The trouble with to-do lists.

Okay, so the way I see it, whenever you have a bunch of things to do, the number one bit of advice people tell you is, make a list. I am normally all for this. I love lists. I love checking things off and feeling that sense of accomplishment in my day. But I’ve noticed this problem with them. Namely, they don’t freaking work.

Sigh. Okay. I should be more specific. To do list work really well for people with business or jobs and who have kids to pick up and activities that they need to work around. You know exactly how much time you have free in your day and with a list you can optimize your life. Fan-freakin’-tastic. But for those of us who are unemployed writers, whose days are empty as my bank account, to do lists suck.

It’s like, sure, I could write a scene right now, or I could watch an entire season of a show on netflix. Or yeah I could get up and workout or just move from the dent I’ve made in the couch, but I could also take a nap. After all the dent is really comfortable. Seriously. To-do lists, for people with nothing to really “do” are crap.

 

As far as I can tell there are three kinds of to-do lists for those of us who write at home with no reason to leave the house or get dressed but to buy a new tub of ice cream.

To-do list Number 1: The checklist. You know the kind with the little squares that you write up quick on a whim when you have five seconds of motivation. This is the list that winds up with things like, take the trash out, and go to the bathroom right next to finish the book and write a series. The most mundane things and the totally unachievable in 24 hours things wind up here, because you need to cross something off, and at this point, making it ten feet from your computer is a challenge.

To-do list Number 2: The Military regimen. This is the list that looks more like a battle plan than a set of things to do. Sure there may be check boxes, but here we also have time goal. It usually reads something like

2pm-3pm solve world hunger

3pm-4pm write 10k

4pm-4:15pm find sustenance

4:15pm-5pm finish book

If just one thing doesn’t happen when you expect it to, or a single interruption occurs, you’re screwed, because now you’ll have to eat at 4:30 instead of 4:15 and since the list is screwed up, you have to make a new list. That could only take another 5 minutes and 3 hours of netflix later, you can get back to checking off those things you meant to do.

 

The 3rd and certainly most illusive type of to-do list: is the one that actually works. It’s the one where you gave yourself some middle of the road, not to vague, not to specific goals, and actually managed to accomplish them all. This kind of list seems to be as hard to catch as the legendary birds from Pokemon. If you did not experience the 90’s as you should have, this means it’s really fucking hard to catch.

So seriously, this whole writing thing, it’s pretty hard. But I’ve got some ideas to improve my productivity. I just need to make a list.

 

Advertisements

Finding daily motivation

This is a picture heavy post. You’ve been warned.

So I’m an odd sort of lady. I tend to waffle between being, super calm/carefree and being an emotionally over charged wreck. If my shoe lace breaks then the world is ending. If I find a chocolate on my desk, it’s Christmas. I probably need medication now that I think about it, but regardless…

At the beginning of November, I decided to try a new method of journaling. To try and keep my mood swings in check, I’d start each day with a page of wisdom. The date would go in the top corner, and my only rule was that I had to spend at least five minutes thinking about it before I filled the page. As an added bonus, I colored them with a pack of highlighters. So when you get to this pictures near the bottom of this post don’t be surprised if they burn your eyes.

Some days I found quotes from other writers, but most days I just made it up as I went along. Stickers? Sure. Drawings? Why not. Whatever I thought would get me through the day and keep my focused on the task at hand, I wrote down.

I’ll be the first to admit that some day went better than others, but for the most part, this idea turned out to have some pretty cool consequences. Like I’ve got about 30 pages of things the motivate me personally to look back at any time I’m feeling like a Doctor Who marathon should take precedence over my novel.

If you struggle to keep your goals in check on a daily basis, or you find that you’re easily swayed by the thought of tumblr/youtube/facebook/netflix/etc. binge, then you might want to try adding this to your routine.

I should also add, that this was a two part process. The first page of the day was always colorful and creative. But the second page was just important. Opposite my cheerleading pages, was a list of goals for the day and a list of obstacles. If I knew I’d be seeing friends, it’s an obstacle. Didn’t get enough sleep last night? Well your naps, might get in the way of what you planned to do for the day. A lot of the time, I was just over ambitious.

But I will say that these pages helped me to increase my output of everything for the month.

Since December 4th, I have read 6 books (The Heroes of Olympus anyone?),  written 8 blog posts, worked out 15 of 30 days(currently the 30th), and managed to completely edit one of my novels from beginning to end. I’ve also still managed to watch an obscene amount of tv…Though I don’t think that’s an accomplishment. A great deal of other time went into planning a number of other projects too, and I dare say I wouldn’t have been as productive without my journals egging me on each day, reminding me of good days.

If you don’t think this is for you, keep doing whatever you’re doing. If your interested, feel free to take a look at my motivation pages for the month.  ^__^

 

Fellow lonely writers…

It is times like these, at 4:20 am to be precise, that I long for a literary confidant. With my manuscript and highlighters scattered across my desk, fiance firmly tucked away in bed, and my tea growing cold beside me, it strikes me that this might not be the best time to be contemplating editing or writing. And yet, it seems, I often find myself napping the evening away and pouring over my work into the wee hours of the morning.

Some of those times lead to very productive writing or brainstorming, and others, like this evening, leave me with cold fingers, and an itch for someone to kick me in the literary butt so I can go back to writing.

Writing is most often described as a solitary business, and from the years I’ve spent slowly chipping away at stories and honing my ability to drink an obscene amount of caffeine, I would agree. However, that has not yet eliminated this urge, which generally catches me off guard after a particularly good day of creating, for a writing companion.

Someone to bounce those stray idea’s off of, to confirm that my characters are in fact still behaving the way someone who had read the first 100 pages would expect them to. This imaginary person who would be just as excited to chat about my new subplot at four am as I am. Unfortunately, writing is a solitary occupation. One which others around me don’t quite get. I’ve many friends and family who, upon hearing a blurb or an excerpt, are more than willing to read my drafts after they’ve been polished. But no buddies with any idea what it takes to create good fiction. Which is to say, I’ve no intimate writing buddies.

The saying It takes one to know one, comes to mind as I contemplate this problem. A fellow writer can spot the error of another’s ways, when a plot is off track or a character becomes unruly. This, I suspect, is why writer’s make such good readers. But when you’re surrounded by readers, what is a writer to do?

I wonder if perhaps this is a common problem amongst us? Do many of you find it hard to find someone willing to know your characters as intimately as you do?

It’s not hard to find like minded people if you know where to look, but I seem to have a missing page in my copy of the yellow pages, and no map to take it’s place…

If any of you, fellow lonely writers, feel as I do, please feel free to let me know in the comments. Better yet, if anyone is interested in working with a gal on an atrociously long, urban fantasy series about the afterlife and values of humanity, that is probably vastly offensive to anyone even remotely religious, please feel free to contact me. I need some trustworthy penpals/email/4am skype friends.

Have a great day everyone, and may your writerly prayers be answered.