Tomorrow, July 5th, at 10:05, my interview with Shelley Irwin will air on GVSU stations 88.5 FM and 1480 AM. Shelley and I cover a broad range of subjects regarding my books and my writing, among them, “writing in the cracks”–the approach to writing that helped me complete five books in three years, in addition to contributing to three Bibles, while taking care of my dying father-in-law and my dying mother in my home.
Let me say quite honestly that this accomplishment does not make me more remarkable than most of my caregiving friends or more prolific than a great many of my writing friends. In fact, since joining great organizations such as the Advanced Writers’ and Speakers’ Association and the Christian Authors’ Network, I’ve come to recognize just how many caregiving authors balance similar lives. And most of us share a similar approach to our writing: we do it in odd places, at odd times, using whatever means possible at our disposal, and we can slip into writing mode at the blink of an eye.
So here are a few tips for how I do it. They’re simply a window into my writing life. (And they may give you an idea why it’s hard for me to flip off the writing switch when I go to bed at night.)
1. Always carry a notebook, although I discourage propping it on the wheel of your car and drafting chapters as you drive down the road. A voice recorder works better for this. But for those moments when you don’t want to look like a CIA agent while you’re waiting for your dentist to call you in for your appointment, the notebook works better.
2. Keep a notebook and pen at the side of your bed for capturing those brilliant ideas that come to you just as you’re drifting off to sleep, then keep you awake for three hours. And a bedside lamp that doesn’t throw too much light on your spouse’s face.
3. Always carry a voice recorder. It can keep you out of ditches on the back roads of Illinois when the sudden urge to draft a chapter overwhelms you. In theory, of course.
4. Get up just a little bit earlier in the morning and draft a few pages. Yeah, really. Don’t give me that look. You’re talking to a 50+ woman who’s AT the YMCA at 5:00 am.
5. Use the time to write when you’re supposed to be doing other things. For instance, last night Dan and I went to a concert that didn’t really hit my blesser button. So I smiled sweetly and slipped off into novel land. I brainstormed scenes and created settings. By the time the concert was over, I’d come up with a few good reasons to grab my notebook.
6. On long driving trips, take the computer and write. This works best when someone else is at the wheel. But when my husband and I recently drove from Michigan to Maine and back, I plugged my computer into the lighter of our car and drafted my way across the USA.
7. Use your environment. Every day is an opportunity for research. Several months ago I accompanied dear friends to a medical center. During our visits there, I noticed a precious woman who regularly stocked the coffee area in the lobby. I immediately fell in love with her and decided to incorporate a version of her into one of my novels.
Just this week, a patient at my chiropractor’s office was running late. He and his family came tearing into the parking lot and poured out of their car like circus clowns before entering the waiting room bellowing and arguing at one another. He left his vehicle angled across two parking spaces, two feet from the curb. I filed the entire scene away in my mind for future reference.
Use everyday life for research on characters, scenes, motivations. Keep your eyes open. Read the newspaper. Watch the evening news. Listen to your kids. You never know where you’ll find an important tidbit of piece of wisdom.
8. Above everything, feed your passion for intimacy with God and live out the biblical truth you already know. I can honestly say I don’t have a whole lot to say, apart from what I’ve learned from Louie Konopka, Gary Heim, Tim Hoyt, Don Pearson, and the entire pastoral team at my church. If you don’t attend a church that’s helping to equip you to engage with life empowered by the Spirit of God on a day-by-day basis, give some serious thought to what the real problem may be. I can’t stand it when I can’t get to church because I know Louie or one of my pastors will be presenting truth that can intersect with my life and change me. This is the true power behing my writing. Worship is writing. Prayer is writing. Time with the people of God and time alone with God is writing.