Summer’s over. Technically it’s another ten days to the Autumnal Equinox, but the last public holiday has been celebrated, the kids are back at school, and it’s time to get to work. These days most of us don’t have to take in the harvest or stockpile supplies to keep our families alive over the winter, but we still have that legacy of applying ourselves, of needing to put things to bed before the sun sets on the year.
When I had a desk job I used to dread this time of year. It was always a perfect storm of updating the current year’s budgets; preparing for the financial year end; writing, presenting and updating the business plan for the upcoming year and five years; carrying out staff appraisals; working through bonuses and incentive plans; and trying desperately to squeeze in a little ‘me’ time for my birthday. Three and a half months would pass in a blur and I’d red-line it so much that when Christmas finally arrived I’d hit the wall and get sick.
These days I’m (mostly) in control of my own schedule, and this year I’m determined to make sure I use that privilege wisely and well. I’m very aware that this is the time of year when everyone else puts the pedal to the metal. Stuff Happens and if I don’t set some priorities I’ll end up firefighting, or spending all my time responding to what other people think is important, or overloading myself so badly that I get too fried to enjoy my birthday let alone stuff a turkey.
My plan for the rest of this year is to achieve the productivity without the pain, by being mindful about how I spend my time and making a balanced schedule one of my priorities. Here’s what I’m thinking:
My One Goal to Rule Them All is that I want to have a draft of Cam and Mary’s story finished before my birthday (mid-December). I’ve had countless false starts, but I finally feel as though I’m starting to find some momentum and I want to build on that. Then I can let it rest over Christmas and edit in January.
I really enjoyed Elizabeth’s recent post on Story Improv and I’d like to do a little more of that. I don’t want to take on anything that would distract me from Cam and Mary, but I think tackling some short, sharp, different challenges would help my Girls to stay fresh. I’d like to write one 100-word story per week and I’m planning to use the story prompt generators at writingexercises.co.uk to keep things interesting.
I didn’t take many craft-focused workshops at RWA National this year, and I want to keep developing my skill-set. I’ve signed up for Angela James’s Before You Hit Send self-editing course and I’m hoping to learn a lot there, from the classes and from my fellow students. I’m also planning to take advantage of the online classes offered by the RWA University.
I have one task: keep taking whatever steps I can to give Dealing With McKenzie the best chance of being traditionally published. If it’s within my control, I’ll be on it.
Pay It Forward
I’ve learned a lot from contest feedback over the last year and a half, so in return I’ve volunteered to judge two contests, MORWA’s Gateway to the Best and West Houston RWA’s Emily. It takes time to do justice to an entry, and it’s a fine balancing act to provide critical but constructive comments, but at this stage in my writing career I think it’s the best way to give something back and I want to make a habit of doing that.
Reading has always been one of my great pleasures in life, so it’s something I use to reward myself when my work is done. It’s also an essential part of my development as a writer, so I’m going reclassify it as a necessary and enjoyable part of my job and build more reading time into my schedule. Yay!
Writing doesn’t feel like work to me, so unless there’s something else I absolutely have to do, I usually boot up my laptop and write. That’s not good for my physical health (my hands and arms could use a break) and I learned in the summer (see this post) that rest is an essential component of creativity. I’m going to try to take at least one day off per week.
Most of the Ladies are very disciplined about building exercise into their busy lives. When I had a desk job, I had a personal trainer and I did at least an hour’s hard workout three times per week before work. Now I’m in charge of my own schedule I sit down at my laptop and the next thing I know, it’s dinner-time. I plan to make sure I do some kind of physical activity every day, even if it’s only for 15-20 minutes.
How does the last quarter of the year usually stack up for you? Is there something you could do to make it more productive, more balanced or more enjoyable?