February’s Third Thursday Wrap-Up: Burning the Midnight Oil, Balancing the Act of Life & Writing

The love of writing can make you forgo personal hygiene, cut your vacations short, write on a red-eye flight or shower 5 times in a day – all things February’s Third Thursday panelists have done in pursuit of their literary dreams.

Incoming WLT Publicity & Programming Director Jennifer Ziegler hosted the evening. Panelists  DJ Stout, Greg Levin, Nikki Loftin and Varian Johnson entertained and informed the crowd at Book People with their insights on the topic “Burning the Midnight Oil: The Balancing Act of Life & Writing.” I can’t transmit all the laughter shared that night, but I can give you revolutionary writing information that will change your life forever.

Okay, that’s an oversell, but surely these tidbits from the evening’s conversation can be of some value to you.

Time to Write

DJ has a full-time graphic design job at Pentagram, so he writes at 3am – before work. Sometimes he’ll be up late, because he enjoys his evening, but he can operate on 5 hours sleep. His writing time is relaxing because it’s different than his day job.

Greg is an anomaly among the panel, and writers in general, because his wife told him to quit his full-time job, which involved a different kind of writing and other duties. Now he write’s “full-time” which means he tries to set schedule of 9am-3pm.

Nikki writes most of her material on Mondays and Fridays from about 8am until her two boys get home from school.  She needs 8 hours of sleep so she actually sleeps at night & early morning.

In Varian’s pre-baby life – he has an adorable 7-month-old daughter – he liked 5:30am writing sessions at Panera Bread before going to work. He can’t do that now because babies get up in the morning. Instead, he writes from about 9pm-12am, after baby goes to sleep at 8pm. Morning was better for him because he’s fresher then. Though his evening sessions are longer, his mornings were more productive.

Supportive People

DJ’s wife works in same way he does, rising early in the morning and busy pace during the day, so she understands how he works. He surrounds himself with technical people because that’s not his strength.

Greg’s wife is quite supportive. She encouraged him to quite his other job to focus on his novel writing.

Nikki and her husband saved money and restructured their budget so she can pursue writing. Her two boys provide fodder and feedback for her books. They boys understand that their shot at owning a pony and pony butler rests in mom’s word count production.

Varian said the more you publish, the more people understand and support you. His wife is supportive. Before baby, he set office hours, including a schedule in Excel for his wife to help both of them take his writing seriously.

Parting Advice

DJ:  Take typing. He hunts and pecks. It is one of his biggest hindrances to writing. (Nikki admitted to having an unconventional five-finger T-Rex typing style she demonstrated. It doesn’t impede her progress but will probably make medical journals for the kind of carpal tunnel syndrome she’ll develop.)

Nikki: Do it now. If you don’t, you’ll be 20 years older with the same dream.

Greg: Keep at it. His first book was rejected deep into the process of talks with an agent, but he was still able to get it published.

Varian: Surround yourself with people who support you, that at least kind of understand what you’re doing and are okay with the time you spend writing.

Figuring out how to mesh the love of writing (or your need to write) with the rest of your life can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Sometimes you just have to, as Varian said, “…sit your butt in the chair and write.”

This is just a glimpse of the information waiting for you at the Third Thursday programs. Come see for yourself. Check out the next one at Book People on March 15, 2012 at 7pm. The topic will be “Get Real: The Art of Researching and Writing Nonfiction.”

Resources mentioned

Authonomy.com – Online writing community suggested by Greg. You may get discovered by smaller publishers like Greg did, but he recommends it mostly for getting feedback on your writing.

Lexie is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.com, BloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers. Admittedly, she burned the midnight oil to complete this post.

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