Welcome to Day 2 of our group therapy #AmWritingAroundObstacles series.
Today we’ll look at our obstacles in more detail. Drill down into those suckers.
I’m going to measure and grade mine according to severity of effect, and start thinking about how I can get around them, or over them, or under them.
I invite you to do the same, so each of us can start working towards a plan of action that we can draft in tomorrow’s post.
Here we go, then.
Did you hear me sigh just then? I get so fed up talking about my health condition and would rather not even think about it in relation to my writing if I can get by without doing so. It’s boring.
But it’s here and it’s big. It never goes away, and out of all my obstacles it has the most significant effect on my productivity, so I need to deal with it.
I nearly said deal with it and move on quickly to the stuff I can do something about, there. Which is pretty much my standard operating procedure. But this exercise is all about examining our obstacles with a view to overcoming them, so I’ll suck that sigh back in and look my physical condition squarely in the eyes.
I just sighed again and almost deleted everything I’ve written so far below the health subtitle.
Stop, Bridger! It isn’t waffle. It’s examining a frame of mind in order to deal with it, and maybe even change it.
I always claim to have the management of my illness cracked. But the truth is, while I’m good at managing the fallout from my physical and mental activity, I’ve never quite cracked the prevention’s better than cure aspect of it.
Problem is, there are strong pulls from opposite directions. The only way I could achieve reasonably reliable energy and freedom from exhausting pain would be to do nothing except rest. Whatever I do, there’s always a health payback. Even from mental activity.
Writing hurts me. A 90k-word novel takes me between 6 and 12 months to write when I’m in my version of the best of health, and the payback from that superhuman effort will last for months afterwards.
Chances are the edits will arrive during that payback period, and edits have their own intense effect which increases the already exhausting pain. And by that time, I’ll also be working on my next novel.
I’m not giving up writing. Uh uh. It’s what I do. It’s who I am. Seriously, the only thing I’d give up writing for is my family, and they won’t ask me to do that so it’s not gonna happen.
However, just because the extreme answer to my two-way-pull isn’t viable, in this or any other universe, that doesn’t mean I can’t (stand by for a “You’ve Got Mail” moment)… tweak things.
I used a spreadsheet to record different elements of my lifestyle and measure how they effect my productivity.
I split my working day into 4 sessions:
- early morning when I start writing, until midday
- the afternoon, when I usually siesta
- 4pm to 8pm
- 8pm until midnight-ish when I crawl back to bed
I did it this way because different daily events channel me into writing at different times of the day.
Those events appear on the spreadsheet as: spoons; visitors; non-routine events; WIP; outlined; deadlined; and blog.
Outlined is there because I work more efficiently when I’ve planned a story thoroughly, and the deadlined column helps me maintain a good focus on the big picture.
After only a few weeks the spreadsheet showed clearly what I already knew, that the biggest productivity-sucking gravity in my writing world comes from spoons and visitors.
And for visitors, read: our daughters and their babies. All of them are here today and this blog post has taken me twice as long to write as yesterday’s did when they weren’t here.
We have four grandchildren now, two 3-year-old boys and two 1-year-old girls. All gorgeous! And as I mentioned yesterday, two of them and their mum live with us now. So my writing takes place in the late evenings, after everyone else goes to bed. 9pm to midnight or 1am is my time.
What I failed to put on the spreadsheet is social media, which I realised during our conversation in the comments section yesterday has a bigger effect in my daily life than I’d thought.
Actually my Twitter-life would be very difficult to measure, because I have it open all day and dip back in when my mind drifts away from my WIP. I’ll deal with that. My plan of action will include something like, SM in clearly-defined short bursts.
As I’ve mentioned, with my greater attention to quality blogging and my weekly newsletter for readers, my routine workload is bigger now than it was in 2012. Not to mention my list of novels in various stages of progress, and despite the scary health stuff I experienced over last winter.
(Or, more likely, because of that stuff, as I described in this recent post.)
Despite everything, I’m managing everything far more efficiently now than I was three years ago. The plan of action I devised them has definitely helped me in this. No doubt about it.
I’ve also been helped by new technology that didn’t exist back then. Hooray for apps and gadgets and all sorts of clever things! 🙂
So my blogging is… not automated exactly, but assisted in many small ways by plugins and apps and 3rd party sites that offer various services. I’ve spent quality time testing these things and learning how to use them, so that my blogging and newsletter work is now a pleasant and enjoyable weekly routine.
There are many more gadgets available now than I could ever use in my work, but I like to keep my eyes open for news and reviews in that area.
This is the sort of thing I mean:
Here’s an excellent round up of time-and-effort-saving tips for author blogs from social media strategist Frances Caballo.
And this brilliantly concise article by author assistant Kate Tilton suggests ways we can connect with readers via Instagram.
Over to you
What do you think? Which of the obstacles you talked about yesterday have the biggest effect on your productivity?
Which of them could you tweak, maybe? How would you do that?
How about measuring them against your results? Would that work for you?
Yesterday was brilliant and you’re all wonderful. Let’s get our group therapy gig going again in the comments today. 🙂
Introduction post is here.
Day 1 is here.
Day 3 is here.