time management

Breaking the procrastination cycle one day, or moment, at time.

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There was a time when, if you looked up procrastination in the dictionary, you’d find my picture right next to its phonetic spelling. Even now, I succeed in accomplishing my goals in spurts, like a sprinter. But, I want to be more like a marathoner because, after all, this is a long race we’re running.

In my younger years, I would often wait until the midnight hour, literally and figuratively, to do things like laundry or that 40 page term paper on the redemption cycle as represented by earth elements in King Lear. True story.

Then, as it so often does, life caught up with me and my mercurial ways. Certain things just didn’t flex into my creative scheduling. Bills, work, grown up chores, and the eventual realization that, whatever I wanted to accomplish in life, I was responsible for putting into play. I have an expiration date, and contrary to what most of us so-called visionaries were taught to believe by other so-called visionaries, so do our dreams and aspirations.

After a few (okay, MANY) unladylike stumbles and outright epic failures, I realized that my goals were more important than my perceived freedom of spirit. I began to prioritize, whittle down, and focus. None of these actions come easily to me. I can’t even call them habits yet because, even as a 40-something, I still struggle. Daily.

I make to-do lists, lose them, and start over with a new piece of paper (sorry, trees). Between my full-time job, being a mom and (trying) to be a homemaker, sometimes it’s hard to squeeze in freelance work before 9pm. Then, there are my working manuscripts: my memoir, my novel, and my fantasy trilogy. Oh, and those short stories. . . *sigh*

It’s unrealistic to think I can do it all, and yet, I feel like a failure for not being able to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, etc. etc. (If you’re under 40, you probably won’t get that reference. Sorry.) After beating myself up for not living up to my own expectations (or delirium, maybe?), I usually come back to reality with a clearer vision. I count my blessings and remember to be thankful. I remember that, yes, tomorrow IS another day and sometimes I remember that the rest of the day – the afternoon or even this next hour is fresh and unspoilt.

Then, instead of making the day’s to-do list on paper, I email it to myself. Instead of attempting to write 3 chapters between the hours of 9 and 11pm, I tell myself to do one page. One page is good. One page is great. One page is freaking FANTASTIC!

Can I bake 3 dozen cupcakes for the school bake sale this Thursday? No, but I can take home some reading pull out pages and collate them over the weekend. Can I clean out the car, weed the garden, and make a batch of cookies between getting off work and taking my son to his piano lesson? No, but I can grab a few things as I get out of the car, water the mums, and look through the cookbooks quickly with him to pick a recipe to bake together on Saturday afternoon.

Can I say no? Yes.

Can I compromise? Yes.

Can I be patient and forgiving, with myself? Yes.

And so can you.

There are many reasons we procrastinate. Only you can look inside yourself for your unique answer. For me, my reasons vary. I’m tired. I’m afraid it won’t turn out the way I want. I think I’ll have more time later. But, I challenge each of us to look at our lives and realize we’re on a one-way trip. What do we really want to accomplish while we’re here? What will bring us joy? What on our list is worth making a priority? What can we let go?

When you decide what’s important to you, revisit it daily. Spend time with your goals if you want to make them realities. You might stumble and fall, but keep getting back up. Move forward a little or a lot everyday, and you’ll make it.

 

 

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Sometimes it’s best to just walk away.

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Have you ever gone on a trip with a beloved friend only to find yourself desperately looking for a way out halfway through the journey? Then, when it’s all over, you get home, fall back into your normal routine and after a little break you are missing your friend again? Writing can be a lot like that sometimes.

For the past year, I have been working on a memoir project that has been difficult at times. Rather than breezing through on the flight of my imagination (as I would on a fiction piece), I’ve had to sift through memories and emotions, picking and choosing what I share, but processing everything again, in my own way. Looking back at my childhood through the filter of my older and somewhat wiser eyes, has been an educating experience. Some things have been lost, and some have been gained. It has been an opportunity to glean the beauty from the chaff of the past, and for that I am thankful and even appreciative. But, even as I completed the first draft, there came a point where I had just had enough. My heart and my brain were hurting, missing the past and identifying points in time that if I could just reach back and change…well, you know how that goes. Simply put, I had grown weary of my companion, despite the worthiness of the journey. But, I am stubborn, and was determined to see my project straight through. In true fashion of my personality, I was determined to keep digging until I hit water, no matter how badly I needed a break.

Fortunately for me, two of my friends, unbeknownst to one another, challenged me with a change of scenery. A change of pace. “Why don’t you take a break from chasing a Pulitzer, and just have a bit of fun for a while,” they said. “Why don’t you work on something else? Something lighter?” they said. At first, I didn’t like the idea. I had a project to finish. I was a terrier with a bone hidden deep in the ground, and it’s hard for me to let go, even temporarily. But, the idea of a breath of fresh air, to take flight on the zephyr once again, called to me in sweet whispers of possibility.

So, a few weeks ago, I collected my memoir manuscript and tucked it away with a kiss and a promise and started working on a short story, which I hope to have done and posted on Amazon in a week or so.

And guess what? I have started to miss my memoir. I am starting to look forward to reuniting with it, revisiting those precious memories and doing my best to bring them back to life. We just needed a little time apart.

That’s the way it is with some things in life, not just manuscripts and memories. Have you hit a wall in your journey? You might consider a scenic detour. It does wonders for the heart and soul 🙂

Time is relative, write?

We never stop being a writer, even if we’re not currently engaged in the physical act of writing. We spend our days with words, immersed in a symbiotic relationship with 26 characters that make up the known world.

Words are always with us, and inspiration is always around us. We writers have this burning desire to settle down for a cozy visit with our wise old friend, The Muse, eager to sit at his knee for hours, listening to his latest tales so that we, in turn, can pass them on through pen and ink. His words will become our words and, together, we will change the world. Right? Right.

But also, if you’re like me, we writers rarely have the luxury of leisurely musings. So, here I offer 3 ways to think creatively and write productively in a busy world that is often indifferent to our artistic sensitivities – throwing towards us the responsibilities of “day jobs,” home, and hearth.

1. Be ready to receive.
Inspiration is always pecking at our shoulder, trying to get our attention. But, so is almost everything else. We need to cultivate an awareness of our senses and our thoughts. Personally, ideas usually come to mind at the most inopportune times – like while I’m curling my hair in the morning (I have often put down the hot iron and grabbed my phone, texting myself words and phrases before they disappear in a haze of hairspray), while I am at work, or out for a walk. Be looking or listening, be open, and be prepared. Always have some method on hand of recording your thoughts.

2. Don’t limit yourself by compartmentalizing.
I used to think that there had to be a method to my madness – a sort of antiquated, eccentric forumula for success. For instance, writing while laying at the foot of my bed, writing for 3 hours straight, or only on a full moon with Coke and Twizzlers at my desk. Truthfully, we don’t need these things. We want them. And, if we’re not careful, they can be the crutches we think we need in order to succeed and, conversely, the rubble in the road that causes us to trip and fail. While having a set schedule or little ritual to get our brains in gear would be nice, we can’t always make that happen. Which, leads me to my third point…

3. Take what you can get.
Yep. Take what you can get, and run with it. Ten minutes waiting for school to let out? Write. Fifteen minutes left of your lunch break? Write. Thirty minutes before the laundry is dry? Write. Right? Right.

Every finished work begins with an observation, a thought, a musing that inspires. But we will never move another human being with our words if we don’t finish the sentence. Again and again. Every turn of a phrase, every finding of the perfect word, every tap of the key and scratch of the pen matters. Fight for it.