How Do You Find Time to Write a Book?

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photo credit: dhammza via photopin cc

With yesterday’s launch of my new eBook, this question seems to come up the most. It is sometimes followed up with, “You know, I have always wanted to write a book. It would be about…” I don’t have a simple answer, but I do have some suggestions if you also aspire to write about something you are passionate about and want to share with the world.

In the beginning of this project, about one year ago, I did not intend on this becoming a book. I simply started reflecting about our school’s progress in embedding technology into instruction through writing. I started writing a “booklet” to share with staff, especially faculty who were new to our learning journey. Even before that, I often blogged about our practices here.

Once I realized that this booklet was becoming something bigger than anticipated, I submitted what I had written so far to a publisher, Powerful Learning Press. The editor, John Norton, liked what he saw and encouraged me to write more.

So what happened between then and now? To begin, I dedicated time to write. This meant selecting certain days and times where I would just sit down and write. I wasn’t worried too much about images to embed, grammar, or organization. My goal was to get my thoughts down on paper, digitally speaking.

What I found out about myself is that I have a hard time writing at home. Too many distractions? I don’t know, but I would go to certain establishments that specifically did not have wireless. This way I wasn’t tempted to check my Twitter feed or see what’s shaking online.

In addition to dedicating time to write, I also read a lot. Seems counterintuitive, right? How would I have time to read if I needed to write? The ideas suggested in my text did not come out of thin air. They are a series of connections I have made between different people’s perspectives. This includes books, articles, websites, tweets, blog posts. The information I gleaned from reading was in addition to the in-person and online conversations I had with many experts on authentic literacy assessment.

Whether I was reading or writing, I also became better about identifying and utilizing writing emergencies. This is similar to “reading emergencies”, those unexpected downtimes for engaging in reading that Donalyn Miller promotes in her book Reading in the Wild. Writing emergencies would come up when taking the kids to swimming lessons, or when I might be waiting for an auto repair. I would pull out my laptop and write a few paragraphs during these lulls.

So where does one find the motivation to write and complete a book? Having a helpful and supportive community was essential for me during this process. My wife was very encouraging about taking time to go write. My editor and other beta readers provided needed feedback. Also, having loose deadlines was definitely motivating to “get after it”. This book had one author’s name on the cover, but there were many contributors.

Maybe the most important factor in finding time to write this book is that I was compelled to share what I now knew with others. Our work we were doing was unique and deserved to be promoted. I was constantly thinking about it. It was hard to “turn off” all that was happening. The only way to get these ideas out of my head was to document and share them. Some time spent away from family and friends was hard, yes, but I would like to think I was more present for them when I was done with writing for that day.

To learn how other writers who are also practicing educators develop their resources, check out two blog posts:

Both their experiences and expertise far exceed mine.

So do you have an idea rattling around in your head? Is it all you think about? Would others benefit from learning from what you know and are able to do? Maybe it is time to share it in a more formal capacity. Please share in the comments where you are at in your thinking right now.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District, also in Wisconsin (http://mineralpointschools.org/). He also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

13 thoughts on “How Do You Find Time to Write a Book?”

  1. I love this post! I’ve been following your blog this year and have to tell you it always has me thinking both as an educator and as a writer. You write in a way that is honest and makes so much sense so often. I imagine working with you is a privilege. I look forward to checking out your e-book in the future. Congrats!

    I’m at too many places I think. I want to write about 7 books – one for me, children’s nonfiction and fiction, YA, etc, plus at least one professional book about how I teach writing or reading and it works well for me. I guess the biggest problem is time because I have small children and need sleep. It is all I think about though and I write every single day to one of those passion projects in hopes that one will shake out one of these days.

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    1. I admire your attitude and perseverance! Being a parent of young children myself, I can appreciate how challenging it can be to make time for this. I hope you find a project to move forward on.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and writing process. It is always interesting to hear how others go about it. I agree that we don’t write in a vacuum, that our thoughts and ideas are influenced by those of others we converse with and read. I identify with the use of the word ‘compelled’, and grabbing those precious minutes when available. Years ago, sadly before the advent of blogging and self-publishing or things may have been different, I scribbled furiously each day about the literacy journey and progress of my year one students. I grabbed minutes while waiting for my son at drama classes and gym, after class, at night in bed – all longhand, on paper; no laptops and tablets then! I wanted to record everything – my learning and theirs was very exciting, I couldn’t miss a thing. Sadly it remains unshared. It didn’t fit the publishing requirements of the one publisher I sent it to. I wonder what it would have to say to readers now thirty years later! Have times moved on? Let’s hope so, though the basic principles of effective teaching and learning remain the same.

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    1. Hmm, that would be interesting Norah. Looking back over your notes from thirty years ago, how has your teaching changed? What do you need to come back to that you have forgotten about since that time? You have a lot of great artifacts from your initial teaching experience. I am sure you will find some profound purposes for your valuable reflections.

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    1. Congratulations, J.M. That is exciting. Yes, summer is such a valuable time to write and reflect about our experiences. I also made sure that I had a summer, by taking extended breaks from all things writing for mini-vacations and such. I have found these breaks help my writing. They clear my head and allow ideas that were underneath the surface to reveal themselves.

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  3. Every summer I tell myself that I will write down one of the many ideas swirling around in my head for a children’s book. Other than having no time (or choosing not to take the time), another problem is I can’t draw and most successful children’s book authors either illustrate their own books or have an amazing partner to illustrate. My grandfather was a professional artist and drew Winnie the Pooh for Sears catalogs and ads years and years ago. Unfortunately, I did not inherit an iota of his talent.
    I also have no clue how one gets published. I’ve researched it online but they all seem like a sham. (“Just send us your book idea and $29.99…”)
    My children’s book ideas are on my summer bucket list with learning how to golf. Maybe next year…

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    1. Cara, publishing can be an intimidating process. A friend of mine just recently found a publisher for her picture book after several years of trying. I was very lucky, in that my publisher was just getting started in developing eBooks for educators. The playing field was a little smaller at the time.

      I am not sure if we inherit talent more than we work at it so much that we continue to improve. Writing on my blog has helped me grow as a writer more than anything. Thoughtful comments from readers such as yourself have provided essential feedback for what I share. Do you have a blog, Cara? If not, I highly recommend it as a place to start.

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  4. Liked this bit, Matt….

    I think one of the first challenges for many educators is realizing that there really IS a market for practitioner voice. For so long, we’ve doubted our own expertise. What’s wild is that publishers value that very same expertise.

    My biggest tip for writers is to start blogging. Not only is the repetitive practice important for writers to develop their craft, but the feedback — in the form of comments, shares and page views — can help writers pinpoint the kind of content that matters.

    Rock right on,
    Bill

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    1. I agree 100% with you, Bill. Blogging as a primary tool for learning how to write cannot be overstated. If people are intimidated by the idea of keeping up a blog at first (I was), they should also note that Twitter is also a form of blogging called “micro-blogging”.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. Excellent advice, Matt. It was a pleasure working with you on the book – you were well organized and responsive to suggestions when they made sense to you. Many prospective book authors likely don’t anticipate all the work that goes into creating a book beyond the actual writing of the main text — especially an interactive book that will include downloadable resources, colorful graphics, plenty of photo images, and selected links out to the web. That’s where organization really comes into play. You’ve provided a model that I can share with future PLPress authors. In fact, I already have. You’ve also left me wondering: “How do I have time to edit a book?” 🙂

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    1. I don’t know John, you seemed pretty efficient to me with your time. You get a lot done with only person. Have you cloned yourself?

      Like I said in my acknowledgements, I was very fortunate that our virtual paths crossed. My writing skills have increased ten fold since I have started working with you and PLP.

      Yes, the writing part was just one piece of it. The organization and revision tasks of an eBook require many hands and good collaboration skills. I am thrilled that I helped shape the process for future authors!

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