Sunday, November 14, 2010


by Pamela Ehrenberg

I order groceries online, reserve library books online, and communicate with friends via email and Facebook.  So the Internet seemed a logical place to offer a writing workshop for people who question whether they really have time to take one. 

My online workshop, "Making Time to Write in an Impossibly Busy Life," is sponsored by the Writer's Center of Bethesda, Maryland, but past participants have hailed from as far away as Chicago and the Ukraine, lending a universality to the plight of being too busy.  Guided by Twyla Tharp's wonderful book The Creative Habit, we explore the relationship between discipline and imagination, how to build the structures and boundaries in our lives that allow our creative minds to do their best work.

Here are some of the things we try:

*Set (and announce) specific goals.  The very first week, all of the participants develop an overall goal of what they hope to accomplish during the eight-week experience.  They also subdivide their goal into assignments for themselves: what they would like to accomplish by the end of each week.  We all post our goals for everyone to see, and each week we each report back on our progress toward that week's goal.

*Become part of a writing community.  I encourage participants to get to know each other and explore how our busy personal lives can both energize and challenge our commitment to writing.  During this most recent session, we celebrated a new apartment, a new pregnancy, and the birth of a new grandchild--all wonderful events with their own complex implications for writing.

*Create rituals.  By tuning in to the rituals of when we write, where we write, and how we begin and end each writing session, we can create sustainable practices that last beyond the final workshop session.  And we also explore mixing it up a bit--using a writing field trip to make sure our rituals don't lead to ruts.

*Pare down.  One of the assignments I most look forward to each session is an exercise from the Tharp book called "Give Me One Week Without."  Each semester, I find myself anticipating my respite from Facebook much like someone preparing for a spa: saying goodbyes, preparing to emerge cleansed.  Even if the newly freed-up time doesn't flow 100% into writing time, my writing benefits from having one fewer thing competing for my attention.

How have you made time to write in your impossibly busy (or just regular-busy) life? Share your thoughts below. I'd love to hear them.

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