All week, we’ve been looking at different writing schedules. Ada Nicholson Brownell, an award-winning Christian writer, finds truth nuggets from life and the Bible to encourage the steadfast Christian, as well as the person searching for faith. Most of her published articles and fiction stories point to hope. During her 17 years as a daily newspaper reporter, she wrote occasional columns testifying of faith and hope, even when she lost a daughter to cancer. Be sure to visit Ada’s website at www.adabrownell.com.
Below, Ada shares what she has learned about managing her writing time:
When my children were home (we had five), my husband worked shifts usually coming or going at midnight. So I wrote from the time the children went to bed until he arrived, or got out of bed to go to work. But, when I was working on a project, I often kept a notebook by the sink and while washing the dishes or cooking I’d scribble down my thoughts and ideas.
During the really busy years, I made lists of what I needed to do that day, complete with the time schedule: 10 minutes to clean the kitchen; 15 minutes to make all the beds; 10 minutes for the two bathrooms; mop the kitchen, 10 minutes, etc. I’d start the laundry first and folded and hung it when it came out of the dryer. Did you know you can clean out the dishwasher in just a minute or two longer than it takes to warm up a cup of water for tea? I zoomed through my work (no dust allowed; we had a child with severe allergies) so I would have free time to write during the kids’ naps or later, while they were in school. I stayed home 15 years with our children, and never regretted it.
For years when we went on motor vacations, I’d take a notebook along and plan my future writing in between cities. Sometimes I’d write pages of description from viewing the scenes around me.
One time when I had a colicky baby an idea for an article hit me and I asked an older child to get me paper and a pen. I wrote the entire article on the wide arm of the rocking chair, typed it up the next morning and sent it. Six weeks later it was in the Pentecostal Evangel. They needed that particular type of piece.
Because of shifts, my husband was home or sleeping in the daytime. I wrote my first book across the table from him, and he often interrupted. He likes togetherness.
Now I’m retired. My husband likes to sleep in, and I like quite time for devotions and to write so I’m up early. I once heard Max Lucado gets up at 4 a.m. I don’t get up that early! But I used to get up and write when I couldn’t sleep and still turn on the light and jot down ideas, or even write the beginning. With my novels when I think of something I need to add or a place I need to tweak, I write that down no matter what time of the day it is. At this moment I have a stack of notes around my computer pertaining to things I’m working on. When I worked, I ate in the lunch room and often was the only person there, although I worked for a newspaper in a city of 100,000. I sometimes worked on my freelance things while I ate. (Don’t tell anyone, but although I had private devotions at home, sometimes I took time for a minute of urgent prayer while I was in the restroom.)
I wrote my Christian historical romance during ACFW’s January 2011 novel track. I started with 7,000 words and by the first week of February I had 80,000 and the end. It was almost as if I were reading the story instead of writing it. I’d take breaks to fix meals, fold laundry, clean, go exercise. But I spent months editing and tweaking.
Thanks to Ada for sharing what works for her when it comes to finding time to write!