I Do Declare: The clock is a fierce opponent

I get up every morning, don my battle gear, and go to war … with the clock.

The battles I fight, the struggles I face, and the campaigns I map out are all about choosing the best time of day to get things done.

My high energy time is in the morning. That being the case, logic would dictate that I should be doing the most creative things at that time.

But some days logic takes a sharp right turn, and the to-do list elbows its way to the forefront. I tell myself I’ll just get these couple of things out of the way so I can focus the rest of the day on my passion projects.

You know how that ends.

The tasks take up a chunk of time – or worse, they deplete what energy I had, and I’m left running on empty when I do get to the passion projects.

The thing is, those times when I do start the day with one of my passion projects, I don’t want to stop. I get in the middle of it, become mesmerized and focused and just want to be there all day.

That’s no surprise: It’s my passion, it’s a creative endeavor, it feeds me and it gives me more energy. Who doesn’t want to dwell in that place?

And yet, there’s something in the back of my mind that worries that if I get too involved with a creative project right away, it’ll be hard to get to the tasks I have to get done (the routine, the gig assignments, the do-it-or-else tasks, you know what I’m talking about) – or worse, I’ll neglect them or be late completing them, then I’ll have to scramble to catch up.

It’s not just a what-comes-first issue. I battle with squeezing in creative work on the checklist, in between other must-do work. My experience has been that piecemealing creativity is not optimal.

And yet, what if piecemeal is the only way I’ll get everything done?

This war I wage over the clock is ongoing, and moments when I can “stand down” are rare.

Are there any creativity warriors out there who can share their battle stories? I’d like to hear about some campaigns that were won or weaponry that helped turn the tide.

I Do Declare: Checklists are my life

storm-0914-icon-check-13I confess. I’m something of a to-do list fanatic. Give me some lines with checkboxes and I’m in heaven. This is how I keep track of everything in my life.

Over the years I’ve looked into a lot of different systems. And while I haven’t ever found one system that works, I have discovered that I can pull pieces of many different systems and make them work for me.

And that’s what it all comes down to – what works for the individual.

I offer here what’s been working for me (i.e., my compilation of various systems) in the event any of you out there want to take this and incorporate pieces of it for yourself.

This is what it looks like:

MITgrid1

I track six days’ worth of activities, and my week is Monday–Sunday, so Saturday and Sunday are lumped together.

After keying in the specific dates (i.e., WEEK OF 8/10 – 8/16), I list in order of importance:

Row 1 – Most Important Things (MITs). These are, as stated, most important. They’re the things that will move my career forward, win the deal, give me a sense of accomplishment, etc. If I accomplish nothing else during the week, I want to hit these.

Row 2 – Tasks. These are not as mission-critical as the MITs, but they’re things that must be done, so I don’t want to lose sight of them.

Row 3 – Routine Items. These are everyday things that I might forget if I get too busy. Plus, I like checking them off. On my list, I have things like doing blog posts, exercising and taking vitamins. (Yes, I am prone to forget to exercise and take vitamins. Seeing it in print is a good reminder.)

Below the three to-do rows is where I list info on my current projects to keep them in front of me.

At the bottom are two “parking lots” where I keep track of things that need to get onto the calendar (i.e., usually into the MIT or Task rows) eventually and the list of long-term projects (e.g., pruning the berry plants, which I won’t do until the Fall).

The page is laid out on 8.5×11, landscape. The gap in the middle of the grid allows you to fold the paper without creasing over any text.

For some people this might look like overkill to the Nth degree. But it’s a system that works really well for me.

Want a free Word version of this to tinker with on your own? I’m happy to share. Just send me an email at: info <at> gowriterightnow.com (with the @ symbol instead of “<at>”).

 

I Do Declare: A good opening line is like a siren call to the muse

typewriterSometimes it’s hard to get started. This I know all too well, having spent many a day staring at the computer screen, hands poised, waiting for inspiration to take over.

But let’s be honest. No self-respecting muse will dash to your side and start nudging and cajoling you into doing your own work. You have to get going first. Then she shows up.

This being the case, I am always on the search for ways to kick-start my writing. One effective way I discovered is to take an opening line and free-write for about 15 minutes. That quarter of a hour usually gives me enough forward motion to get into the story I need to be doing.

The cool thing is sometimes those warm-up exercises turn into stories themselves.

Try it out. Here are some opening lines to help propel you into your story:

  • The cure for seven deadly diseases sat on the shelf in the room across the hall, and no one could do a damn thing about it.
  • I’ve never quite gotten over my fascination with Milton.
  • There are three perfect ways to die, and by the time she was 23, Sally had learned them all.
  •  I never should have given him the code.
  • Henry happened to be there when the tide pulled a jon-boat past the dock, its hull empty except for a cast net in the bottom, full of shrimp.
  • At some point, all parents have to lie.
  • In the woods behind the house, Mary and Janet found a magic hat.
  • Lord have mercy, the sermon lasted so long I forgot I was still mad at the preacher and shook his hand on the way out without meaning to.
  • Voicing an unpopular opinion on Twitter is to face judge, jury, and executioner all at once.
  • No one could have predicted that three hours one afternoon would change the world.

If none of these are to your liking, you might try opening up a magazine or newspaper, grab the first sentence you see, and use that as your opening line.

Go write right now!