Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

IWSG Monthly Writing Update – Lots of Time, but Little Progress

Every first Wednesday of the month, the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) encourages writers to share their fears, thoughts, progress, struggles, excitement, encouragement or anything really about their writing.  Since August, the IWSG would like to see a particular question answered in each blog post. This month that question is “How do you find the time to write in your busy day?”

When Mark and I were cruising full-time on our sailing catamaran Irie for eight years, there was not much time (or electricity or internet availability) to write. I focused mainly on cranking out a sailing article once in a while, making notes about our travels and experiences, and creating about one blog a week on It’s Irie. One of the main reasons we left that boating lifestyle was to focus on our “careers”. The extra time, comfort and amenities a more settled life offers would certainly help with that.

Mark dove right in, having long desired a return to the US for the ease of living and working, and stays super busy with his business ever since. I dreamed of writing a book and waited until last November to start executing that plan. Many months have gone by since then and I find it extremely easy to come up with excuses, writing and non-writing related, to not work on my memoir.

I’m very fortunate in the sense that I don’t have a full-time, regular job. Our frugal lifestyle and rent-free accommodation allows for that. I should have plenty of time to work on my book, compared to most writers. I should make it a priority. That was the plan. Yet, I spend hours on expanding my Roaming About blog – writing content and posting photographs – and interacting with blogging pals, trying to become part of the social media success. It is working out OK, but the efforts are much bigger than the rewards. Our lifestyle is just not as exciting to people as when we lived and traveled aboard. I still work towards writing and publishing travel articles and often submit my resume for other online jobs. The days fly by, even when I don’t write in my book. Of course, my intended memoir is always on my mind and I constantly jot things down. But, I feel like I am not making any progress. The content is there, spread out over many different files and documents, but the form factor, thread, flow, voice … is still missing.

My biggest insecurity these days? I have no background in creative writing and never learned about English literature. My first language isn’t even English, which frustrates me at times when the right words don’t come. And then, I have these weeks that I am so thoroughly sick of writing all day that I prefer to read. As a compromise, I choose books that I think will help me with the writing process and I have been doing writing exercises to eventually come up with a possible thread for my memoir. My non-fiction book proposal is on hold, until I figure out what exactly my memoir will be about.

While I am not a fan of routines, since they urge me to change them immediately and do something more exciting instead, I do believe that a writing routine will be very beneficial. When there is nothing more important or attractive going on. 🙂 Seriously, once settled somewhere again for a few months, I will try to work on my book (either by writing or reading) in the mornings, and do/write other things in the afternoon. So far, I have been incredibly unsuccessful with that.

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  1. Hi,
    Don’t let the fact of not being a native speaker hinder you from writing your book. I am a native speaker of English (American) who lives outside of the United States. I forgot words because I don’t speak English all day. I speak German and I am learning Italian, which has me grabbing for an Italian or German dictionary when I forget the word in English.
    Consider reading a couple of memoirs about people that you like and maybe that will give you a jumping off point to writing your own memoir.
    Granted, social media is important but anytime your efforts are less than the reward, then you need to think about reducing your time and channeling it into something that will give you satisfaction, like working on your memoir.
    I wish you all the best.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat Garcia

    • Thank you so much for the advice, Pat. Isn’t it funny how we sometimes have to look for a forgotten native word in a dictionary? 🙂 I’ve had to do that quite a few times when I write or translate in Dutch! You are so right about the social media thing, but I keep reading that it is important to have a following when pitching a book idea. I do agree that time spent on the memoir is more valuable than on the blog at the end of the day, but it is also an excuse not to write on the book, since I find blogging much easier…

  2. Oh boy, can I relate to this post! Plenty of time on my hands, no training in creative writing, always finding a book that needs to be read, constantly distracted by blogging and social media etc.. The only thing I’ve got going for me is that English is my first language 🙂

    • Ellen, are we lazy writers or what? 🙂 But, I know in our own ways, we are working towards that book or those books we hope to produce one day. I know you are smart enough to actually work on two or more projects at the same time so you can give one a break for some diversification. Good idea!

  3. English isn’t my first language either and it helps me to keep my writing simple in a way that is easily understood by others for whom it is a second or third language. Groetjes en veel liefs, Xenia ☺

    • Wat een verrassing, Xenia! Ik had geen idee dat jij Nederlands sprak. Jouw poezie is perfect in het Engels!! Misschien is dat de reden dat ik some liever rijm dan vertel in het Nederlands. 🙂

  4. Just off the top of my head, you could try translating some creative writing. Learning by doing shorts for example may help hone your skills. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

    • I actually think that I would enjoy translating creative writing pieces more than anything else, but nothing like that has come up yet (for which I would get payment). It feels much more natural than translating official (read: boring) texts. I’ll try to focus on that more. Thanks!

  5. Always looking for something better to do, that’s me in a nut shell. It’s like the more time I have to write, the less I actually spend doing it. Making a routine, setting aside time, all those tips sound really good to me in theory, yet I never implement them. I wish you luck in setting up a routine and getting your book done!

    • That is so very recognizable, Meka. I agree, sometimes the more time we have, the less we accomplish, especially when there are no deadlines involved. Therefore, we should create our own deadlines. But, for some reason that doesn’t work as well, since we know they are our deadlines and cheating is easy. 🙂

  6. I’m a native English speaker and I am constantly losing words. I even wrote a post about it – and received a bunch of comments that my readers did that all the time too. Just keep plugging along with your book; I think a schedule is very important to maintain. There are just too many distractions and excuses. I know, I’m the queen of procrastination (I’m supposed to be doing my exercises now 😄 ).

    • I never really saw this habit of finding excuses as procrastination. Darn… Now I feel even worse! Just kidding. All in all, I actually enjoy writing and once I start on my book again, I feel like I am doing things and accomplishing a little bit at a time. I am just a bit sick of thinking about it all the time and feeling the pressure to get things done. This month will be a nice break and hopefully, I feel invigorated by mid-October! Now, Janis, have you done your exercises yet?

  7. Your biggest advocate for your books is YOU. Once you’re in the place where you’re ready, nothing can stop you. If you’re not ready to tackle the memoir, maybe reading, blogging, and living is just fine 🙂

    Here’s my September IWSG post – my secret tool for finding writing time

    • Yes, I think I will do some writing and reading things that I enjoy better for a little while and then my memoir batteries might be charged! Or, it might be yet another excuse to not be productive… 🙂

  8. Writing sucks, doesn’t it? I can’t think of anything that drains more from me than writing does. I can’t even imagine trying to do it in my second (or third?) language. The advice is old, but relevant. Words on the page are better than no words on the page.

    And if you don’t ever write the memoir, that’s okay. This blog is great, you’re great. Gosh, we are all great.

    • Thanks for the encouragement and the smiles, Ryan! Yes, we are all great, even if it is in our own ways. Just like we are all cute, right? 🙂 And, I do write a lot. I just wish that it would bring me some feeling of accomplishments, instead of just feeling the pressure to do the writing and the realization that it is crap…

  9. Sorry to hear of your struggles! I, for one, find your life very exciting and interesting! What you do is highly unusual, I would think.

    I’m thinking that perhaps the daunting task of writing a BOOK might be discouraging you. What if, amid all your research and reading, you wrote one sentence a day? Just one sentence?

    • Thanks. The book thing is pretty daunting, I suspect. One sentence a day… I sure could handle that! Truth is that if I would put my mind to it more often, I could probably write way more every day (and even enjoy it), or every few days. I just am so stubborn or distracted by other events and chores and goals (that are easier and less committing) that I don’t do so. But, I am very aware that one day next month, I will sit down and write a whole bunch. Until I am happy with some of the results. 🙂

  10. authorcrystalcollier

    September 7, 2016 at 12:54

    Patience with yourself, eh? You’ll get there. As long as you keep learning and allow yourself to come to it in your own time frame, all will be well. (And that time frame may be 5 to 20 years. Don’t fear it.)

    • That would be the best approach, Crystal! I always wondered why it takes people so long to write a book. Now I know. It is not so much the not having ideas or the not writing… it is the not writing productive or being pleased with the results. I will get there, I hope, and, without that time pressure, it would be easier. Only, I do always put pressure on myself and feel guilty when postponing the writing. If I can let that go and truly write when I feel for it, this would be a more fun project, for sure. I’ll try it! 🙂

  11. Hi Liesbet!
    Good luck with getting into a routine so that you can get on with your memoir.

    (On a side note, did you reply to Xenia in Dutch? It’s very close to Afrikaans, which is one of the languages in our country. I understood everything you said.)

    Happy IWSG Day!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Michelle! The routine is key. I know it… 🙂 Yes, that was Dutch. I did not know you spoke Afrikaans. Wonderful! I truly love that language. It is even more “descriptive” than Flemish/Dutch. One day, I will visit your country. It has been high on my list for quite some time and we have some good friends who live there (after sailing their boat).

  12. You’ve lived the story, you have the talent, and you have more than perfect command of the English language. It will happen.

    • You are so kind, Lisa. I appreciate your encouragement. I think if I let the personal pressure down a bit, everybody will be happier. 🙂 Now, I need determination and creativity. And a darn main theme/angle/thread for the memoir…

  13. I’m not sure if you follow Diane, but I thought you might want to check out her sailing and writing experiences.

    • I did not know of Diane Taylor. Thanks for the reference, Lisa. She has quite the portfolio! Her list of published works and articles is huge and she even wrote a book about writing a memoir. 🙂 I’m going to browse her website from the moment we are back from Acadia.

  14. Angela Wooldridge

    September 8, 2016 at 07:58

    Liesbet, your English is much better than many native speakers, so don’t let that stop you.
    Have you considered putting your memoir in a diary form? It might help you tackle a bit at a time rather than seeing it as one big mountain (or would that be wave?)
    (By the way – very impressed that you can read whilst on the running machine)

    • Thanks, Angela. I appreciate the input. People have told me that before – and my American husband and I joke that my English is better than his (he has a mathematical brain instead :-)). It is true that I love languages and I try to be adamant about speaking and writing well, but it is that “cultural” background that I miss. Good native writers can refer to anecdotes of the (American) past and play with words and expressions. They weave those things into their narrative. I miss not being able to do this, which makes my work “blah”. And, I sometimes miss my lack of knowing “civilized words” as well. Writing my initial outline was fun and easy because I did it in diary style and used a lot of summaries and descriptions. The true manuscript has to be better and alive. That is what I struggle with… I am also overthinking how I should tackle it too much, instead of just write and see what I can come up with. In October, I will start writing more in earnest again. It can only help. 🙂

  15. When I worked at a US university, I found that non-native speakers were much better speakers and writers than those born in the US! Blogging is usually pretty easy for me but I often wonder if I should be doing something more productive with my time. The inspiration of how to theme your memoir will come to you – and probably when you aren’t thinking about it, like in the checkout line at the grocery store. So not doing anything is actually really productive!

    • I love your take on this, Lucy! I wish I had your positive attitude. 🙂 I think part of the problem is that I want to write too much. Eight years on a sailboat and the adventures decade before is a lot of (juicy) material and I just don’t know what to focus on (and then stick to that)… One day it will hopefully come to me and maybe you are right about that grocery check-out, since I ALWAYS pick the wrong one, time is on my side there!

  16. Mark’s business looks to be a really good idea, Liesbet. At least one of you has a regular income (hopefully 🙂 ). I’ve never really got into the business of pitching articles so you’re a good step ahead of me there. With the book, I think it rather depends on how much you really want to write it. I have always loved the idea of writing a book but a blog post is so much easier. You can chip and change what you want to write about, and how often. It’s mostly fun. Writing a book isn’t that, I don’t think. Social media is a very shallow and fickle media and while I dabble a bit and try to encourage people who come to my blog, it never feels like real life to me. Your English is fantastic so I doubt that’s an impediment. I wish you the very best of luck 🙂 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your comment and compliments, Jo. I agree with your thoughts about social media and book writing. Like you, I have often said in the past (when the idea seemed unreal and far off) that I would like to write a book one day. There is no time like the present, since there is time now, but the reality of writing that book is another beast all together. Sometimes, I really feel like I want to do it and other times, I feel like I have nothing important to share… Mark’s income depends on our sales, so regular is a strong word here. 🙂 But, we don’t need much to survive. It would be nice to save some money, though, since more travel is definitely in our future. 🙂

  17. A couple of weeks ago I was stuck on a writing piece and asked for help from writers in my FB circle. One of the pieces of advice I got that seems appropriate here, was to just write, let it flow and don’t stop to edit along the way. I realized how much I break my own train of concentration every time those squiggly red or green underlines pop up in Word! (Turned the spell checker off for a while, just *wrote* then turned it back on to edit. Worked!) Also, if you want another book to procrastinate with, this one is specifically about travel writing: Remember my “Quest” post back in April? This is the book that inspired it.

    • I do remember that blog post from April, Jaye. Thanks again for the link! I think the “just writing” will work for a while. Like you, I hate to write typos and feel the need to correct things, but I don’t like to be interrupted by it, either. I am pretty good at ignoring the text and details once I get going, though. It’s the “getting going” I need to work on next month, when I have time again. Thanks for the advice! What article did you write? And, where did you submit it to?

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