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by Louise M. Aamodt

Welcome to Day 24 of Storystorm! If you’re like me, pretty soon your gleeful Storystorm inspired so many fantastic new ideas! will crash headlong into the reality of When can I possibly develop them?

Don’t despair! Instead of squeezing water from a rock, as the saying goes, you must squeeze time from a rock. Here are three tips for fitting more writing into your already-full schedule.

  • Tip #1: Writing is about trade-offs. Be at peace with letting some things slide.

‘Time’ is a tricky concept. My so-called “instant success story” of signing with my agent in June 2021 and landing my first picture book contract just four months later doesn’t show how long it took to reach those milestones. (15 years, BTW, but who’s counting?)

What I really want to stress is what ELSE I’ve been doing all this time: Raising two active kids, working a demanding full-time teaching job, volunteering, commuting, carrying out environmental projects, training rescued dogs, and much more.

The key to doing it all is doing some of it badly. My house is messy, I haven’t added to the family scrapbook in years, and bramble is invading my pollinator field. But these are sacrifices I’ve made for the sake of my writing.

  • Tip #2: You will not FIND more writing time; you must MAKE it.

The stork won’t flap to your home and deliver a joyful bundle of hours. Nope, not ever. The only time you’ll have to write is that which you actively hunt down, pounce upon, tie up, and claim.

Just as Storystorm trains your brain to draw inspiration from everyday life, you must actively train your brain to utilize every sliver of that hard-earned time. Which brings us to…

  • Tip #3: Match each specific writing task to its required concentration.

To fully ‘get’ this, I’m challenging you to a hands-on activity. You’ll need scissors, scratch paper, and your favorite writing tool. Go get ‘em.

Ready? Here we go.

  • 1. Prep your paper. 
    Cut it into about a dozen slips or so, each big enough for a phrase. Stop reading this blog, right now, and cut up that paper before you continue. (Or substitute sticky notes, if that’s your thing.)
  • 2. Record your writing tasks.
    On each slip of paper, record one of your writing-related to-dos. Dig deep, and remember the little administrative tasks, too. Here’s about half of my list:
    • Catch up on Storystorm (my 7th year!)
    • Save files to external drive
    • Draft new manuscript
    • Study library books for rhyming patterns and layered NF text structure
    • Research how the heck to make a website
    • Read latest PW Children’s Bookshelf rights report
    • Revise something really challenging
    • Research for latest manuscript
    • Look up SCBWI workshop
  • 3. Rank your tasks by level of required concentration.
    It’s time to create your own personal Column-o-Concentration. Move your I-must-focus-so-don’t-even-think about talking-to-me task to the top, with the rest in descending order.

    Remember, it’s not about priorities. Each of these pieces serves your writing career in some way. It’s about the CONCENTRATION REQUIRED for that particular task. Go ahead and rank your tasks. This hands-on manipulation activates a different part of your brain, so if you skip the process, you’re cheating yourself. Here’s my column:

  • 4. Consider the realities of your schedule.
    This is the very most important, MUST-NOT-SKIP step. Reflect upon your Column-o-Concentration and think about your time commitments. What’s happening today? What obligations do you anticipate in the next two weeks? Two months? Do you see any writing task you could complete even in a distraction-filled setting?For example, I need my full concentration to write, so that golden, sacred time only happens early in the morning before anybody else stirs. But I’ve requested library books during my son’s screaming karate class, and I’ve looked up SCBWI workshops while sweating poolside through my kids’ swim lessons. Critiquing for my peers happens over lunch when there’s minimal distraction. I listen to Renee LaTulippe’s online rhyming lessons as I cook, and to Picture Book Look podcasts when I weed. Organizing files during the TV’s blaring football game works just fine. I study picture books by veteran writers while waiting in the car at the school pick-up line, and during Covid lockdowns I rewatched webinars while huffing on the treadmill.

    To prove I practice what I preach, here are snapshots of the actual picture books I hauled around this week in my front seat, and the oh-so-fancy 2x4s across my treadmill that balance my laptop:

  • 5. State ALOUD when and where you could realistically accomplish each task.
    Stating it aloud is like making a promise to yourself. Don’t worry if folks stare, we writers can claim a certain level of eccentricity.

The trick is to be honest as you match your writing tasks with your realities. It takes practice, but you can do it! Train your brain to squeeze time from a rock as if your writing life depends on it. Your new Storystorm ideas are counting on you!

 


Louise M. Aamodt attended her first picture book class in 2006, and has been tackling that beast ever since. Her debut, A FOREST BEGINS ANEW, illustrated by Elly MacKay and published by Astra Young Readers, rolls out in 2025. You can find Lou mumbling rhyming words as she lops thistles in the pasture, studying picture books in the kid section of the dentist’s lobby, or on Twitter @LouiseMAamodt. That last one is definitely the easiest way to connect. 

Lou is offering a picture book critique. Her agent, Emily S. Keyes of Keyes Agency LLC, is offering another participant feedback on a picture book manuscript plus its accompanying query. One each of these prizes will go to two winners.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm 2023 participant and you have commented only once on today’s blog post. ↓

Prizes will be distributed at the conclusion of Storystorm.

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