All right, so I've been procrastinating -- I'll cop to that. [duck] But I was wandering around on a blog I don't visit very often and found a good series of articles on time management.
Colleen Doran is a comic artist/writer who's had more excitement in her professional life so far than anyone deserves, and in fact had more excitement in her pro life before she was twenty than anyone deserves. The work she's best known for is a comic called A Distant Soil and if you like SF/Fantasy blends with excellent writing, gorgeous art and beautifully drawn men (OK, she does really nice women too) it's well worth checking out.
But recently in her blog she reposted a series of five articles she wrote on time management for an online magazine a few years ago, now with updates and additional commentary. The article series is here (the link goes to the post with parts four and five; links to the first three parts are at the top) and I recommend it highly. Note that although they were written for an audience in the comics industry, she refers to creative workers in general and I found most of what she said quite relevant to writing alone.
Some bits which particularly struck me:
Writer’s Block is nothing but a creator’s special brand of procrastination.
Umm, yeah. I'm a great procrastinator; it's one of my more finely honed skills. :/
Lose only one hour of time per day to disorganization (and that is a conservative, average estimate most time management gurus agree on) and you’ve lost 365 hours of work per year.
I don't have all that much paperwork to organize yet, but once I have contracts and tax forms and royalty statements to keep track of, I can see this happening. I already lose books, articles and web bookmarks, some of which relate to story ideas, contests, or other writing opportunities. Thinking about how to get better organized now is probably a good idea.
On time is NEVER good enough. ... Schedule every project as if you have days and, if possible, weeks less time than you actually have. ... You could have a family emergency or financial crises that will distract you. Pages could get lost. The cat could drop a hairball on your script. You never know. Last month I was bitten by a brown recluse spider on my drawing arm. There was no way to prepare for that!
Again, I'm an expert procrastinator. Writing for fiction fests and exchanges has made me a lot better at working to deadline but I have a feeling it's going to be a while before I learn to habitually shoot for early. I know she's right, though, about things coming up. Last time I missed a deadline was when my mother got sick and I went to take care of her for about a week past the deadline, then when I got home from that I got on another plane the very next day to go to the World Science Fiction Convention with my husband. I very often [cough] get stories in at the stroke of deadline and it usually works but when something goes sproing, you're hosed. :/ Definitely have to work on building some padding into the schedule.
If you want to be a part time creator, you will likely get part time results.
I stared at this one for a bit. I'm sure it's true but I don't know that I'm able to commit to forty hours a week of working on fiction (or anything else, either.) Even factoring in research and plot development and babbling my way through dead ends and searching out markets and getting things formatted properly and sent out, and learning to write synopses when I get back to novels, I don't know if I can do that for forty hours a week. Which sounds really lame but there you go, I'm trying to be realistic. If I could make a forty hour/week committment I'd have a regular job, so.... I think I'll have to keep this flexible, while keeping my goals in mind.
When it comes to managing your time, your best friends can be your worst enemies. Establish boundaries. Set strict limits for who, what, where and when will enter your studio and take up your time.
This one actually made me feel sort of happy to be a hermit. [rueful smile] I have only one friend in southern California and if I see him once a year that's a lot. My next nearest close friends are about four hundred miles away, so I don't have to worry about people dropping in. I never thought of this as a positive sort of thing before but I guess it is. I can go weeks without ever walking through the front door and I guess that's a feature rather than a bug when it comes to having time to get things done.
I am, however, very glad I don't have any friends like this one woman Colleen talks about. It'd make me rip the phone out of the wall. :/
Boundaries don’t make you a bad friend. Violating them does.
Consider ANY OTHER JOB IN THE WORLD where buddies would be encouraged to just drop in and hang out. There isn’t one. But few respect the boundaries creators set on their time, because they don’t think that we have real jobs.
As I said, I don't have this problem myself, but I can see this happening for folks who are (any) more gregarious than I am. It does, however, strike me as a pretty decent conflict for a story. [ponder]
Clutter is a kind of visual noise. It is distracting and demoralizing. It will impede your ability to work. An inability to find important documents or file effectively will eat into your work time. Think of that seven hours a week that you are probably wasting struggling with your clutter right now.
Ummm, yeah. :/ I don't struggle all that much with my clutter; I mostly submit to it. I want that book but it's one of the 3/4 of our library that isn't on shelves because we don't have enough shelves nor room to put up more. It's in a pile somewhere or maybe in a box, so I'll find it later. I know I had a magazine with an article on how the human body reacts in sub-freezing water and I've got this story idea, but I have no idea where the mag is and just the thought of hunting for it feels exhausting, so I don't. That sort of thing. That's bad, I know, and shovelling the place out would make it much easier to get things done, as well as just making the place more pleasant to live in. :(
Because I still have more books than I can reasonably store, my simple rule is ten books must go out for every book I take in.
Oh, man, I don't have anywhere near that kind of discipline! :D Neither does my husband. We're both packrats and books are the one biggest weakness both of us have. Any de-cluttering scheme I came up with would have to involve keeping all our books, less the twenty or so which are duplicates I mean to get rid of anyway.
My other big weakness is craft supplies, although that comes and goes in waves, and I haven't had a wave hit in quite a while. [crossed fingers] I do a lot of different kinds of needlework, though, and I can go several years without particularly wanting to, say, work on my needle lace, or do any beadwork, or knit, or work on that free-form cross stitch piece. But when I want to, I really want to, and it's good when everything I need is right there waiting for me patiently. Assuming I can find it, of course. :P
I suppose procrastination is different for everyone, but for me, procrastination is more about performance anxiety than anything else.
Humm. That's part of it, yes. [ponder] I was just talking with WrittenWyrdd over at her blog about how I'm much more likely to get into a flailing logjam on projects I feel very strongly about than on projects which feel more like something casual and just sort of fun to do. That's exactly what it feels like -- I start worrying that I won't do proper justice to this project which means so much to me and my brain clogs up. :/ And when a project -- anything, not just writing -- goes past a certain point of discomfort I start avoiding it, not even wanting to think about it. This is where I developed my talent for pounding out decent copy, whether fiction or a paper for school or whatever, at the last minute. It works beautifully, except when it doesn't. (To be fair to myself, it works beautifully about eighty percent of the time. I've gotten As on term papers and take-home essay exams which were done in the twenty or so hours before the time they were due, and great comments on stories which were similarly banged out at the last minute. My subconscious does wonderful work for me, most of the time. It's that other twenty percent that's the problem.) One more thing to work on; I'll group that in with building padding into my schedule.
Colleen has a couple of interesting exercises for dealing with performance anxiety-induced procrastination. I'm not sure the first one would work for me (I don't even own a typewriter anymore) but the second has some possibilities, especially if I sat at the computer and wrote it out while thinking, instead of just imagining it. Check them out and see if they'd work for you.
Learn to turn tasks over to others. If you’re a control freak like me, even letting someone else vacuum your floor is a major issue. If you’re not, this advice will not be any problem for you.
Had to laugh here -- anyone who wants to come vacuum my rugs is more than welcome. I'll have a key made for you. :D
Anyway, this is a really good set of articles and they translate very well to writing. Definitely a lot of advice worth considering there.