Writing when you work full time; citing comments from book reviews
ONLINE COLUMN: Writing Q&A
Published: July 8, 2008
|Because of a recent job change, I don't have as much time to write as I used to. I'm exhausted when I get home and the last thing I want to think about is writing. How do people who work full time manage this? |
Finding the time to write can be a major struggle. And writers who manage to clear that first hurdle face a second one: mustering up the emotional energy to actually write once that time comes. A good first step to changing your writing situation is to take an honest look at your schedule. Map out a typical day, including all the little extras that take up time: commuting, getting ready, errands. Then, look for the soft areas. Where do you waste time? What can you sacrifice? Perhaps you don't need those three hours of television every night. Maybe you can scale back on after work gatherings at the coffee shop, weekend Guitar Hero marathons, or Sunday morning lounging with the newspaper.
For the time that falls at the end of the day—when you're already exhausted-consider a short activity that you find relaxing, such as a walk, reading, or listening to music. That might be enough to put you in a different mindset after work and open up the opportunity to write. If you simply can't write at the end of the day, go to sleep earlier so you can rise earlier in the morning. Log your writing time before the demands of the day interfere and distract. You will have accomplished a major goal before you even step out the front door.
Train yourself to write in any environment. If you only write in your home study, you're eliminating precious opportunities from your schedule. Write on your lunch break at work. Or at the Laundromat during your weekly visit. Take public transportation if it's available in your area and reclaim all of your commute time. Write while waiting for your daughter's ballet lesson to end. For those of you who have strong feelings about your regular writing space, or are easily distracted outside it, this is bound to be a challenge at first. But you'll find the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Treat your writing time the same way you treat work or a meeting. Put it on your calendar. If you give yourself the excuse to skip writing, you're bound to take it. But if you treat it like a scheduled event, you're more likely to show up and do the work. And don't give up if you find you don't have as much time as you'd like. Writing three hours a week is better than none. Then reevaluate your schedule every so often … to see if you can add more.
I'm writing an article about a local author. The Web site where his book is listed for sale contains comments from his readers. I want to use a short sentence—four words—from one of these comments. Must I get permission from the person who posted the comment or, since the comment is already published on the bookseller's Web site, can I use the sentence without permission and simply cite the Web site as the source?
In this situation, you don't need to ask the writer for permission. You do, however, need to clearly state the source in the article. Some authors will use the customer's name as it appears in their review and the name of the Web site, but it is more common to remain general: "According to a customer reviewer at BookSellers . . ." If the reviewer is someone who is well known, then you may want to use the name to make that context clear.
It is important to know that customer review sections at retail Web sites are often open forums, where anyone can post comments anonymously. You often don't know who is behind the review and what their motivation is for giving it. A consensus among numerous reviews can give a general idea of how the book was received, but individual reviews don't hold much credibility. Keep that in mind when choosing when and what to quote from such sources.
|Brandi Reissenweber teaches fiction writing and reading fiction at Gotham Writers' Workshop and authored the chapter on characterization in Gotham's Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including Phoebe, North Dakota Quarterly and Rattapallax. She was a James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and has taught fiction at New York University, University of Wisconsin and University of Chicago. Currently, she is a visiting professor at Illinois Wesleyan University and edits Letterpress, a free e-newsletter for fiction writers.|
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