Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: When Do We Come Up With New Ideas?

When writers, and probably all creative types who rely on coming up with an idea before they can do anything, talk about managing time, we're usually talking about managing time to actually work. Research, plotting, planning, writing, rewriting, submitting, editing, marketing, public presentations--that's all real work, and we need to manage the time we have available for working in such as way as to get that all done.

In Time is Not of the Essence, an essay published a couple of years ago at Talking Writing, David Biddle writes about a little something that can throw a kink into author work plans and scheduling--the fact that ideas/inspiration, what we need to get started, come "in the folds and creases of time." You probably can try scheduling a unit of time for, say, "idea generation," and do a little meditating and some free writing. But how often have you heard of anyone actually coming up with an idea doing that that ended up in a completed piece of writing? Ideas usually come in other ways, say, while taking part in the  Facebook arguments and e-mail exchanges with friends that Biddle suggests.

Yes, ideas and inspiration often come about while doing the things writers need to try to avoid doing in order to manage their time and actually produce some work. It is the irony of our work lives. Terry Pratchett once said that he is always working, and that's true of all writers. We are always working because anything we do, absolutely anything that happens to us, can result in an idea. Seriously, eating potato chips in a hospital cafeteria provided me with a publishable short story. That wasn't something I had scheduled. But it turns out I was working that day, after all.

For this reason, it is rather easy for writers to justify doing absolutely anything because doing absolutely anything might produce the inspiration for a project. We have to avoid falling into that anything goes trap by using our time management skills to complete the projects we're already working on. But by doing so, are we limiting our chances for coming up with new ideas?

No Time Management Tuesday next week. I will be on Retreat Week.


David Biddle said...

I appreciate your reference of my essay on Time as a writer. Since writing that piece I've passed into the world of full-time writing (to heck with a day job!). It's a weird, weird world to be in. The worst part is that ideas come to you non-stop if you're not careful. The trick is to wait for the good ones. I feel like a cat waiting to be fed...lots of random meowing and spinning in circles.

Thanks for reminding me of that essay!

Gail Gauthier said...

The trick is to catch them! I lost one this morning while I was running errands.

David Biddle said...

I carry a little pad of paper with me everywhere now. Plus, I swear by my iPhone. It's so easy to just talk an idea into the recorder on my ToDo App, right where my shopping list always is. But I hear you. One way I know I had a great idea is that it just floats away faster than pizza in a room full of teenagers.

Gail Gauthier said...

I've had pads of paper for years and an iPhone for two weeks. Am definitely excited about the notes and reminders apps.