Friday, January 15, 2010

"3 Chunks"

Randy Ingermanson is a very smart guy*, and if you're a novelist, I recommend subscribing to his free newsletter.

In one of his recent ones, he opines that to be a successful writer, writing needs to be one of the "three big chunks" of your life. That is, if you could name the top three activities to which you devote time, one of them needs to be writing. (ETA: "chunks of time" would be more accurate that "chunks of life" which implies a scale of quality rather than of quantity, which is what I'm talking about.)

I've been wondering ever since then if I could honestly say that writing is one of mine. If I list my top three this way:




I come out just fine. But if I'm more honest and list them this way:




then writing comes in fourth.  Hmmmmm . . . 

And that's if I stick "reading" in with "writing", on the theory that all my reading is helping me to become a better writer. Otherwise, I think "reading" would beat out "writing", time-wise.

(Makes me think I should make sure my reading  is more goal-oriented than it currently is. Right now it's rather impulse-directed.)

It makes me wonder if I need to adjust things, live with it, or just hope that he's wrong. (He's probably not.)

Currently, I'm trying to be happy with the amount I get in, and to keep at it, knowing that even if I'm not going as fast as I'd like, every early-morning session of writing gets me closer to my goal. Contentment with godliness being great gain, and all.

So, what would your top three be? And are you happy with it? When it comes to motherhood, I think that we might not get to choose our top two - and sometimes not even our top three - ourselves. But if the time we have left after we've done what we ought is our own, I think it makes sense to invest it well, even if it seems too small to bother with. Even a few minutes here and there add up over the years. (Can you tell I'm preaching to myself?)

Anyone out there thought of your days this way before?

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

*He invented the Snowflake Method that was so helpful to me in plotting my current novel.


Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

Where do you put "marriage" in your list? (Obviously I know you care greatly about your marriage! Just wondering where it fits in this theory.)

I think you're right that the reality of being a wife and mom means you don't really get to choose your top three (or four) items.

Jessica said...

Good point, Emily, I should have clarified: it's a question of chunks of time, not of "life" as I inaccurately put it. :)

In my experience, marriage maintenance isn't horribly time-consuming (sometimes, but not often), if only because the quantity party is taken care of by the fact that we spend so much time together doing housework and parenting. After that, the quality part is a matter more of orientation than of time. (Being consistently turned towards each other instead of away, being open to one another, present and ready to be more present, etc.)

So, yes, I put it badly. :) Does that make sense?

Elena said...

Oh, this is so very, very hard!

I'm finding, though, that what you're saying about marriage applies to parenting, too, and more and more so as the kids get older. I housekeep with the kids, and I read and I write with the kids (September is sitting next to me at Starbucks, diligently writing in her little notebook... this is a very special mother-daughter bonding moment for both of us.)

And I'm making the homeschooling time count for me as a writer, too.

If all the bits of my life are separate, I can't write. But I can't not write either. So I'm trying to find that sweet spot where each element of my life nourishes the others.

It's hard, though. The tri-tone is so very close to the perfect fifth.

I'm suspecting that the only way to hold on to this unity is to direct every element of my life toward the One.

Amber said...

Um, three? Yikes.

- Homeschooling
- Housekeeping
- and... hmm. Reading, probably.

I spend a fair amount of time cooking too, but perhaps that is lumped with housework.

I'm with Elena, I'm not sure I'd put parenting as a separate item, much like marriage. It just happens as it happens. I'm not sure I like having reading be my third chunk - there's certainly other things I'd like to do too - sew, knit, garden, to name the top three that generally come to mind. But it is so much easier to read something in those little moments here and there or at the end of yet another long day than it is to pick up a sewing/knitting project - and gardening is rather difficult to do at 8 p.m. or in 5 minute increments when you want the kids to keep doing whatever it is that they're doing already. And I do so enjoy reading!!

Jessica said...

Elena and Amber, I'm sure you're right about parenting becoming more like marriage as the kids get older. The reason I have it as a separate category right now is that with four five and under (wow, and I used to have four three and under - it's getting better!), the physical parts of parenting just take a lot of time. No one of my children can do all of his or her personal care by themselves. There's lots of diaper-changing and potty-training and food to cut up and dishes to clean up and things like that.

But I know that as they get older, we'll be able to do more things together, and get our quantity time in in more interesting ways. It's encouraging to me that you two are already finding it so, because you're not that far ahead of me.

Elena said...

Oh, how well do I remember that parenting was an (enormous!) category all its own not too long ago. But it starts getting WAY better, and fast.

I'm sure it'll be a little slower for you, since your twins come at the end rather than the beginning of your quartet, but once the helpful school-age kids outnumber the high-maintanence babies/toddlers... it gets a LOT better! So hang in there. =)