You will recall that I was planning to generate work on a project that I'd set aside last year and, at the same time, work on increasing my word count as a way to do more with less time. So I've been using 2,000 to 10,000: How to Write Faster, etc. by Rachel Aaron to help me do this. Aaron writes that a key element in writing faster is knowing what you're going to write before you get started. So in addition to bringing myself up to speed with this project by revising the few chapters I'd already written, I was going through my materials on characters, historical elements, timing, etc., to help me plan some scenes, which as far as this organic writer is concerned, would be knowing what I was going to write.
Last Tuesday, two days before the beginning of May, I took a look at the scene file I'd started last year. Yikes! It was a mess. I had made a list of scenes, but the beginning scenes didn't entirely match what I'd actually written (not a problem, it's the result that matters) and later scene plans weren't all that helpful, in part because of how the story now started. Well, I said, you will spend tomorrow, Wednesday, cleaning this stuff up and getting some scene plans in order.
What Could Go Wrong?
However, Tuesday evening I received a request for chapters and a synopsis for another manuscript that I had submitted to someone. Yikes again! This was good news, right? Of course, it was. Someone was interested in one of my projects. But I didn't have a synopsis ready to go. As I told you this past weekend, I spent five days writing it. That included the Wednesday I was going to spend on scene planning and the Friday I was going to spend writing. (Thursday is family/runaround day at Chez Gauthier, and I've given up pretending I work on weekends.)
We have talked about these time management issues here before. That synopsis was what is known as reactive work. I needed to drop the creative work I was doing to react to an incoming request. It was also an example of situational time management. I had to adapt very rapidly to a new situation.
What The Hell, Right? No.
The synopsis went out Sunday, so my situation has changed again. What should I do now? I wasn't able to finish my planning and I wasn't able to get started with writing. What the Hell. I might as well do something else.
That is what's known in self-discipline circles as the What-the-Hell Effect. It's a major reason for self-discipline failures. Instead of staying on task with a diet, people say what the hell at ten in the morning because they ate two doughnuts at nine and figure they might as well give up and start again tomorrow. In reality, they've got many hours left in the day during which they can stay with their program. The same is true with managing time, whether you're talking about a day or a week or a month. I have a lot of time left in this month that I can use for my planned project, even though I've lost some of it early on.
Fighting The What-the-Hell Effect Leads To Results You Can See
Last week was then, this is now, and now is an entirely different situation to work within. Additionally, I don't need to feel bad about myself for not working on my May Days project last week. (Feeling bad is the big reason for giving into the What-the-Hell Effect.) I was working and working on something significant, just not the significant something I planned to work on. Yesterday I continued with the last of the revising of the early chapters of my May Days manuscript, and I have the next few scenes planned. Since I'm an organic writer, just knowing what I'm going to be doing a few scenes ahead may be the best I can expect. We'll have to see how the rest of the month goes.
Oddly enough, I had What-the-Hell issues with last year's May Days project, too. And, yet, the work I ended up doing that month led to more work later in the year, and I'm back on the same manuscript now. That, lads and lasses, is an example of why fighting the What-the-Hell Effect is so important.