Right Now: Let’s begin a series of writing prompts with Janus

Head of Janus, Vatican Museum, Rome


In Roman mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions. (Interestingly, there is no Greek equivalent for Janus.)

The god of looking back and looking ahead presides over doors, arches, gates, passages, and endings – and is in charge of transitional periods such as moving from war to peace.

He is usually depicted as having two faces looking in opposite directions – forward and backward.

The beginning of the day, week, month, and year are sacred to him. Appropriately, the first month of the year, January, was named for him.

Your Assignment:

At a cocktail party one night, you bump into a guy wearing a hoodie who says he’s the Roman god Janus. You laugh so hard you accidentally spill your drink on him.

As he’s leaning over to clean up his outfit, the hoodie falls back, and you see that he has another face on the back of his head.

When he finishes, he looks up at you and tells you intimate details of your immediate past and a glimpse into your immediate future.

What do you do?

Go Write Right Now.

Right Now: 5 decisions I made so I can be more productive in 2022

I have a huge backlog of work to get done this year. Why I have this backlog is a long story, worthy of a thick novel or at least a dramedy mini-series, but let’s just leave it at: Other Things Claimed Front Burner.

This backlog includes ideas that have been tinkered with and expanded into “viability” status as well as some I’ve started and – for various reasons – stopped over the past few months. Wait, did I say months? Haha, I meant to say years. And, sad to say, a few of these have been sitting on my “get this done” list for a decade or more.

These projects include scripts (features, shorts, and TV series), novels (including sequels and 5+-book series), script-to-novel conversions, nonfiction books, ebooks, and guided journals. And then there are various production projects: booklets, calendars, coloring books, greeting cards, jewelry lines, and hand-sewn crafts. Not kidding about those last two. I love handcraft work.

That’s a lot to aim for this year, and I have every intention of blasting through this backlog. But the question is: What’s the best way, short of scheduling my headaches? (Which, by the way, I am perfectly willing to do in the interest of efficiency.)

I bent thought on this matter and came up with the following five decisions – call them resolutions if you must, though I intensely dislike the term – to ramp up my productivity in Year Double-Two. Feel free to borrow any or all of these decisions for your own backlog.

  1. Unplug. When I say “unplug,” I don’t mean never going online. That’s not even doable. Seriously, how would the bills get paid? No, I mean just spending less time scrolling through posts that, by and large, add nothing to my life. Oh sure, there’s the occasional brilliant insight I wouldn’t want to miss, not to mention keeping up with family and friends. Those are the exact reasons I got involved with social media to begin with. But we all know what a time-suck social media can be. My plan is to check twice a day – morning and evening – and otherwise put my computer on airplane mode.
  2. Track My Progress. How do I know if I’m getting ahead unless I keep track and do a review? Well, that question answers itself. And it does so with charts and checklists, most of which are simple (the best!) and effective. I’ll share those in the coming weeks.
  3. Practice Flexible Pivoting. Many of my projects are long-term (novels and scripts don’t get done in a week unless you’re Sylvester Stallone*), and sometimes it’s hard to immerse into one project through its entirety. At least it is for me. So, what I need to do is be able to turn attention to another project (short- or long-term) and work on that. Then, when I get sparked on the previous project again, I can turn back to it. The key is to stay as productive as I can for as long as I can – and to be able to jump from one to the other with ease. This might take some practice, which I’ll note in my progress charts (see #2 above).
  4. Take Naps. Not kidding about this one. Daily R&R is a great way to get refreshed and renewed, at least until the powers-that-be determine we can board cruise ships again. An afternoon snooze has been determined – scientifically, I mean, not just from me doing surveys with myself – to be beneficial. Besides, I’m a morning person, and here’s the cool thing: When I take a nap, I get two mornings out of a day. Quite efficient.
  5. Celebrate Every Little Thing. This might be the most important of all efforts to be productive. No need to wait until “The End” or “Fade Out” – I’m going to dance around my office when I finish a scene or complete the prototype of an earring design. If I set a goal of writing 1,000 words per day, but can complete only 250 one day – so what? I won’t beat myself up for not hitting 1,000. (I don’t work well for someone who beats me up on a bad day, even if it’s me I’m working for.) I’ll high-five myself for getting those 250 words done.

I’ll share my progress, good and bad, throughout this year, along with charts, checklists, and other cool tools I come across or create. Stay tuned for updates.

* Word has it Stallone finished “Rocky” (the first one) in nine days. I salute him.