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A drawing of the brain of a dogfish shark, fro...

Knowing when your brain is at its writing best will help you be an efficient writer. (A drawing of the brain of a dogfish shark, from the book "The soul of man", by Paul Carus, 1905; Wikipedia.)













BB (BEFORE BABY), I WROTE WHEN I WANTED TO. I wrote in the morning. I wrote in my pajamas. I wrote long after my tea got cold, until I couldn’t hold my bladder any longer.

And then I had my son, a beautiful, hot-headed little wonder who always woke up just as I would sit down at my laptop and say, “Ahh. OK.” So, I didn’t write much until he was seven or eight months old.

My brain can’t write after a certain hour, and certainly not after a certain number of hours.

Now that my baby is more of a boy and about to start going to daycare two days a week, and on those two days a week I will have full access to both arms, as well as my brain, I wanted to get back into a writing routine. I did really want to.

In addition to fancying myself a creative writer of memoir and short fiction, I also take on odd copywriting jobs and work as a freelance journalist, writing for the big city papers who call only when a teacher is in court for sex crimes, or when a small-town teen is killed on Halloween (I wish both of those instances were fictional examples).

So, I have to prioritize according to deadline, according to which project is actually earning me money, and according to when my brain can most efficiently execute a task.

Here was Friday’s to-do list:

Write pot pitch (two BC communities are on board to legalize marijuana) to a national newspaper

Start A&W chapter (Nothing to do with the restaurant. I’m ghostwriting a business book, and this is an abbreviation of one the ‘author’s’ tips to success)

New blog postAnne’s MS. A writer friend wanted me to take a peek at her editor’s latest edits to get another perspective on what to take a stand on and what to slaughter

First, I had to determine which needed the most of my brain. I write best in the morning, and I grow slightly less competent with each passing  hour. So, I try to do my creative writing first and other tasks that require less focus and brainpower, such as research, querying agents, responding to emails, and invoicing, for later in the day.

Since I’m not writing any fiction or creative non-fiction stories at the moment, I started with the A&W chapter. I think it was nine a.m. by the time I shooed my husband out of the house and opened Word.

Just before noon, I had written 1,438 words, which is OK.  I only drifted towards my Twitter page once or twice, something I wouldn’t have allowed myself at all before (In fact, I said I’d never tweet, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with what people can say in 40 odd characters).

I ate a can of Campbell’s Italian Wedding soup whilst scanning through Anne’s editor’s edits. Her book, about how weight-loss surgery at 17 didn’t turn her life around, was much better than my lunch. I chose to do this over lunch because I could multi-task (eat and read), and because she’s always amazing at giving me valuable and prompt feedback. A writer friend  in need is a friend indeed.

 A writer friend  in need is a friend indeed.

By 1 I was getting squirrelly, and I thought I’d take myself downtown and knock off that (this) blog post at a cafe. But between here and there, I got distracted by a few emails and a tiny brown paddy on the carpet that looked suspiciously like a dropping from my son. Once I got out of the house, I ignored my gut and went to a new (to me) cafe and then spent almost an hour trying to get the wireless to work on my laptop. The back of my brain knew I could write the blog post in Word and then post it into WordPress later, but nah, I needed to waste time and try to be an Internet hero. I failed.

I ended up run-walking to the library so I could use the wireless there because an agent had just requested my manuscript, and it was now late afternoon on a Friday, and I needed, needed, to send that email.

The blog was bleating on my Friday the 13th agenda page: Write blog. Write blog. Write blog. It pains me to have un-crossed out items on my to-do list. The pot pitch, I knew, wouldn’t even get started, and I was secretly OK with that because, frankly, I don’t want to write that story. But I really wanted to cross ‘Write blog’ off my list.

It pains me to have un-crossed out
items on my to-do list.

So I checked Twitter again, and most of the newspapers and radio station websites just to make sure I hadn’t missed something big, like a bear on the loose (it is spring in the Okanagan), that their reporters had maybe forgotten to Tweet about.

By 3:20, at a cubicle overlooking the City of Vernon parking lot, I opened WordPress and fiddled with the first sentence of this post for about 10 minutes. Three-thirty. Ten minutes before I need to leave to pick up my son. I fiddled with another sentence. Cut it. Re-wrote it, but worse, then pressed ‘save draft’ and slammed my lap top shut.

My brain can’t write after a certain hour, and certainly not after a certain number of hours. I wanted to give my blog, though not a source of income or expression of literary greatness, equal intelligence and attention. So here I am, Saturday morning at 9:05 a.m., while my son naps, typing away and wondering if my brain is, in fact, any better at this hour.

And I realize now that I set out thinking this would be a how-to for your to-do as a writer. I wanted to offer some thoughts on how a writer can stay on track and attempt to manage her time.  Cheese and rice, I’m juggling finding a literary agent, revising a memoir, teaching two writing classes a week as well as two private students, keeping up a blog, maintaining my social media presence and raising a baby boy. And not a lot of real writing.

Alas, my time management skills are not perfect, and perhaps too ambitious.I this needs to be a two-part topic. Keep an eye out for the next post (if it’s during your allotted professional development for free surfing time).