same schedule. But I have found that some writing-related projects can fit around other commitments. For example, I worked on this post while waiting at the doctor’s office with my mother.

During the evenings I read my friends’ works, blog, judge stories, work on Talking Story, add links to my class wiki, or read. I watch little TV, but I visit Facebook for relaxation or networking—but keep that to a minimum too.

In other words, I have found it important to prioritize, focus and set boundaries.

Prioritize, Focus, and Set Boundaries

I love to write, but on any given day I am faced with choices of how I will spend my time. I decide what is most important in terms of deadlines, goals, and my family. If my grandchildren are in town, they take priority. If I have the day to myself, my novel usually wins.

I have to work at staying focused and setting boundaries. Co-producing Talking Story with Joyce Hostetter has reinforced these strategies. Joyce and I use an online site, where we share information about upcoming issues. Not only does that prevent losing information in our inboxes, but it also establishes boundaries in our working relationship.

Sometimes, my writing projects overlap. Recently I was researching out-of-the-way museums for the May issue of Talking Story. In the process, I found an historical society which may be a great resource for Half-Truths. If I blog about tutoring or a writing event, then my time has served double-duty. When I teach a class, I use handouts from my book, Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Grades 4-8.

At the same time that I juggle different projects, I also work at not allowing writing to become an idol and taking over my life. There are times that I say “no” to writing and “yes” to the Lord, family or friends. As a Christian, I am learning to honor the Sabbath Day and keeping it totally writing free. These boundaries are as important as setting aside writing time.

We each have 24 hours to work with. It’s how we juggle our time that matters.

(photo courtesy of Jean Hall)

Carol Baldwin’s most recent book is Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Grades 4-8 (Maupin House, 2008). She has coordinated a SCBWI critique group for over 15 years, blogs here and is writing her first young adult novel. The three Gs in her life are gardening, grandchildren, and learning how to golf.


Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for hosting me on your blog, Elysabeth!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Some practical ideas here, Carol. I know they're easier in theory than in practice. But I know that many afternoons, (like just yesterday) you send an email saying you're getting off the computer and going outside to do yard work. I need to do more yard work., Some of my best writing days are when I mix it all up. Work outside, come in and write, go back out, write some more.

Linda A. said...

Carol's example is a good one to follow. Personally, I spend too many of my "best writing hours" reading blogposts and emails. I have considered changing that up. I think this interview may prompt me to do just that. Thanks!

elysabeth said...

Carol, thanks for being my guest. Hopefully lots of traffice to your blog and mine.

Joyce, it's funny how sometimes just shaking up our "routines" makes all the difference in the world and we are more productive. I think it has to do with the change of pace and getting our creative juices flowing.

Linda, I'm right there with you. I also have 2 teenagers who are a distraction and a full-time job. So, I really don't have a "best writing time" (or not that I've noticed).

Thanks for stopping by, ladies. See you all in the postings - E :)

Carol Baldwin said...

JOyce- yes, it is easier in theory than in practice. But closing my inbox- even if it's for an hour or so-- has helped me to stay focused! Now, if I can do the same with Facebook...I'll be in good shape!

elysabeth said...

Carol, I wish I could shut my email down some days. But since I have my blogs on comment moderate, I need to make sure the comments get published in a timely manner. Most days I try to ignore my email while working and when I take a break just handle all the email then but again, it doesn't always work as I get distracted easily and want to see what someone is saying - lol. Thanks for being my guest and hurry up and get that book finished so we can see what all this research you've been doing is leading up to (only kidding as you can't rush a masterpiece).

Catch ya'll later - E :)