Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Making it happen

I'm convinced that one of the absolute hardest parts of any creative endeavor is finding the time to allow yourself to be artistic. Let's face it, artistry needs time and space... It's not really something that you can schedule in or force to comply with your daily agenda. I wish that was the case! "Hmmm... looks like I've got an hour and a half midday where I could squeeze in a couple thousand words on my manuscript." Uh, yeah right. It works in theory--until the phone rings, my husband reminds me that the flowers are in desperate need of water, my son wakes up early from his nap, or, worst of all, I sit down with pen in hand and the only thing running through my head is a grocery list of chores and to-do's that I need to get done ASAP.

And yet, sometimes when I have a big block of time set aside, I'm actually not that much more productive. It takes me a while to get into creative mode... It's like easing into frigid water--you know you'll love the swim once you've acclimated yourself to the chill, but it takes a bit of convincing. So, what's a visionary to do?

Over the course of my young and fledgling career, I've learned that no one can tell me what will work best for me. But I'm indebted to everyone who has offered advice and allowed me to apply my own experiences and needs to make that wisdom work for Nicole Baart. To that end, I've come up with an answer to the question that I get asked more than any other: How do you find the time to write? This is my answer, my way of making it happen on a day-to-day basis. My strategies may or may not work for you. But I hope they spark your imagination and help you to come up with even one small way that you can set aside a couple of minutes (maybe more?) every day to indulge your own creativity.

How I find time to write:

1. I daydream. A lot. Maybe even an embarrassing amount. I daydream while I drive, cook, clean, make meals, water plants, and nearly every other "idle" moment of my day. But my daydreams are far from idle. When I was young, I let my mind wander wherever it wanted to, but now that I have books to write and deadlines to meet I keep my imagination under tight rein. In short, I allow myself to daydream about my books. My characters, my setting, plot developments... You get the idea. I think about my writing all day long--and it results in a very clear understanding of my characters and my vision for the book as a whole.

2. I observe. I once saw a t-shirt that said: "Look out, you might end up in one of my books." On the back it read: "And I'll kill you." Not only is the t-shirt hilarious, it's so true. At least, for me it is. (I'd love to own that t-shirt!) I've trained myself to view absolutely every experience, every interaction, every stranger I see on the street as a potential aid for my story. Just today I saw a woman coming out of a local gas station and you can bet your sweet bippy that she'll factor in to the next scene in my book. I'd tell you all about her, but they you'd want to put her in your book, too!

3. I write everything down. Purse-size notepads and pens are this girl's best friends. I keep a supply of writing tools in my purse, my car, and my nightstand. I also carried paper and pens in my diaper bag back in the days when I had to lug around a... Wait a sec. I'll be carrying a diaper bag again real soon, won't I?  Well, the pens are going back in it. ;) I can't tell you how helpful it is for me to scribble down even a fragment of an idea. Even though I'm often convinced I could never forget this wonderful image I've just penned in my head, if I don't write it down, chances are it'll disappear. So frustrating...

4. I make myself do it. Though most of my writing happens in my head (while I'm giving my kids a shower, taking the dog for a walk, and emptying the dishwasher), there does come a time when I have to sit down with pen in hand (or laptop in lap) and actually write. When I started writing novels, I would sometimes craft and re-craft the same sentence fifty different ways. I don't do that anymore. Instead, I tell my inner editor to shut up and I just git 'er done. Once it's down on paper I can always go back and edit or finesse. But I can't work with nothing, so I give myself something.

Works for me! What works for you? I'd love to know how you find time to nurture your own creativity--even if your creative outlet is not writing. How do you set aside time for the things you love in the midst of your own busy life?


  1. Since my kids go to public school, I utilize the drive time in the mornings and afternoons to let it all flow, creatively. Sometimes I sing, sometimes I go early to the school pick up car line and write in my journal and sometimes I just daydream the whole way there...but that is my time to cut loose.

    LOVE that t-shirt!!

  2. To be honest, I do all of these things, too! Especially the daydream part. I just went on a vacation with my parents and all I could do was look out the car window and think about what my characters are doing. It makes me feel a little crazy that this is all I think about, but, hey, it's fun!

    P.S. Absolutely loving The Moment Between! Thanks again. :)

  3. Bina, your kids let you sing? I'm jealous. Every time I break out in song my boys scream at me to stop singing. Hmmm... I wonder if they're trying to tell me something. ;)

    Brandi, I feel a bit crazy sometimes, too. But hey, all the brilliant ones are just a little crazy, right? I guess we're in good company. Glad you're liking TMB! Check out the photos of the wineries in BC on my Facebook page. They give you a pretty good idea of what Thompson Hills looks like in my head!

  4. I can relate! This is very much the way it works for me. So much so, that I have nothing do add! ;)

  5. This is great!

    I have that quote on my facebook wall and love it! So true!

  6. Glad I'm not the only one who daydreams excessively and writes down every little thing that grabs my attention. :)

  7. Keeping pen and paper handy at all times!! I'm notorious for thinking of things while drifting off to sleep and convincing myself I'll remember them in the morning...Ugh, you guessed it - it's gone! Good tips, Nicole! Thanks for the post!

  8. I am a writer want a be. I don't have the creative gene, nor do I have a way with words (or grammer,lol). I've always wondered how you came up with a novel though. I do alot of daydreaming (always have) and I think I'm going to try to be more productive with my daydreaming and see where it leads me...
    Thanks for the ideas, they're great!

  9. My problem is getting past my word-by-word editing. I actually wrote almost a whole page for my story the other day, then deleted it for absolutely no other reason than I didn't believe the writing was its best. Isn't that dumb? I have issues with trying to make the writing perfect the first go-round and I have such trouble getting past that and just writing what's in my mind. But my BIGGEST problem is trying to figure out HOW I want to tell my story. I've been working on it for three years and I still haven't figured it out. It's so depressing and frustrating...

  10. Maria, don't you hate that?!? I had it just the other night... I had the perfect chapter opener and when I sat down to write in the morning it was nothing but mist and fuzz. Gone. Grrrr.

    Marie, someone once told me that we are ALL artists because we were created by the Creator. We are inherently filled with imagination, creativity, and a deep love for beauty because we are made in his image. I had never thought of it that way, but now I believe that it is so true! I think your daydreaming could produce amazing results. :)

    Lauren, STOP EDITING! I was exactly like you--until I gave up writing on my computer and forced myself to do it the old-fashioned way: longhand with pen and paper. It was very, very difficult at first, but since I was writing in pen I couldn't go back and erase anything. All my thoughts were there whether I liked it or not. Suddenly I found that I didn't have the time or energy to edit--I just wanted to fill the page so that I could flip it and stop staring at my pathetic mess. Next thing you know I was ten pages in and everything was actually starting to flow... Now if I ever struggle with writers block I go back to my pen and paper. In fact, I'd say at least half of all my books have been done that way. Granted, it may not work for you, but keep experimenting until you find what does work. You'll never get anywhere unless you can silence that critical voice inside of you that simply won't let you go on.

  11. Nicole, your comments are so kind. Thanks for always taking the time to respond to each and everyone of us :)

  12. It's my pleasure, Marie. I love interacting with other women who share my passions, and learning more about those who don't. I hope you have a lovely weekend. :)

  13. I love to daydream and fill my mind with possibilities and sometimes I repeat the same part of a story over and over again because it's not quite right. I especially like to daydream when I'm out doing physical activity, sweeping the sidewalk, scooping dirt, playing in the garden, running (but only when forced to at school), etc. I often can develop thoughts more thoroughly then because my mind doesn't have to focus too much on anything else. When my mind runs away on me and I start worrying I often daydream about my stories to calm down. I usually just write when I feel the urge, or when I really want to get something on paper. I haven't bothered writing all my ideas down because otherwise I'd have to write a million books! Thanks for the advice! You're an inspiration!

    Renee Mahaffy

  14. Thanks for writing, Renee! I understand why you don't take the time to get all those ideas down, but you might want to keep a small journal where you just jot a few things from time to time. Sometimes those ideas are the root of something spectacular! I don't doubt that you have amazing things going on in your head--don't deny the rest of us the pleasure of reading them someday! :)