Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thursday Review—Pen on Fire

Pen on Fire

A Book Review by Lynn Blackburn 

I don’t know about you, but for me a perfect writing day looks something like this . . .

I sleep late and wake refreshed.
I turn on my favorite writing music (movie scores), put on my favorite writing clothes (lounge pants—elastic waist a must), brew a cup of tea (Earl Grey anyone?) and settle in.
For at least an hour.
Preferably two.
Or three.

There’s no need to go any further with this description because this ideal day . . . has NEVER happened.

Now, I’m willing to write in less than ideal conditions, but the one thing I have the most trouble with is the issue of time. If I don’t have an hour of quiet, I tend to think I don’t have time to write.

And this is a problem. I have three children. One of whom is six weeks old.

I never have an hour of quiet. Well, unless I want to write at 3AM. And given that I’m entering my sixth week of sleep deprivation, my ability to string together two coherent sentences at 3PM is questionable. At 3AM, absolutely impossible.

So what’s a writer to do? Give up? Write once a week, or once a month, when that elusive “quiet time” becomes available?

Not according to Pen on Fire. Apparently I’m not the only one with the misconception that I need at least an hour to write anything substantial. Or that if I don’t have an hour there’s no need to even start.

Pen on Fire shoots down this notion and provides concrete examples and advice for ways to make time for your writing—every day. Even if it’s in fifteen minute windows of opportunity.

The book is broken down into sections including how to start finding those fifteen minute windows, tools of the trade and overcoming the obstacles (gulp—the internet can be an obstacle) to your writing life.

Has reading this book cured me of my desire for hours of uninterrupted writing bliss? Hardly. But it has given me hope that maybe I will be able to find time to write . . . sometime before 3AM.

What about you? Where do you carve out time to write?
Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. On her blog Out of the Boat she writes about faith and family while her blog Perpetual Motion documents the joys and challenges of loving and rearing a child with special needs. A graduate of Clemson University, Lynn lives in South Carolina where she writes, reads, knits, takes care of three amazing children, one fabulous man and one spoiled rotten Boston Terrier.


  1. Well said, Lynn. Us busy moms do not have the luxury of long stretches of uninterrupted time. I "think" through most of my book before I ever make an outline or sit down to type. I "see" the scenes in my head while I'm in the grocery store, in the carpool line, etc... I "practice" the dialogue in my head during the fifteen minutes I have in the shower and getting ready for work each day. When I'm finally able to manage 15 minutes at the computer—I'm already primed and I get ready, get set and go fast. Even thirty minutes a day will yield impressive word count totals over the long stretch. Hope you start getting some more sleep soon. The first six months with a new baby are so hard.
    Lisa Carter
    Sweet Tea with a Slice of Murder

  2. Lynn, my are a joy to know. Life happens in moments, in seconds really, and it sounds like you are doing well. Love to read your reviews.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree to both sides of the equation.

    I'm an artist and I used to think that unless I had an hour of dedicated painting time, dirtying brushes wasn't worth the effort.

    Then came 2007 and a personal challenge to do one art trading card a day for the whole year. I learned just how much painting I could do in ten or twenty minutes. That translated into the larger paintings and I've since discovered that big paintings can be painted in ten or twenty minute stretches.

    So I've been applying the same rule to writing since taking it up seriously in 2008.

    I still covet hours to write or paint, but have learned that just showing up is half the battle, whether I have two minutes or two hours.

  4. Gulp, does that mean I have no more excuses? :)