Twenty-nine weeks after the second day of the new year
Author had a different post in mind for this week, but sitting here, preparing to write it, she found herself thinking about everything she has done in this past busy week and everything she has to do in the even busier week ahead, and that got her thinking about her post twenty weeks after the second day of the new year. That was the one about the need to adjust to the reality of dealing not just with writing books, which requires a substantial freedom of mind and the absence of pressure, but also with the added tasks that accompany being a published author. And that’s in addition to the everyday tasks Author has, as, she is certain, do you.
Well, Author can now tell you that she is in fact adjusting, and that, just as the entire process of the preparation of her next book for you is different from what she had expected it to be, this adjustment too is different from what she had thought it would entail. She initially thought she would have to proactively set boundaries for the different tasks. Make lists, perhaps, organized to-do lists with allocated time and duration for each task, as she had done in the past, before she became an author. But of course, no, that can’t work, she soon realized. She can set a time for herself to go to the supermarket and estimate how long it would take for her to get there, shop, return, and put the groceries away, or how long it would take to go about some other routine task, but she can’t know how long she would need for a writing task—how long it would take her to decide on a theme for her Monday weekly post for you and to write it, or how long it would take for her to decide on a term for her Wednesday Author Terminology and to finalize her phrasing for its definition. And the books, of course, in their non-technical, creative stages Author never knows how long they would need, nor does she put a time frame on them in order not to limit herself in getting where she wants to be with the story.
Add to that the fact that flexibility in writing is needed not only in order to allow writing tasks the duration they need, it is also necessitated by the reality that writing requires a certain mindset. Author can’t just decide to write a blog post on Sunday at four in the afternoon. She needs to be in a certain “creativity mood” that gives her the required focus. She might be able to write at the time she had set, but then again, she might not. And the same goes for her books, that and more—since setting aside a few consecutive weeks or even days is, apparently, no longer easily feasible, Author now needs to content herself with setting aside multiple shorter time spans, but that means she needs to be more efficient in them, use as much of that time as possible.
So the idea of the strict to-do list was pushed side. Author didn’t find it to be any good, with the flexibility she needed. Instead, what she ended up doing was lining up in her mind everything she needs to do, a mental list of sorts with priority assigned to each task. This list includes everyday tasks the placement and approximate duration of which she knows—these are already organized in her mind in their usual spots in their assigned days of the week—and writing tasks, to which she only assigns a tentative place and duration as well as alternative placements, so that she can move them around if something unexpected pops up or if she doesn’t feel like writing at the assigned time. She can write her blog post for you on Sunday at four in the afternoon, but she can also write it on Saturday at nine in the morning if she feels like it. A dynamic puzzle of time and tasks, that’s what it is. And it works. It has allowed her to adjust more easily to the range of tasks that need her attention. In fact, she finds—surprisingly so, she admits—that it’s becoming easier for her to move from task to task, to shift her focus. Even with her work on her next book for you, at the stage she is in now, she is better able to sit down with the manuscript for a few hours at a time, work on a small part of it, then return to it almost seamlessly at a later time. Experience does that, she supposes. Experience, and a determination: her work must be done, she wants it to be done, and it will be done.
And so Author is adjusting and will continue to do so, and she must say it was a good idea to make an effort to do this at this early stage. Already there is so much for her to do, life has a way of throwing things into the mix that we are left to deal with. And the risk that a task will not be done is something Author cannot allow. And so she prefers to learn now how to deal with that growing mix of tasks and surprises even at the price of delays to her previously thought schedule. Best now, at a less complicated stage. Best so that later she can more smoothly catch whatever life—and that includes her work—throws at her, integrate it into her schedule, and continue her way forward without missing a step. Time and experience will, she wagers, hone this, too.
Author and Sister’s follow-up tip for the writers among you who are learning to adjust to a new routine that now has writing-related tasks added to it: don’t be rigid about adjusting. Don’t stubbornly try to implement methods that are good for others, or take on a strict schedule that doesn’t leave room for the way you find it comfortable to do things. You know what you need in order to write—time, mindset, environment—and you know what you need for all the other daily tasks that you routinely do. You are familiar with your life and with yourself. Schedule everything you have to do flexibly and in the way that is best for you, and move things around as you need to. As you want to. Make sure you get around to doing everything in that list of tasks you need to work through, but do it your way.