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Robin Hobb's Infrequent and Off Topic Blog

No Time At All

Time for Tea.

Okay, I see you!  There in the back, waving your hand frantically and stamping your feet in frustration. "I don't have the time.  No, really, I don't! No matter what I give up, something else grabs that time.  I can't hope for a quiet hour on any day, let alone one every day!"


I feel your pain.  Been there, done that.  But I still believe that you can write your book or short story.  Not easily.  Even if you have eight free hours a day, writing is never easy.  And when you have to do it in tiny increments, it's even harder.


But it's not impossible.  Just harder.


So here is how to start today.


1.  Make your writing gear accessible at all times.  It doesn't matter what you use.  A laptop, a phone, a tablet, a spiral notebook, a pocket notebook. Don't put it away.  Keep it out on a table or countertop, where you see it.  If you are using software, have that be on the screen.  If you are writing by hand, don't let the pen or pencil stray from whatever you are writing on.  Leave it where you can write that next sentence, and then let the dog out and pick the baby's toy up and put it back on the highchair tray.  Don't put your writing away.  You are now writing all day, even when your hands aren't touching it.  Your brain is.


2.  Make your writing portable.  Take it with you.  Shove that notebook, paper or electronic, into the pocket of the diaperbag.  Put it on the seat of the car next to you.  Have that pocket notebook, yes, in your pocket perhaps next to a pen in a nice nerdy pocket-protector. 


You are a writer.  You ALWAYS have a notebook and pen with you.  You are always writing.


When other people in the dentist office are reading the two-years-old People magazine, you write, notebook on knee.  On the bus or train.  On your break from waitressing.  While you are sitting on the sidelines watching your kid's soccer practice.  Sitting on the bathroom floor while the toddler is in the tub splashing.   (Yup, done all those.)


3.  And finally, defend those writing moments.  The ringing phone or the pinging text can wait while you finish that sentence, or even that paragraph.  Folding the laundry or raking the leaves can wait; I promise those chores won't go away.  (Sometimes, if you leave them long enough, someone else does them.)  Volunteer to take the care for the oil change.  And write in their lobby.  


Does it work?  Well, I got 1668 words yesterday,  Worked for me.  


One final tip.  It you are seizing some moments last thing at night and you know you are about at the end of your stamina, stop while you know what the next sentence will be.  Save it for tomorrow, to help you get started again.


And now I've used up my allotted blog time.  Maybe I'll be here tomorrow.  Who knows?

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How to Write a Book When You Don't Have Time to Write

 A lovely little clock in a wooden case reminding me to limit my time writing this blog.

  Well, the great debate about Blue Ticks on Twitter rages on.  With so many people threatening to leave Twitter over it and other issues, perhaps it's time for me to make this website a more timely and interesting place.  The plus for me is that I can ramble on as much as I like about the things that interest me.  


I hope you will find them interesting also.


I've posted before about how important it is to Write Here, Write Now.  I even delivered that advice at several conventions.  But fear not, I'm not oging to cover all that again here.  Instead, I'm going to talk about the next thing that would-be writers say.  "I simply don't have time to write.  I want to write, but there's no available time in my life.


My life has recently become more complicated.  More loads of laundry, a need to cook 'real meals' rather than tell my tolerant spouse to 'go fix yourself a sandwich', a need to keep my messy house more clear of obstacles and stacks . . . all of it eats minutes if not hours every day.  


Yet I continue to write.  And you can start, if that is your heartfelt desire.


First of all, you have to realize one thing.  You will never have more free time in your life than you do right now.  As one of your obligations falls away (Kids going to school now) something else will pop up to claim that time (part time job?  Volunteering in the school?)  The only way to handle this is to claw back some of the time you have already committed to other things.


Here's my list of things I curtail when necessary things claim more of my time.

Television (I spend more time looking for something to watch than I do watching!)

Cooking  (Plan ahead so you can freeze extra portions, budget a takeaway meal, etc.)

On-line activities (gaming, social media, chatting)


You don't have to give those things up. Just decide how much time each can claim, and stick to it.


You can make your own list.  I promise not to judge you.


Next importan step.  Defend the block of time you have claimed.  If you have a family or friends, people will ask you for  your time.  'Can you babysit for me?'  'Would you drive me to the airport?'  'Let's go out for drinks.' Whatever.  Practice saying, "Not now.  This is my writing time."  Just as you wouldn't jump out of the bathtub to do those things, don't get up from the keyboard.  This is your writing.  It's important to you.  Claim it.  And don't hesitate to reverse the flow.  Ask your family to help protect that time.  Let your friends know that you are writing your magnum opus and you need time to do it.


Things that help me but may be hazardous to you.

Keep a writing log.  Jot down when you start, how many words/pages you have at the beginning of your session, and then log when you stop writing and what results you can claim.   Yesterday, I got 585 words.  Pathetic, right?  But that doesn't reflect that I reorganized the first 100 pages, moving chapters, inserting chapter headings for bridge work I need to create, researched diseases of sheep (it's relevant!)etc.  While the word count may not reflect all that you did, it tells you one thing.  Yesterday I wrote.  Today I write. And tomorrow I will have written.  Even if I write only 500 words a day, at the end of the year I will have 182,500 words.  That's a respectable book chunk!


And . . . oh, my.  Look at the time!  That's all my blogging for today.  


I will see you tomorrow.  Perhaps.  But now I have to go.


I have a book to write.

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In Which Life Throws Me a Curve Ball

Happy Halloween, everyone.


I have such wonderful memories of this holiday from my childhood in California.  After we moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, Halloween was more of a challenge.  What costume can you wear over a parka?  But for the time I lived in Terra Linda, California, Halloween was wonderful.  Ray Bradbury Halloweens, of warm winds and children in costume running in clusters from door to door. A time when I could go for blocks, for hours, and no one worried that I was out alone.


The leaves were mostly off the trees and the wind would send them skittering down the streets.  The streetlamps made our shadows stretch and shrink as we ran past them, pillow cases in hand, so greedy that no mere brown paper bag could hold enough loot.  Some houses were dim, candles in the window, spooky music playing from open windows.  You might have a witch or a Frankenstein's monster opening the door at those houses.  Scary, but the candy was worth it.  


My dad had lost most of his hair by then.  He had a sort of headband, with the two halves of an arrow so it looked as if an arrow had been shot through his head.  He would be absolutlely serious when he opened the door, waiiting for the costumed kids to shout that he had an arrow throuigh his head.  


I wrote my very first short story one Halloween, sitting in my witch costume at the kitchen table, waiting for evening to fall so I could Trick or Treat.  I can quote the first page.  "Once there was a cat.  He was black.  His name was Dick."  


These are the days when I wish my driveway was shorter and children lived nearer than several acres away.  I don't get any trick or treaters.  I will still put a couple of lit pumpkin decorations on the corner fence posts and hope that perhaps the passing drivers will smile at sight of them.


But this Halloween is also a bit dreary for me, and not because of the wind and rain.  There has been a change in my life. And it's going to affect me and how I do things for a long time.


Tonight, I desperately wish I were 8 years old again and running off to Trick or Treat.


But I'm not.  My life has taken a sudden turn.


The care of an elderly relative has fallen to me.  (I'm 70, no spring chicken myself!)  She cannot be left alone, as she is a fall risk.  Every day, there are multiple bedding changes, loads of laundry to wash and dry, trips to the bathroom, meals to prepare and so forth.  The care level is past the load of when the children were small and in diapers.  There are daily attempts by me to try to re-awaken what was once a very sharp mind.  Tries for a real conversation beyond "Would you like a cup of tea now?" or "Shall we try a visit to the bathroom now?" This person was extremely important in my children's lives.  The  Auntie who bought fancy dresses I couldn't afford for special occasions, the one who put an Atari Play Station under the Christmas tree, and the game cartridges to go with it.  This was my partner in caring for both my elderly parents from the time of disability to the day of death.  


So.  Now her care has fallen on me.


I'm not going to give a long explanation about how in the US, medicare does not cover long term care as in a nursing home or assisted living.  I'll save all that for another day, but I will let everyone know that those options have been considered and rejected.  For now. 


I know I cannot sustain this indefinitely.  At 70, I can only do so many lifts from wheelchair to toilet and back again.  Only so many into the car, fold the wheelchair, do the driving, unfold the wheelchair, and lift from the car to the chair.  I know that.  But for now, this is my life.


What does that do to my writing?  The same thing it does to my gardening and home preserving and long walks with dogs.  All that is severely curtailed.  As when the kids were small, I have to rise very early to get some time alone with the keyboard.  And when Fred is around, he can keep an eye on things so I can weed a strawberry bed or take the dogs for a run.  Life goes on, just on a bumpier path.


And it means that writing events and conventions and all that fun is now on pause.  To my disappointment, I will not be able to attend Dragonsteel Mini Con in Salt Lake City in November. Months ago, we had planned that as a road trip from Washington to Utah.  But now I cannot be absent from the farm for even two days, let alone five or six. I can't go to chat with Brandon Sanderson, and be on panels and sign books.  It's simple.  I can't.


Let me be clear.  I am not asking for sympathy and please no advice.  I have binders full of advice from experts.  Medicare, Medicaid, COPES, etc. etc. We've looked at our options and made our choide.


What I would ask of each of you is to take, not a minute, but an hour and ask yourself, "What if that were me?"  Not just as caretaker, but as the person needing care.  Talk about it with yoiur family and friends.  Make a plan.  Tell people what the plan is.  Write it down.  Change it as time goes by.  Don't let it take anyone by surprise.


I probably will do an informaitonal post later about the difference between Medicare and Medicaid and the big holes in what you might think is a safety net.  But not tonight.


If this is a Trick that life has played on me, well, I've had more than my share of Treats.  I can stand up to this.


Happy Halloween!