Saturday 19 December 2015

Juggling Responsibilities & Staying On Track - The Creative Process

Juggling Responsibilities & Staying On Track

In my last blog post, found here, I talked about the dead zone and keeping motivated whilst not losing your spark during writing. Today I'm going to talk about something similar, which can be seen as a companion piece to that. 

One thing I learnt early on in my writing career, was that if I was going to get my work done and also have a life, I needed to stay on target. I also needed to be sure to maintain a good balance between working, and not working. I've spoken about that in numerous pieces, which can be found here, here, & here. My routine is pretty much dictated by how well I'm doing on any given day, along with a healthy balance of fun activities and not so fun responsibilities. For example, these could be the days which I put aside to do geocaching, or the days in the past that were all for my uni work, as well as the school run, which I do pretty much every week twice a day. These are all things that are important enough for me that I make time for them, although the school run is kinda mandatory! When you add in the disruption that come from living with several chronic conditions, you realise that sometimes it can be hard to stick to any proper schedule. While I'd love to say that I go geocaching twice a week, every week, sometimes it doesn't happen at all. The same goes for my writing, which while being my job, is also something I consider to be fun.

So, how do I juggle my time, along with my other responsibilities, to make sure that I stay on track with my writing? As you are all aware, I like to try and release one book a year, while also writing two at once. I know it's been a source of a lot of questions in the past as to why I don't just release all the written books as they are finished. I have my own reasons for that, but it mostly boils down to the fact that I can't guarantee when I will finish a work and therefore prefer to have books on standby, ready to go without the added pressure of a rigid deadline. It's one of the reasons I find so much of my writing time to be enjoyable, because I don't have the pressure of having to write a certain amount by an exact date, otherwise I'll have angry readers. It's not always something that works for everyone, but it does for me. I digress, anyway, I like to stay on target by planning a lot, and organising my work week around any other duties that may come up.

As a spoonie, I usually have at least one hospital appointment on the horizon, and on top of that I also have parenting duties that need to be met. I find the best way for me to organise my time is to do what started out as a weekly to-do list, became a fortnightly to-do list, and is now (for the time being at least), a monthly one. I set myself four chapters - two of each book - alone with a list of bonus items should I find myself having some spare time, and usually in that list there are four more chapters. Right now, I seem to be just about managing the basic four chapters, but my hope is that as time progresses and I recover from the recent bouts of ill health and surgery, I will be hitting the bonus list more and more. We'll see how things go.

Every time I manage something - because EVERYTHING goes on that list - I cross it off. It's a nice way for me to apply a little gentle pressure to myself, since I'm indie and don't have a deadline for the two novels I'm working on now, without it turning into too much pressure and causing me to work myself into a case of writer's block or worse, a health flare. I've been doing it this way for a good couple of years and in the years past when I was still a student, there wasn't much time for writing. However, having graduated last year with my BA Honours, I feel like I can devote more time to writing and other admin duties. That also leaves more time for fun things, which is always a good way to prevent becoming too burnt out by life.

Now, with health as fragile as mine, there are some weeks when no writing gets done. How do I keep myself on track when it feels like I'm blocked beyond belief or worse, in the dead zone that I spoke about last time? It's not as simple as just opening a word document and trying to force yourself to type. Sometimes it can be remedied by writing a blog post, or catching up with a friend on Skype or through email. Or even doing, as I said last time, something different with my characters to see if I can persuade them to actually do what I'm asking of them. The idea for me at least, is to keep the end goal in sight while not focusing on it too much. The best laid plans and all, and being somewhat flexible in the outcome means that I have something to work with when going down one path doesn't seem to provide much in the way of words.

So, my way of juggling responsibilities and staying on track with my writing is pretty simple. I write to-do lists, I allow myself some time to relax - even a whole week if needed - and I'm flexible with my planning. That's something I've learnt as a spoonie for the past fourteen years of my life, but it can be true for anyone. If you focus too much on one goal as the only acceptable outcome, you can burn yourself out, you can miss other paths that take you somewhere just as good, if not better, and you can find yourself getting very frustrated with your work. While I don't enjoy every aspect of being an indie author, I do like the writing part and I think for as long as that is true, it's going to be what I do with my life and my time. I hope the same can be said for you and your own work.

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