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Something is Greater than Nothing

By Anne Mateer

I’m not very good at math. Never have been. I still have to use cheats to add and subtract, multiply and divide. Recently, however, I did have a mathematical epiphany. (And yes, it has to do with writing!)

Something > Nothing

Remember that little sideways caret thing from elementary school math? It either means greater than or less than. The trick is knowing which way it goes. (True confession: I had to ask my newly-certified 4th grade math/science teacher son to help me on this! “The alligator’s mouth is open to eat the larger number, Mom.” Ok. Got it.)


Simple enough. Something is greater than nothing. Why is that principle so hard to apply to my writing?

The past few months have been chaotic, at best. My chunks of writing time have disappeared. Thankfully, I’m not currently on deadline. But that doesn’t mean I want to abandon my writing projects, either. So what to do?

Whether you have kids at home or a full time job or other issues limiting the time you can currently devote to writing, here are some suggestions to keep your writing life moving forward.

Write. This is the most obvious, but like me, you might find it hard to work on a full length novel in 15-30 minute increments. So write other things. Like short stories, blog posts, or novellas. Or a synopsis for a story you might want to write someday. (A good exercise for a pantser like me!)

Revise something you’ve already written. This could be your WIP or something you wrote long ago. Revise 3 or 5 or 10 pages a day. Even one page is a “something” that over the course of time will add up to an entire manuscript.

Critique someone else’s work. Even 1/2 hour a day on a project can lead to completion sooner than you think. And critiquing others makes you a better writer, too. Just be sure to let your friend know that you are working slowly.

Read a research book. Notice I didn’t just say “research.” Research can be a total time suck and a source of frustration if you have to stop when you’ve just gotten started. But a research book is easier to put down after a specified time frame, even if you are taking notes as you read.

Read a writing book. Pull out the one you read as a newbie but is now gathering dust on your shelf. Or find a new one a writing buddy recommends. A chapter a day will keep you thinking and learning about writing.

The truth is, we all have increments of time to devote to a writing-related activity, be it 15 minutes or 4 hours. And logging words on our WIP isn’t the only thing that moves us forward as a writer. Every activity above adds up (See? Math again!) to better storytelling and better words on the page when we again have access to larger parts of our schedules.

Anne Mateer July 2015Anne Mateer is the author of four historical novels as well as a contemporary Christmas short story in 2014’s A Cup of Christmas Cheer II. Anne and her husband, Jeff, live in Dallas. Visit www.annemateer.com for more information about Anne’s books or to connect with her on social media.

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3 Responses to Something is Greater than Nothing

  1. Court Ellyn says:

    Precisely where I am. Precisely what I needed. Thank you!

  2. Here’s another bit of wise math a client taught me years ago, (I’m a psychotherapist). She was trying to lose weight and said, “Thinking plus thinking equals nothing.”

    Thinking about writing is critical, but eventually, if that’s all I have to show for my thinking, it equals NOTHING. Oh, that’s a terrible word!
    Cris Eastin

  3. Anne Mateer says:

    So happy to hear that, Court!

    You are right, Cris, but at least the reading and thinking you do in those schedule crunch times give you something to actually write about when you get the chance again! 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by, y’all!