Posts Tagged 'time management'

A Place for My Mind

Well, I’ve been on another journey, I think. A thought journey. A life journey. I’m not sure what to call it.

For some time I’ve wrestled with should I have a routine or shouldn’t I? Should I try to force myself to write or just let it come? Set up a schedule and force myself to keep it or not, seeing as I always fail.

Then pendulum has swung back and forth. I look at old notes from the “schedule” stage and am repelled, certain they are all wrong. Whenever I try to do the schedule thing I start into the control mindset and it only ends up in failure and guilt. So I’ll just relax and let God the Holy Spirit guide me. But then my life unravels and I never seem to get to the book. So then the pendulum swings back, I go back to the notes and start over. Is self-control a fruit of the Spirit? Or something I’m supposed to do?  Didn’t God say that he would work in me “both to will and to execute for his good pleasure?”

It seems to me I’ve gone back and forth and back and forth for over a year now. Maybe longer than that. But I think perhaps there’s been a couple of small changes in my thinking that might make a bit of difference.

Last Friday I listened to a message by Pastor Farley delivered last summer on spiritual gifts that shed new light on my confusion.

“When we’re living in our gift, it’s because of the ongoing work of God the Holy Spirit through us. That’s a great comfort. There’s nothing worse than when you get to any point in the spiritual life and think it’s up to you; when I get the idea that yes, at the moment of salvation God the Holy Spirit gave me a gift but now I gotta run with it. I gotta do something with my gift.

NO!

God the Holy Spirit will continue to do things with that gift as you allow him to, as you say yes to Him, as you put yourself in the place of being available (99% of these things is showing up). You say, “I’m available. I know my gift is (writing) and I’m gonna put myself in a place where that gift can function  and I know the rest is up to the Holy Spirit.”

The Bible says you’ll be promoted at the proper time, when God says so, and that whenever it is you’ll be using your gift, God will provide both the will and the power to do it. So it continues to be the Holy Spirit’s operation and ministry all the way throughout our lives.”

That really zinged me. Especially the part about putting myself in a place where I know my gift can function.

That place is my office. It’s my couch. It’s walking laps around the house. It’s a place of the mind more than the body. Not a mind cluttered with all sorts of random thoughts, half-baked ideas, urges, to-do lists, etc.

So clearly the first thing to do is make a space for my mind to be free and uncluttered during the day. Hence my return to the schedule idea.

To be continued…

Me vs the Space-Time Continuum

Today I fertilized the plants. It was only supposed to take a minute…

I woke up at 6:15am. My hubby had gone off to run earlier, and I was mentally ready for him to return, shower and take a short nap on the couch before leaving for work. That meant I would not be able to do my normal sequence of routine, so I planned to get up, make the bed, maybe water, then go into the office and get to work on Sky. Yay!

Recalling that it had rained last night, I was pleased at the notion that I wouldn’t have to water the grass and could get started on writing that much earlier. I’d just take a minute to fertilize the plants front and back. It’s better to fertilize early when it’s cool, after all, and it’s only 8 plants in pots. No big deal.

Except, I have this problem with the space/time continuum. Despite my many years on the planet, during which the space/time continuum has never changed, I nevertheless assume this time that it will. It’s not a conscious assumption, mind you. It’s just that I continually think as if a minute can be both a real minute, sixty seconds, and yet elastic enough to accommodate tasks that easily take half an hour or even an hour, and still remain a minute.

Filling the gallon jug, measuring the fertilizer, going from the kitchen to the back yard to dispense the fertilizer, returning to the kitchen to repeat the process – several times – how could I ever think it would “only take a minute?”

Denial. It must be denial. I want to get started right away on writing. I want to get the fertilizing done early, so I guess I just compress the two in my mind as if in so doing I can make it so. But I can’t and it takes “waaay longer” than I expected and then I’m disappointed…

When really, all that’s happened is that once again, I’ve discovered I’m not God. (And a good thing or the Universe would have long ago spiraled out of control.)

Unlike God, I am bound to the space/time continuum and no amount of hoping or assuming or thinking is going to change that.

But I have to wonder… does anyone else do this? Or am I the only one?

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This post is in response to a WordPress Writing Challenge on the topic From Mundane to Meaningful. To learn more about the challenge and see some other entries, click here.

How I Got Back on Track

For the first time in a little over three weeks I finally got back to work on Sky again.

I left off July 9,  working through Chapter 3 again, because Chapter 3 leads into Chapter 5, and Chapter 5 leads into Chapter 7, which is where I got stuck.

I have felt so lost for so long, I’d begun to wonder what was wrong with me. Then yesterday I had the vague memory that things had been as chaotic for me in the process of writing previous books as they are for this one. Particularly Return of the Guardian King.  I can’t seem to find the writing journal I kept for that one — it might be in my trunk of memorabilia buried at the back of the closet…but I didn’t want to go to all the trouble — and spend all the time — of getting it out. That’s when I recalled that there was probably something up on my old blog which I began back in February of 2006.

Sure enough, there was. I was starting Chapter 11 of RotGK, and having the same sorts of trouble as I am now. The very first entry starts out:

I’m supposed to be working on chapter 11 of my work in progress — Light out of Shadow. But I seem to be a master at self-distraction. The thing is, I’ve enjoyed reading others’ blogs and I’ve been thinking about starting one of my own for some time now. So I guess it’s not a huge surprise when I couldn’t seem to make myself get to work today on account of numerous interruptions and external distractions… that I should suddenly find myself here, completing one step after another (there were more than the three they advertised at the start of this) in setting up this blog.’

And the second one, There and Back Again,  detailed a process of story generation that is very much like the one I’m in the middle of now. It was exactly what I needed to read, to recall that I just have to get something down, that it’s going to change, and that that’s okay. Sure, make it fit as best I can, make it as plausible and consistent as I can, but don’t demand a lot from a first pass.  It’s just my way of getting some sort of framework sketched in.

I’d forgotten that I was supposed to be sketching, and started getting perfectionistic.

The thing I love about what I wrote in There and Back Again, is that it reminded me how uncomfortable and blind my process is. How I can have no clue what to do one day, way too many options, unable to choose and then the next day, one little thing seems to lead to another and before I know it I have a sequence.

It reminded me of how I can look at what I’ve done, be dissatisfied, come up with some alternative ideas that seem to work and then be unable to write them. When I try they just lie there, dead and dull. Then after a couple of days, and a few seemingly minor tweaks, all comes clear. The chapter which formerly was “a disaster” and “ALL wrong” and “never going to come right”  somehow comes right.

One day it’s AWFUL and HOPELESS; the next I wonder what in the world I was thinking, because it’s clearly just fine.

Reading through that post, being reminded of all that helped me get back into Sky today.

I also received a number of hits from the Lord concerning the matter of priorities.

First Pastor John taught on our number one priority in the Christian life being to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Is that really your #1 priority?” he asked.

Well, yes, of course it is, and I know that doesn’t just mean the daily reception of Bible teaching, it also means application of that teaching and, once one has grown enough, operating in the spiritual gift one has been given.

Not an hour later I started listening to a presentation by Thomas Umstattd over at the Bestseller Society on Time Management and in the first 4 minutes heard:

“If you don’t manage your time, the world will do it for you. Anything around you — coworkers, the world, your boss, your family, the TV…  those will fill up your hours for you.”

“When we say, “I don’t have time for something,” what we’re really saying is “That’s not as important as the other things that I do.”

and

“You can tell what your priorities are by how you spend your time. We have what we believe our priorities to be and then we have what they really are.”

All of that together coming in just a few hours, convicted me. I have not been giving writing the proper spot in my priorities.  “Whatever is most important to you,” said Umstattd, “that needs to be the first thing in how you schedule your time.”

So, I’ve reconfigured things a bit, and today using the pomodoro technique (modified) I put in 3 1/2 hours on Sky — first thing after I finished my morning routine. And that makes me very happy.  😀

A Tomato, a Coin and a Die

Today I actually managed to get around to working on Sky for a good five hours!Actual story writing as opposed to  note organizing. A tiny bit of progress.   YAY!

I did so using a new technique that I’ve recently discovered and an old one I’d forgotten.

A Tomato

The new technique, developed to help increase productivity, is called The Pomodoro Technique, so named because its inventor used a red tomato kitchen timer to implement his system. He’s Italian and “pomodoro” is Italian for tomato.

The technique was designed to also investigate where various distractions originated and to provide a means of dealing with them.

I used it pretty much as outlined (click on the link above for the full thing) when I started a couple of weeks ago.   There is a free booklet you can download and some official pages as well:  a To Do Today sheet and an Activity Sheet.

You list the things you want to do on the first sheet. In the beginning, I listed things like “write a blog post,”  “read through all my notes on Sky,”  “transfer information on sheets to little cards,” etc.

Then you set the timer for 25 minutes  (a “pomodoro”) and get started. If you suddenly get a thought to go do something else, you are to make a tic mark in the column next to where you listed your task, then decide if the activity must be done  right now, or if it can be done later. If later, you note it on the Activity Sheet. If you feel it’s imminent — you absolutely HAVE to order that pizza now — you note it at the bottom of the To Do sheet.

One of the iron clad rules is that you cannot spend more than a minute or two on some distraction so if you do get up and order the pizza, then you have to void the pomodoro and start over, even if you’ve only got five minutes left.

It was in intriguing exercise which made me aware of all the things I kept thinking of doing in the middle of when I was supposed to be writing. Internal distractions the developer called them. They seemed to come rapid fire at first. But because I had the timer on, I stopped getting up to go do them and just noted them on my activity sheet. The more I used this technique, the less internal distractions I had. Plus having a place to note them helped a lot.

After the timer goes off, you place an X in the column next to your task, then take a 3 to 5 minute break to walk about, stretch, visit the restroom, or get a drink. Then it’s back to another pomodoro. . After four pomodoros you get a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.

It’s not as complicated as it might sound, but it’s pretty regimented and while at first it did a lot to get me back on track, ultimately I rebelled and one day I just couldn’t make myself do any of it and went out to play. I’ve since abandoned the activity sheet, since it’s not all that relevant for me.

I have, however, stuck with the 25 minute increments and the three-minute breaks, the latter because they get me out of the chair and walking around or stretching and that’s good for the body. And the former because I not only have to somehow quantify my task (“work on the book” is not specific enough) but it puts a beginning and an end time to it (as opposed to doing it “until I get tired”)

Before, if I hit a snag there was a good chance I’d just get up and walk out of the room on some inner directed tangent. With the pomodoro, I at least wait until the timer rings before walking off, though even then I haven’t wanted to dive into some other thing.

So that’s the new — modified — technique I used today.

Yes, I know… rules again. But not exactly. I think they’re more just useful guidelines that keep me on track. So for now I’ll keep using them. I have my own “pomodoro” all set up under my computer screen.

A Coin and a Die

The other technique, the one I’d forgotten, was to use a coin to build my characters. I had five male characters who were nothing but names that I needed to be in the scene I am currently working on.

So one of the things you can do and which I had actually made charts for years ago, is to divide characteristics into twos… tall/short, fat/skinny, muscular/frail … then flip a coin to determine the characteristic — eg, heads, he’s tall, tails he’s short.  If you have more characteristics than two, like hair or eye color, use a die — assign a color to each number, then roll the die.

It’s a way of breaking through the blankness. As the characters started to emerge, I found myself thinking, “Wait, I don’t want him to have light brown hair, it should be black instead.”  Or, “No, he’s not going to have a beard, he’s going to be clean-shaven.”  You aren’t bound to whatever the die or coin dictate, but if you don’t care, it’s a way of actually getting something to take shape.

So that’s what I did today using my pomodoros, and my coin and die. I now have five index  cards and five characters with a fair amount of definition. Since these are minor characters, I’m not yet sure how big of a role they’ll play so I don’t want to go too far in developing their profiles. For now, I have enough to work with.

Another thing I did, that came out of nowhere, was that as these guys were coming together I started seeing parallels to some of the Avengers, so I decided to just go in that direction and use the Avenger characters as a rough guide for my development. Oh! Horrors! She’s copying movie characters!

Not exactly. I think it was more a general template and lifting one or two characteristics from each. And it was fun. I know in the end it won’t be noticeable, because once they get “real” for me, they’ll take on their own individuality. Besides, they may turn out to have almost no role at all. I have no idea at this point.

All I know is, it helped me work, and as a result I ended up with one guy who’s a techie and another with anger issues. As an additional bonus, those two qualities triggered thoughts about the setting and the situation and suddenly the whole scene — characters, interactions, setting, situation and action — gained richness and substance and direction far beyond what I had when I started.

Oh yeah, and that new laser TSA is going to be using in 2013 — the one that can read your cells from 164 ft and tell if your adrenaline is rushing, and what you ate for lunch and if you have explosive residue in your fingerprint creases?  Well that’s just perfect for this scene as well. Only it won’t be a laser, and there isn’t any airport. 😀

Only Half an Hour

“‘It is only half-an-hour’– ‘It is only an afternoon’ — ‘It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes — or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometimes worry a whole day…” ~ Charles Dickens

I had a dentist appointment today at 1:30pm. Just a routine cleaning, only an hour’s worth of time… but yes, it pretty much “worried” if not the day, at least the whole morning. I also had to go grocery shopping, and set up a lunch date for Saturday…

And so I plead those as the excuse for why I couldn’t get settled into writing this morning. Well, plus searching for my special plant trimming scissors which had been misplaced… and a half- finished card with a new technique I was trying out beckoning to me from the desk where I’d left it in disarray. I was afraid to proceed because it seemed hard and I didn’t know if I could do what I was intending.

I told myself I didn’t need to mess with that and should go write. And then suddenly just decided to DO It. Of course things went awry, and then I had to figure out how to fix it… I did… I like the finished result… but…

I wasn’t writing. Perhaps because yesterday I reached a similar stage with chapter 5, which is almost done but has been like pulling teeth: sentence by sentence I’ve pressed through it. Working through a paragraph, thinking it’s done, wandering off to do something else, coming back, discovering it’s not done after all, repeat that sequence a number of times, all the while, uncertain that the direction the words are taking me is the one I really want to go in. My mind says it’s all logical and the only course that makes sense. It’s just not what I had originally in mind. And I’m not sure if I like it…

I keep asking the Lord, “Is this really the direction I’m to go in?” He doesn’t seem to be answering.

So it’s easier to think about the dentist and fiddle with the card…


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