Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Not Recommending Guilt And Emotional Blackmail, But...

To be honest, I fell off the time management wagon this summer. I'm trotting along beside it, at least. I wasn't left in a heap in the road. But I am not working like a well oiled machine.

Summer is a situational time management problem for many writers who are also primary caregivers for school-age children. The issue was discussed last night at writers' group. I am having a situational issue, but it's not around my personal life. I am pushing through on the rough draft of a new work.

Different Types Of Writing

Generating new work is dramatically different from revising. I find it much more difficult, for example.

I'm an organic writer, so it's hard for me to isolate a plot from the entire story and get that lined up before I start working. Or even while I'm working. I have to work on the story as an entire organism.  As a result, I find myself doing lots of revising as I go along. If I'm stuck because I don't know how to move forward, I'll go back and revise. That actually does help, but what it has meant is that over these past four or five months I've spent a lot of time revising this particular work. So when I got to the point of new work, I, shall we say, was not accustomed to it?

Situational Writing? 


What I've been doing a lot of this summer while drafting new work is looking for breakout experiences, those moments when things just come to you. I described my method at the beginning of June:

I started running with the bits and pieces plan.

The last few weeks instead of getting my usual life activities out of the way and then getting into my four or five hours of work time, I took a look at my manuscript first thing in the morning and then did something else. I went back to the manuscript, then went back to something else. Over and over again while I was at the "something else," I worked out problems with the manuscript or came up with new idea.

This is a first draft. I have trouble with first drafts. Generating new material is not my favorite thing to do. I'm wondering if maybe when I'm in a first draft situation this is how I should be managing my time. Maybe this should be first draft process for me.
As I said then, I thought of this as being one of those situational things. Perhaps when I am working in this type of situation, in first draft mode, this is how I need to work. And I believe I have only a couple of chapters to go on this first draft. So it could be said to be working.

But I am functioning in a totally random way. I'm not working in units. I'm not using transition time. I'm not staying on task. I'm not shifting between projects the way I feel I should. And I have to wonder...if I had forced myself to just look at this #!!@ monitor for 45 minutes at a time instead of cooking up breakout experiences the way I've been doing, just because it feels easier and less stressful, would this thing be done by now?

Which brings me to Can Anything "Make" You Write? by Gina Barreca. Her time management technique appears to involve guilt and emotional blackmail. "So what if it’s not healthy? You want to be emotionally balanced, swim with the dolphins. You want to write? Learn to deal with the sharks." I definitely refuse to use guilt as a motivator, because according to Kelly McGonigal (who I kind of worship), it's supposed to undermine willpower, and God knows, it's not as if I have so much of that that I can afford to risk undermining any of it. But I am leaning on emotional blackmail right now.

Right after Labor Day, I'm leaving on a lengthy vacation. I am leaving whether I have finished this draft or not. How much I enjoy it, however, will be determined by whether or not I finish.

I'm going back to work, damn it.


Unknown said...

Gail: I'm proud that you read the article and discuss it-- even if you disagree with it, it prompted a response. I often find that some of my most effective writing--the material that readers connect to most deeply--is done NOT when I'm feeling calm, centered and balanced but when I'm frantic, just about hanging on and forcing myself to the page. But hey, that's where humor comes from (much of the time)and making those deadlines is what keep my hands on the keyboard. Thank you again for taking the time to read the piece and have a lovely time on that vacation.

Gail Gauthier said...

I'm so sorry I didn't notice you'd responded to this. Well, I would be, except for that business about not doing guilt. I'm proud that you read this post, too. I've heard you speak and have a signed copy of "They Used to Call Me Snow White..."