Tag Archives: Short story writing

Only Child takes a crack at fine-tuning work time

Only Child is becoming a bear on time management

My late father may have been on the right track with his time obsession. I don’t recall how good he was at time management, but I’m presuming very good at  his job, because he worked for many years as a timekeeper for the Canadian National Railways. Dad was fixated on constantly checking the time and making sure his watch always worked. Much to my mother’s chagrin, he’d compare his watch to the kitchen wall clock during dinner. I do some of that (not necessarily at dinner), but it’s my time management area that needs an overhaul.

I have to take another crack at fine-tuning my time…with a mini sledgehammer. Some of my signs of spiralling in overwhelm are showing up. I forget where I put things; I almost forgot to pay the water bill on time; I have three evenings in a row where I have business meetings/courses, and I’m more grumpy than usual. The only sign not here (yet) is heading out the door with last month’s public transit pass in my purse instead of the current pass. And that’s only because it is the middle of the month.

The main focus of the cuts and nays this go-round is in my business. For the first time in months I did a monthly work schedule, including deadlines and times/dates to work on the projects. The list is too long, especially as I need time for personal writing (which may be going somewhere and I’m not going to jeopardize that). So I’ve been working the list, finishing client projects and crossing the jobs off the list. Of course, some of it takes longer than expected. Some of these clients I’ll be glad to do more work for down the road; others, no. I’m taking a hard look at who I work for or with and what I will and won’t do. Gone will be the manipulative clients, clients who don’t use email or even the computers they have (the extra work-around, meetings, etc. are draining my body and soul) and clients who well, just don’t listen – despite what is in the contract we sign. A few wel-used “no’s” may be the operative words here…even if I have to put a big NO sign up in my office.

I have to do this; I’m not getting any younger. But as I’ve pulled up my bootstraps (and maybe a few others’ boostraps too) with my finances, I think some cut-back is in order. The fallout is I’ve been neglecting some of my friends whom I don’t want to neglect…and I’m tired of the arguments about that running around inside my head. On a purely business level, with less and better clients I can focus more on doing a good job for them instead of rushing through it and on to the next client’s work. And (here it comes) gardening season is now here. God, or someone, help anyone who steals my garden time. I wield a mean weeder, but I prefer to use it to dig up weeds.

For those of you with time management problems in your work, read some of Paul Lima’s blogs on the subject. Here’s a link to one: http://paullima.com/blog/category/marketing-your-writing-and-other-services/time-management-marketing-your-writing-and-other-services/ Paul is a writing colleague of many years and I’ve learned a lot from him. He got me started on doing an annual business plan. (I just get carried away on what I can accomplish in a year) and has some sound advice. He is the Six-Figure Freelancer and the main link to his blog is http://paullima.com/blog/. And if you think he is all business, think again. Like me, he also writes short stories. And that is something I am not willing to give up. Ditto for my memoir writing and teaching in both those categories.

Meantime, I think I’ll dig out my Dad’s old pocket watch and also read some more of Paul Lima’s blogging gems.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Clients, Life demands, Mom and Dad, No, Only child memoir, Overwhelm, Paul Lima, Prioritizing, Railways, Sharon Crawford, Short story writing

Only Child uses fiction to deal with life’s pain

Only Child reading one of her short stories

If you are writing a memoir/considering writing a memoir, but something in your life is too painful or might cause grief for you and your family, try writing it as a short story. Perhaps you or some other family member has an incurable disease. Perhaps you are dealing with a parent with dementia. Writing about a painful situation, even transformed into fiction, can be a healing catharsis, but it can also turn into the most powerful story. Almost anything is fodder for fiction. Just make sure it is fiction.

I do this. One short story evolved from a family member’s (not immediate) unexpected suicide. No way did I want to add to our family grief, but maybe I had some survivor guilt. I was also a suicide survivor (from 30 years ago) and for five years volunteered at a telephone distress centre.

The short story that evolved changed everything except the suicide fact and one character’s volunteering at a distress centre. The characters were younger, brother and sister, and the story was told from the sister’s point of view. It started with her big brother’s suicide and then went back to their life, including growing up with a mother who was an alcoholic and verbally abused her children. This definitely was not the situation in my family. In my story, the sister was filled with guilt and she felt that she should have been able to stop her brother, especially as she was volunteering at a telephone distress center. I made up the name of the distress centre and what “happens” at the fictional distress centre did not happen with my actual volunteering. For those interested, the story “My Brother’s Keeper” was published in the Canadian Authors Association Toronto branch anthology, Gathered Streams (Hidden Brook Press, 2010). Check out http://www.canauthorstoronto.org/anthology.html.

So, if you want to create fiction from fact, here are a few pointers about what to do/what not to do.

  1. Use only the incident/event as your idea to kick-start your story. The story must be fiction.
  2. Use fictional characters and events, not the actual people or their names. It’s best to have characters with different age brackets and different backgrounds than in real life.
  3. Change the setting, perhaps even the time line.
  4. Use your emotions to propel you forward, but also keep in mind that this must be fiction. You are using your emotions from the real happening to help you dig deeply when writing your story.
  5. As this is fiction, you can have a different outcome than the one connected to the real-life trigger event. Just make sure that the outcome works with the story.
  6. Make sure the story is fiction. I can’t emphasise this enough. Real life (mine) incident – one of my cousins blasted me for writing true stories about the family history. However, she said she wouldn’t mind fictionalized accounts. I’m not going to take that at face value. Readers have the knack for finding themselves or someone they know in fiction, even when it isn’t true. But we do absorb what happens in our life. And that is often the trigger for story ideas.

For another take on writing fiction from fact, check out Writing Truth or Fiction http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/truth-or-fiction.html The author here actually used a real character in her novel. And so do other authors. Here’s another take on this http://www.thebookladysblog.com/2009/08/26/writing-real-people-into-fiction/

For those of you in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area, I’ll be teaching a Crafting the Short Story Workshop at the Runnymede Branch of the Toronto Public Library, Tuesday, March 6, 6.30 p.m. It’s free. You just need to sign up at the library. Check this one out at http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/programs-and-classes/categories/book-clubs-writers-groups.jsp and click on “Runnymede.”

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family, Fictional characters, Healing through writing, Memoir writing, Only child, Pain, Sharon Crawford, Short story writing, Suicide, Toronto writing seminars, Writing fiction from fact