Thursday, July 31, 2014

Scattered? Me, Too!


Although it's been a good month since I moved into my new house, there is still a ton of work to do before we can say it's actually finished, or even completely livable. The main difficulty is finding both the time and the energy after work each day to accomplish everything my imagination envisions. The same holds true for my creative life at the moment. As much as I want to finish my WIPs, start a new art journal, and sew a winter wardrobe, it's not going to happen as quickly or completely as I would like. And that makes me feel . . . unhappy.

Last night I had trouble sleeping while I worried about what seemed like five hundred loose ends--disconnected projects and ideas that only spun into more projects and ideas. We had an unexpected (and what I would normally consider very welcome) New Mexico thunderstorm during the middle of the night, increasing my feelings of nervousness, incompetence, and outright failure. Consequently I woke up with a sore back and neck and the need for a serious re-think, resulting in some frantic morning pages and a list I titled, "What I Want to Do." It included:

  • Finish my new screenplay.
  • Go back to my screenwriting group.
  • Finish the edits on my nonfiction WIP, A Pet Owners Book of Days.
  • Draw the illustrations for A Pet Owner's Book of Days.
  • Finish the edits on my novel WIP, The Abyssal Plain.
  • Get back to working with clay.
  • Buy jewelry tools and make jewelry.
  • Start a really neat poetry project.
  • Read my friends’ manuscripts when they ask for critiquing.
  • Stay focused on my day job.
  • Finish my new house, as in FINISHED.
  • Keep up with the housework in my new house (amazing how fast dust collects).
  • Read for fun. 
  • Sleep.
  • Blog.
  • Stay current with social media.
  • Promote my books.
  • Buy a sewing machine and start some sewing projects.
  • Sketch more often.
  • Sign up for The Sketchbook Project.

Impossible? You bet.

Long ago, when I sold my first book, my editor said, “You are very ambitious.” I was genuinely surprised. I thought "ambitious" meant you were crazy for leather briefcases and suits with shoulder pads. I had no idea it simply meant I had big creative dreams and wanted to write stories that delved into many areas, topics, and themes.

Either way, I still don’t know how to not be ambitious; how to stop wanting to dive into color and words, how to stop writing multiple stories and chasing after all projects labelled "NEW." So here’s a little scheme I’m going to try. I'm calling it:  Concentration. 


The Concentration Plan

  • For my daily writing, edit and concentrate only on The Abyssal Plain.
  • For my daily art practice: concentrate only on pictures of dogs, cats, and Barcelona.
  • Social media is a reward only after I’ve accomplished a timed amount of work every hour or so.
  • Freewriting time is only for blog posts.
  • Reading is only at bedtime.
  • "Finishing the house" as well as housework is only on the weekends.

To get there I'll have to say no a lot, e.g.:

  • No sewing.
  • No jewelry.
  • No clay.
  • No poetry.
  • No screenplay.
  • No critiquing.

Just looking at these lists makes me feel a lot better; I might even get to sleep tonight! The beauty is that I now feel I have some goals back on track. For instance, finishing The Abyssal Plain edits means I can then move on to marketing the manuscript. Drawing cats and dogs will give me a break from the edits and help me create the illustrations for Pet Owners. And getting the house finished over the weekends means we won't get burn-out. So let it rain, let it pour--I've got it covered.

Tip of the Day: I’ve used calendars, spreadsheets, journal notes, all kinds of things to help keep me get focused. However, the best thing I’ve found to date is a stack of index cards. If my day’s tasks don’t fit on a single card, they don’t get listed at all. 

In the meantime, how do you focus best? I'd love to hear some ideas!

1 comment:

Lisa Handley said...

I am a member of the same "loose ends" club...ugh! So many right now that I can't catch up or keep up with anything (including, obviously, reading some of my favorite blogs like yours!) After my daughter was born, I was juggling a corporate career, business travel & motherhood, & my organization began to unravel a bit, then when I transitioned into self-employment, I was so burned out from my former workaholic pace that I eased up on some of my structured scheduling, then my organization & structure unraveled even more while I was in the midst of chemo. Well, suffice it to say, this year I have had A LOT of work to do to get back on track, & I'm still off the track, so your post is relevant & helpful!