Thursday, June 30, 2011

Time and Summer Writing: Pickle It

"Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in." --Henry David Thoreau

Maybe summer isn't really any busier than any other time of year, but it can seem that way. Vacations, visitors, needs of children off school for the summer, do-it-yourself projects around the house, gardening. Some people still can, pickle and otherwise preserve garden produce, too (something I used to do in another life). Pack one, two, or all of the above together--and where's the time for writing. How do we fit that into the schedule? Do we even try?

My answer? I say, pickle it.

Writing, not unlike the process of pickling which involves a cucumber becoming a pickle, is a process of "becoming." We don't arrive complete. Cucumber vines, after all, don't grow pickles.

Yet writing takes time--becoming a writer takes time--while time is often at a premium. So many other things to do. Therefore, I propose we protect our writing time by...pickling it.

So, without further ado (and while eating a pickle...Well, not really. I'm actually eating watermelon while I write this, but some people do pickle watermelon rinds), here we go:

P--Preserve patterns of writing, protect them, persevere in them. Give yourself permission to write, first of all, then set aside pockets of time in which to do so--whether it be short-term goals, targets, journaling, writing exercises, a half-hour here/half-hour there. Whatever propels you as a writer and puts words on paper.

I--Inhale as you go, and don't feel guilty if you miss the mark occasionally. The joy is in the becoming, not in checking off a to-do list. Breathe in the beauty around you--in your adventures, relationships, opportunities. Take time to enjoy--and appreciate. A writer is far more than that of the solitary figure up in her writing tower, laboring away and never enjoying life.

C--Choose goals wisely. Margie Lawson, in a post titled, 'Duh' Your Way to Success, says research indicates that Americans expect to complete 42% more than they can possibly do in any given time frame. "No wonder people are stressed and depressed," she says. "They continually push themselves to fail." Don't overschedule--but don't cancel out completely, either.

K--Know your personal rhythms and best times of the day in which you can squirrel away a little writing time. Anticipate the ups and downs of those cycles--and keep on keeping on. Be kind to yourself. Award kudos when you do make progress. And keep notebooks and pens everywhere to catch those elusive inspirations that will wing themselves your way.

L--Listen, look, awaken all the senses, wherever you go, whatever you do. But also linger--at the table, in gatherings, in the moment. Learn to say no, but also agree at times to say yes! Lighten up. In the long run, it's all part of the becoming.

E--Exhale. Relax. Release. Ann Roecker, in A Workshop on Time Management (Zondervan 1988), wrote: " easily mismanaged. If we want to manage our time effectively, we must also learn to manage it realistically." In her opinion, important skills to cultivate include the ability to change course, the ability to recover quickly, and the ability to forgive oneself and others repeatedly.

Certainly we all must find what works for us. Not every pickle tastes the same. But there's one thing we do have in common, and that is the challenge of making time enough to write. That's where PICKLE comes in.

How do you preserve and protect your writing time in the summer? Or do you adjust your writing cycles to seasons, and change things around?

Other quotes on time:
---"You can't turn back the clock but you can wind it up again." --Bonnie Prudden
---"Most worthwhile achievements are the result of many little things done in a single direction."--Nido Qubein
---"Procrastination is the thief of time." --Joseph Heller
---"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana." --Groucho Marx (ha!)


  1. Kenda, this is a very helpful post for all who us feel overwhelmed at this time of year. I love your advice to listen and awaken the senses. I like to keep my notebook with me during all my travels with my kids. I never know what may spark me to write.

  2. Hi Kenda -

    I must confess to being a middle-of-the-night writer. Somehow I can't sleep beyond 3 or 4 a.m. when I'm "in the zone." If I get stuck, I take a walk - with a notebook - and I stop to write down ideas as they come to me. I liked the "pickle" theme (don't like pickles, though).

    Happy Fourth! Let's shoot off some verbal fireworks!

  3. Kenda..this is a great post, especially since I am struggling to write for various reasons. Each minute that I spend writing is becoming precious.

  4. I love this! Pickling things take time (and vine-ripened tomatoes are always the best). It's tempting to rush a manuscript and product, but part of the sweetness comes from waiting for the right moment :)

  5. You're right -- we have to consciously make time for writing. I find it difficult to schedule writing time too. I'm challenging myself to make it a daily habit. I especially appreciate the admonition to manage time realistically.

  6. Kenda- what a fantastic post. I hope to keep myself in a pickle all summer!