Sometimes it’s not the lack of productivity that dogs me…it’s the forgetting to work on something that day.
I’ve found over the years that I work best when my day has a bit of a schedule to it. Nothing immovable and set in stone, mind you…just a bit of repetition of a daily habit that gets me up and running. For instance, I’ll have a day where I want to write a blog entry, work on Writing Projects A and B, do some daily exercise, and follow up on a few non-writing errands. And for the most part, I’ll hit every single one with time to spare.
Some days, however, they turn into Best Laid Plans that go awry. Part of it is due to distraction, but it’s also due to that old classic excuse, Out of Sight, Out of Mind. For example, as much as I’ve been wanting to make sure I stretch and exercise more often, that’s usually the first thing to fall by the wayside, usually because I just don’t think about it until it’s too late. And sometimes it’s not enough to have a list of to-do items on the whiteboard calendar, because sometimes I’m too busy working on something else that I completely forget to look at the thing until late in the day. [It’s in my peripheral vision while I look at this screen, it just ends up as visual static that I don’t always pay attention to.]
So what to do…?
I realized it was time for me to try something I’d attempted in the past: time blocking. I know this is something some office workers do; setting up a full schedule of Things One Must Do Today. It’s mostly so that they won’t overfocus on one specific task to the detriment of every other task due that day. I did it during my school years to some degree, and I did it for almost the entirety of my Belfry years. A scheduled habit turns into productivity for me.
I say this because I’ve created one this past week that’s been working quite well; I literally drew up a spreadsheet of times and tasks: 7am check emails and read morning comics, 8am catch up with small projects and job searches, 9:30am write in personal journal (a leftover from my Former Day Job days), 10am morning stretches…and so on. I printed it out and have it hanging on my clipboard next to my screen. I started this with the idea that this isn’t a rigid schedule and is one that can be changed up if necessary. As long as I hit every task within the half hour, is the main goal.
The end result this past week has been a consistent word count for both projects, blogs going out on time, and most importantly, I’ve been exercising and stretching twice a day again! I’ve missed maybe one or two items along the way, but I’m not beating myself up about it because I know sometimes that’ll happen. I may have to go out and do some errands in the neighborhood, or I might want to finish up something important and time sensitive.
The point isn’t to give every single item a checkmark on a daily basis…the point is to give myself a bit of stability and direction, that’s all. And that’s all I really need right now.
I ran away I walked a fine line Wasting time only to find You were callin’ I think finally To remind me I am fine
Whoof. It’s been HOW LONG since I posted here? At least a couple of months. What the hell have I been doing all this time? A bit of this, a bit of that. Going at my own pace for once. Figuring a lot of personal shit out. Cleaning out the attic and the cupboards and rewiring the circuits, so to speak. I haven’t been nearly as productive as I’d like, but I have to remind myself I’d taken this hiatus precisely to break myself out of that mindset.
And now I’m back. Hell, I’ve even built up my whiteboard schedule again! It was a much-needed vacation, but now I need to get back to work. I’ve only got the barest of plans (which to be honest is kind of par for the course for me anyway), but I have the drive and the goals again. And that’s enough for now. That’s all that’s needed.
I don’t know what I’ll be working on next, other than doing the non-creative parts of Getting a Novel Out Into the World for Diwa & Kaffi, but as soon as I know, you’ll most likely be hearing about it here. In the meantime, I’m returning to the blogosphere with both Welcome to Bridgetown and Walk in Silence — same schedules for both — and I’m really looking forward to it all.
Doing the best I can With or without a plan, I’m taking what I can get I haven’t seen nothing yet If one day you wake up and find what you make up Come and get me, come and take me there
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’d adjust my creative output with possible life and work changes coming in the future. I’m sure every writer, artist and musician has to go through this at some point in their life; it’s rare when they can stay with a creative regimen for years at a time.
I’ve been working from home full time since…2014, I think? That’s five years. That’s a pretty damn impressive run, and I’ve made the best of it any way I could. I revised and self-published the trilogy and wrote three additional novels, hand-wrote a bazillion personal journal entries, and created an impressive blog schedule. And on top of that, I also managed to hit the gym a few times a week as well!
This might change at some future point, and at first it bothered me severely. I’ll readily admit to being extremely fond of habit and schedule — and I’ve mentioned many times that it’s mainly because it keeps me from otherwise wasting my time being unproductive.
But now that I’ve had more time to think about it, I realize that just like any other Day Job, it’s really just a matter of knowing how to rearrange and reorganize.
The one hard and fast rule for me has always been to be extremely protective of my writing time. I won’t budge on that. I can make concessions and figure out how to fit it into any Day Job schedule of course, but I won’t sacrifice it completely. My writing is my long-term career to balance with the Day Job. And I’m always open with managers about that, and thankfully they’ve all be extremely understanding. (In fact, many of them are usually quite impressed when they hear I have multiple books out! Heh.) If the Day Job requires my undivided attention, I’m down with that. But I need to ensure that I have time outside of that job to dedicate to my writing.
So what does this mean, with the future possibility of having to go into the office after five years of my commute being a ten second walk into the other room? Well, this just means that I could use that travel time to read. It means that I could revive the old HMV habit of going in early and spending that time in the break room or the cafeteria doing some longhand work. It means that I can still use my post-dinner time to work on the novels. I’ll certainly miss listening to my music all day long, but I’m sure I can come up with an alternative for that as well.
All I need to do is remember that I’m not giving up any personal time for my writing. I’m just shifting a few things around, is all.
[Previously posted on my Dreamwidth account a few days ago, sharing it here with minor edits.]
I feel like my writing process is in transition again. Maybe it’s because I’m pretty much running on 90% Editor Brain at the moment, focusing on the Diwa and Kaffi rewrite. [It could also be that the Spring Cleaning bug bit me pretty damn hard this year.] Usually when this happens, I’ll still have a serious itch to get some new writing done on the side, even if it’s just exercise. But lately that itch is nowhere to be seen. Not entirely unsettling, as I’ve had this happen before, and I’m not worried that my Writing Chops have deserted me…just that it feels weird to feel this and not worry about it.
I think one of the shifts in the process might be that I feel like I’ve done enough of scheduling. Now, scheduling is never a bad thing, especially for someone like me who doesn’t always remember when an event is coming up (or a vacation, for that matter), but that’s what my regular monthly calendar is for. I’m talking about what I call strict-scheduling — assigning myself a specific time or a certain project for a particular date, for instance. This is what my whiteboard calendar has been for. It’s something I’ve been depending on for quite a few years now, and I put it there to ensure that I’m working every day.
Now, I’m not so sure I need it anymore. I needed it in the past when I was having trouble getting myself back on track after a long dry spell. I needed it when I was updating my blogs. I needed it as a reminder for specific projects. It was something I’d been using for years to inspire me to get working.
I think I’ve gotten past the needing it at this point. It’s served its purpose quite some time ago and now it’s feeling like a bit of a hindrance. It’s no longer inspiring and feels more like a dreaded homework assignment and drained all the fun out of it. So I’ve gone and cleared it — wiped all the scheduled items on there. It’s a normal calendar now. If I’m going to use it, I think I’ll use it for reminding myself of long-term deadlines and convention reminders.
Will I come back to use it again? Most likely, but I’m not going to worry about it.
As long as I remember to keep working, that’s all that really matters.
Juggling between Day Job and Writing Career can be a tricky thing. I’m lucky in that I work from home, which affords me time to listen to music as long and as loud as I like, plus my commute is about twenty feet from my bed and into the next room. But there’s not a lot of time to do much writing work, even during slow times. We both wake up around 6am and start our days at 7:30am. I have a half-hour for lunch at noon, and two fifteen-minute breaks (one in the morning, one in the afternoon). Then there’s the time right after work, where we’ll occasionally head over to the local YMCA for some exercise and getting off our duffs. We’ll have dinner soon after that, when we return.
That gives me about two hours in the evening during the weekdays to work on whatever project I happen to be on. We’ll get into bed around 8:3oish and read for an hour or two before passing out for the night. Like any other writer, I really wish I had more time to work with. But somehow I pull it off.
How do I do it? Well, a few things, really.
Assigned time. My midmorning break (around 9:30am) is when I do my longhand writing. Specifically, I write a daily entry in my moleskine journal. I don’t give myself a subject to write about; it’s just a personal entry of things on my mind at time. It may or may not have anything to do with writing, but as long as I’m writing something, that’s all that matters. The afternoon break (around 2:30pm) is less structured, but it’s there for me to use if need be.
Being conscious of the use of my time. Not gonna lie, I get sucked down the Wikipedia rabbit hole and the cat gif vortex and the Twitter noise just as often as everyone else does. I’m okay with a bit of goofing off now and again; it gives my brain a rest, especially if the Day Job has been stressful. But I’ve also trained myself to shut down the browser as soon as I realize I’m just wasting time. [An unexpected plus is that my reaction time has gotten faster; I’ll waste five minutes instead of fifteen now.]
Being on a roll. Sometimes I’ll get into a groove and not want to stop. Why stop when I can still go? I used to do this all the time with my old Belfry writing habits, and I still do it with the housework, so why not? I’ll get one blog post done, and if I have enough time, I’ll write another one. And if I’m still on that roll, maybe I’ll work on something else. At least until i get tired or get diverted by something more important. The downside is that I might exhaust myself now and again, but it’s a small price to pay. This works out especially well if I’m having a slow day at the Day Job.
Planning out my day. This is where the whiteboard comes in. I’ve made it a point that I want to write two blog posts a week for each site. For the most part I’ve been keeping that, even though some of the entries have ended up going live in the afternoon (like this one) rather than first thing in the morning. [That’s been my own fault lately. Still working on the planning part.]
And of course, deadlines. I haven’t given myself a strict deadline for when I finish editing The Balance of Light, given that this one’s getting a severe surgery as compared to the other two, but I’ve at least told myself that I want it done by the end of the year. This worked out well for the other two books: I’d chosen a specific date at least a month and a half in the future as the drop date and made sure the book was finished at least a week beforehand. This meant that I’d focus on nothing except for the editing, formatting and publishing of the books for that amount of time — this meant that things like the 750 Words would fall by the wayside, that the blog posts might end up a bit scant, and that I’d conveniently forget to work on any other projects. But the payoff was perfect: once the project was considered done, I gave myself a week off to relax and play catch-up with everything I’d put aside. By the time I’m back to normal, I’m ready to go on the next project.
But what about the Writing/Day Job juggling? That’s a good question. What I’m trying to say here is that looking at it in terms of Day Job versus Must Do All The Things isn’t exactly the right way to do it. The trick is to already know that you only have a finite amount of time. I only have about two hours of free time in the evening which I can fully dedicate to whatever writing project I’m on. In those two hours, I’m going to do my damnedest to keep myself focused on it. And during my Day Job hours, if the pace is slow enough that I can get away with it, I’ll work on something quick and easy like Daily Words, or write part of a blog post. Otherwise I’ll stick with the scheduled assignments during my free time. In turn, that lightens up my end-of-day load of work that still needs doing.
I’ve been hinting at a new and improved writing process for a while now. Taking a hard left and going in a completely different direction. Looking at my creativity from a vastly different perspective. Working with a new whiteboard schedule. Being more consistent with updating my WordPress blogs. Starting totally new projects, and seeing old ones off.
Well, it’s a little bit of everything, really. Let’s just say I have a very busy 2015 ahead of me, in a positive way.
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Let’s start with the new whiteboard. [For those not too interested, scroll down to the next break for some fun news!] Each day has something to do, as you can see from the picture…but noticeably missing is any mention of a main project. This is a continuation from what I’d been doing with the previous whiteboard the last few months. I know what main project I’m supposed to be working on, so I don’t feel I need to put add it to the board. Also, I’ve decided that this is not going to be a “this is what I’m doing today” to-do schedule but a “this is due by today” deadline schedule. This gives me more freedom to create something when I feel like it, and also gives me the impetus to create a surplus if need be (more on that in a few moments). Here’s what I have set up:
Sunday: Welcome to Bridgetown blog. Even though this blog is dedicated to the stories within the Mendaihu Universe that I’m writing, I will also be featuring more entries about the writing craft. My weekend blog entries (such as on the good old LJ) tend to be longer and more contemplative, and channeling that into writing thoughts and MU extras seems like a good idea.
Monday: Storyboarding. What is this, you say? Am I thinking of going into film or animation? Well, no, not as such, but this is something new I’d like to try out. It’s an exercise in brainstorming. It can be anything from brief outlining of a current work in progress to playing around with new ideas. But yes, it could even include art!
Tuesday: Art. Doing the Inktober meme last year definitely inspired me to start drawing again, so this is a reminder to keep that alive. This will also serve as reminder to post any ongoing or finished artwork up on the Tumblr site.
Wednesday: Poetry. I’m starting to be more consistent about this one lately, as I’ve often been using my daily word run on 750 Words as a playground for poetry ideas. It might be just a few stanzas, or it might be epic in length, depending on the subject and what I want to write about. These will most likely remain offline for now, although if I’m particularly proud of the end result, I may post it somewhere.
Thursday: Walk in Silence blog. This one remains my all-purpose blog to write about music, and I felt that moving this to Thursday would be perfect, for two reasons: One, new releases come out on Tuesdays and it sometimes takes me a day or so to connect with the ones I buy or download. Two, because in my aim to become more consistent in my blogging, I’m going to be posting micro-reviews of new releases, alongside other music-related subjects I may want to talk about. As with this blog, I’m planning on writing more entries than releasing them so I can create a backlog, and therefore have a more consistent release schedule.
Friday: Photos. I’m continuing to get better at my photography, learning more how to tweak pictures using Photoshop, and so on, and I’d like to feature more pictures on my Tumblr. Taking inspiration from a photographer I follow here on WP, I’d like to challenge myself by taking things other than panoramas or architecture; I’d like to try still life and nature, turn it more artistic, even if it’s just for practice.
Saturday: Music. One major project for 2015: start recording! I’ve got feasible software on my computer (Audacity), a small microphone, and a handful of song and melody ideas, so I think it’s high time I reignited the Drunken Owl project by making demos here in Spare Oom Studio. I’m not planning on anything big, so it could be anything from short snippets to revisiting old Flying Bohemians tracks, and playing around with them. I’d also like to do more research into more extensive software that could possibly let me record and mix multiple tracks.
* * *
I should also add that a good portion of this year will also be spent submitting A Division of Souls to agents and publishers. I’m hoping to get the Mendaihu Universe out into the wild within the next year or so.
All this, in conjunction to whatever main writing project I have going on. And my day job. And a personal journal. And my daily words. Did I manage to leave some time for eating and sleeping, and hanging out with Amanda? Let’s hope so.
But wait, there’s more!
I’m proud to announce that I have not one but two self-published projects I’m planning on releasing into the world sometime this year as well! I’m thinking epub at this point, although print could be involved, depending on which self-publishing company I end up working with to produce and release it. These are two projects I’ve been working on over the last few years; one is complete and the other is about three-quarters of the way done.
The first will be a book version of Blogging the Beatles, the series I started over at the WiS blog a few years back, in which I listened and talked about the Beatles’ discography in chronological release order. I had so much fun writing it, and learned so much musically as I studied the songs, that I felt it would be perfect for an ebook. I’ll be revising it and adding new items as I do so, and hope to have this one out at least by midyear.
The second will be Walk in Silence itself. This one’s the biggie. I’m about three quarters of the way done on the more personal side of the story, with revision number two to add in more about the music. This one may roll into 2016 if other issues pop up, but the aim is to get it out into the wild by autumn 2015.
Of course, releasing books about popular music could be tricky considering the rights involved, but since I’m not directly quoting the music but only commenting on it, I think I should be okay. These are both books focusing on my love of music, in particular about a band and a genre that inspired me and shaped who I am.
So yeah…you should be seeing more of me here at Welcome to Bridgetown and elsewhere, so stick around–it’s gonna be a fun ride!