seize the day

Original post -February 17, 2012- Things have changed a bit since then.  I don’t have the mortgage job working from home anymore. My editing is a work from home job and I still get the same type of issues. I thought this one summed up nicely the frustration of  others not respecting my time. I’m sure some of you can relate.

Seize the Day!

Oh if it were only that simple!  Opportunity knocks, frequently but do we recognize it?

Working from home presents a set of problems different from those in an office environment.  In an office,  there are politics, the cooler talk, conversations to distract you from working, and people to deal with. At home there is no politics to distract me, the coffee pot refuses to converse with me, and no people to deal with, normally.  However, it seems that many people think that if you “work” from home, you are really just being lazy and don’t have a real job.  How many writer’s have heard that one before?

These are the same people who drop in unannounced for me to go out to lunch.  Sometimes they stop in to vent about their day or their life.  Someone always wants my attention and help with their projects.  Funny how they never stop in to say, “Hey, how are you doing? Is there anything I can help YOU with?”

The point is, they think you are available for whatever they want to do. It’s the old ” Hey Ellie doesn’t have a real job, let’s ask her if she would volunteer her time to help us finish this project. I admit, sometimes the offer for a lunch out is a nice break.  Sometimes I need to run errands and company is nice.  I’ve usually completed my daily work for my first job by 10:00 a.m.  This is about the time when my friends seem to wake up and start their day.  It is also the time when I transition into writer mode.

It “looks like you’re just playing on the computer all day” is the way my teenage daughter put it.  Apparently, it seems to be the common opinion.  I do not have a boss looking over my shoulder or assigning me work.  I have to set my own schedule and apply self-discipline.  This is both rewarding and challenging!

But my work is right there, staring at me, calling me, summoning, taunting me in a way that it’s never far from my mind.  I try to set aside family time for the evenings, force myself to tune it out.  At least in an office, you can go home for the night and leave it on the desk. My desk is always visible. Most of the time I maintain a regular schedule – each thing in its proper place, nice, neat and tidy. This is the very reason that the interruptions in my day are so detrimental.  It’s not that I don’t like to socialize, if I didn’t it wouldn’t be such a temptation. If I’ve neglected a couple of hours work in the day, I feel obligated to put in the hours in the evening.

Sometimes those distractions are opportunities in disguise.  An opportunity to get outside these walls and live is often the fresh breath of creativity I need. At least that’s the story I’m sticking with!  A trip to the grocery store can open my eyes in a way that the dim light from my computer screen never can.  A chance to sit at the cafe and chat with my sister clears my mind so that I can truly think.

A stroll through the library can be like walking into a pheromone filled room, inducing a euphoric response that can’t be explained.  I know it’s weird but the smell of books, real books stirs things inside me.  Passion and envy are the two most frequently stirred.   Envy that their (whoever they are) books are on the shelves where mine will one day be. We’ll just glide on past the passion part, I’m sure my fellow writers will understand my meaning.

To appreciate life, you must learn how to live. To write, you have to live fully and experience life.  There are times to set schedules then there are times to not only set aside routine and seize the day, but there are times when you just gotta smash the whole box!  After all, tomorrow is another day, to write like a maniac!!

I realize this may seem rather manic on the tail of the previous post about Te Physical Act of writing. Welcome to the rollercoaster that is my mind.  Keep arms and legs inside your cart while it’s in motion.

Write on my friends, write on!

New Projects

Starting a new project is always exciting.  This is when the creative is at their best.  New, exciting, exhilarating, no boundaries, the sky is the limit, and your imagination is free to run wild.  Firing synapses create their own special sort of “spark juice” that fuels the muse and keeps her euphoric.

Alas, in every project there comes a point where the newness wears thin and the work part begins.  Creative muse goes poolside, munching bonbons and sipping fruity drinks while Javier fans her with a giant palm frond.  Helga, the über nazi muse takes over and slaps her riding crop in her hand as she paces behind the creative, threatening harsh punishment if I even think about quitting.

Every new project is gold when you have the “spark juice” flowing.  It’s important to go with the brain gush with the initial idea because you want to get as much down as possible.  Learning to use the creative energy to the fullest advantage is crucial.  If you cut off the creative spark before  the brain gush has given the initial draft – regardless of how many pages of writing, or how large the canvas is.  Business plans are drawn on napkins, or in my case on the back of an obituary, are forms of the creative burst.

Every creative person out there knows very well that at some point – –  and you know it will come soon – –  the creative gives way to work.  EEK!  Yes, work.  *sigh*  That four letter word that the less disciplined avoids – work.

I am very guilty of having many, many unfinished projects.  *SIDE NOTE FOR THE GRAMMAR NAZI – I know typically the use of two “many’s” is poor grammar – unless you saw the size of my unfinished projects list, then you might have me add a third. *

Unfinished projects can  be a manifestation of two main problems:

  1. Lack of discipline  – It takes a lot of work to write a book. It takes time with your butt applied in the chair day after day after day.  It takes a great deal of thought beyond the creative spark to come up with a plot, a rising action, the inciting incident, recognitions, reversals and end up at a satisfactory climax with tidy denouement.  My biggest argument against the pantsing from my own experience is that although I wrote a lot of good material, it didn’t really move the story forward in a progressive manner.  It takes brain power to get in there and plan out the story, knowing where you’re going to lead your characters.  I will also have to argue against fully planning  because if I plan my story out completely, it becomes boring.  I know everything, and no new mysteries are unfolding.  By full planning, I’ve expended the creative energy into the plan and haven’t expended it into the brain gush.  Now a larger portion of the writing has become work.
  2. Addicted to the “Spark Juice”.   There is a certain element of operating in the creative part of the brain that is addictive.  Unfortunately, creatives tend to not be self-disciplined as self-discipline is a left brain function, and creativity is a right brain function.

New projects are a regular occurrence.  The trick is to balance the new with continuing the not so new.  Whether it’s writing or in any business, new projects are part of the business.  Very rarely in the workplace are you given one file to work on and only that one file from start to finish.  More often its several files that you work on simultaneously.

That habit follows me with my writing as well.  To me, it is a benefit, because  it keeps the projects new and fresh, and helps keep from getting to the boring work part.  There are always different phases of projects to be done.  One project needs research, one needs some editing , one needs to be written, and the work files continue.

I am going to incorporate two aspects for time management beginning today.  One of my friends from an online writing group shared her spreadsheet with me.  It helped to give me an idea of how to juggle and schedule my writing time/ work time/ family time/ workout time/ cooking time/ and other responsibilities time.  She thought her schedule was tight,  I still haven’t managed to include any sleep time on mine.

The other part  is from 13 Tricks to Optimize Your Writing Routine. I already do some of these things but the others can be implemented.  I’m not going to be getting up earlier, I already get up at 5:30 or 6: 00 a.m.  The staying up later is debatable too as I think part of my frequent problem is the lack of sleep.  I have a writing routine, but I am modifying it. In the words of Veronica Sicoe, “. . . many people misunderstand the term “routine”. Here are a few hints to point you in the right direction:

You know you have a routine when you consistently repeat an activity within set parameters; when you don’t need to be in the mood to get the work done; when the people close to you only need to look at the watch to know what you’re doing; when you can estimate the time you need to finish any task related to that activity and are able to plan ahead.

You don’t have a routine if you’ve made a schedule but don’t follow it; if you turn your TV off, send the kids to their aunt and throw the phone away, but play Solitaire instead; if you talk and talk about your writing or the craft but never actually do it yourself.”

Yeah, well . . . I’ve done that before.  I’m guilty of talking about it and not actually writing.  I’m guilty of thinking about it while playing games.  When someone calls for an impromptu lunch – sure!  This is especially a problem when I’m at the dry work part of the writing.  When I’m having to think out how to fix that giant plot hole that I created during NaNo, any diversion is used.  Unfortunately, it’s highly unproductive!

Working from home requires a lot of discipline, the discipline that has been sorely lacking lately.

Now, those of you who are observant are going to say:  Hey!  Wait a minute.  Didn’t you just lack week talk about not being in a rut in Dare To Live Beyond The Rut?  Yes, I did.  I stand by that firmly.  A rut is to be avoided, but to be productive and effective a routine is mandatory.  Occasional diversions are helpful.  When there are so many diversions that it disrupts the productivity, this is unacceptable.  It’s a fine line, and we tend to veer to one ditch or the other.

Always a work in progress and always a new project to tackle.  My new project?  Refining and reestablishing a working schedule that I and my family can live with.

What about you?  What projects do you need to tackle?  What changes do you need to make?

Write on my friends, write on!