Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: The Snowshoe Model

Anyone who has spent years here with me is well aware that I'm a bit obsessed with my annual January Retreat Week, an event which goes back to at least 2007. If you are a Facebook friend, you may have seen my Retreat Week albums for 2016...2015...2014...2013...2012. (I'll be putting up one for this year soon.) And you are probably aware that among my greatest Retreat Week obsessions is the snowshoe trip to the Slayton Pasture Cabin. That is one rough haul that started becoming easier last year because my personal Sherpa, who has some obsessions of his own, changed how we approach the summit.

What he did was break the 3.1 mile climb into segments, which he timed. Each segment has a waypoint that we are heading toward. When we reach one waypoint, we can then determine how long it will take us to get to the next one. The whole trip up to the cabin takes us nearly two hours. But the longest segment is only fifteen minutes.

Psychologically, that makes a huge difference.

It's also a time management technique suggested by people like Alan Lakein back in the 1970s. Complex or difficult tasks often get put off because they're just too overwhelming. Climbing that "knoll" or...writing a book...are good examples. Breaking the job into smaller tasks makes the work involved seem doable.

How Are You Going To Make This Analogy Work, Gail?

Fox Track Connector
First Waypoint. Most of our snowshoe waypoints were spots where the snowshoe trail crossed a cross-country ski trail. The first waypoint, for instance, was the Fox Track connector. What is comparable with books?

Well, some writers like to begin with a disturbance to the main character's world, something that initiates action. Getting that introduced could be a waypoint, a chunk of work a writer concentrates on instead of focusing on, Oh, my gosh! I have to write a whole book.

Starting a book is actually more difficult than starting this snowshoe climb. The first few waypoints come before the climb. Whereas starting a book is much more of a trail. There's no material there. Find a writing waypoint. That can lead you to the next one.

Sign For Parizo Trail
A Waypoint At The End Of A Difficult Portion Of The Trail. One of our later waypoints is the trail sign to the Parizo Trail. This is good waypoint not just because there's a sign, but because after a steep climb, one of the worst of the trip, the trail turns and we start walking along the side of the knoll instead of up it. There's a definite change in the climb.

This happens with writing books, too. Some sections are more difficult to come up with material for than others. You may realize you're wandering too much, you haven't been careful about planning a specific goal for a scene, there are too many characters. Finally getting that section done to your satisfaction, at least for now, is a definite waypoint. It's like making a turn after a difficult climb.

Owl's Howl Trail
The Mid-Waypoint. Can't say enough about how great it is to know you've made it to the halfway point on a difficult trail. I mean, yeah, sure, you still have half the trip to go. But if you have any positive feelings toward life at all, you're halfway done.

Having a mid-point in mind for a manuscript can be hugely helpful. Some writing process people suggest that a novel's mid-point should be where something specific happens with protagonists. They may make a decision. They may change their behavior for some reason. They may experience a revelation that means they're going to do something. If while you're working on the first half of the book, you can come up with a mid-waypoint, when you get there and you have any positive feelings toward life at all, you're halfway done.
Barbed Wire

A Dramatic Waypoint. One of our waypoints in the second half of our snowshoe trip involves an area with remnants of a barbed wire fence. When I was little, I ran into a barbed wire with my sled. Yeah, that was a dramatic moment. You can be sure I'm going to notice barbed wire out of the woods.

In the second half of a book, there's going to be at least one dramatic moment of some type. A climax at the very least. That's a writing waypoint.

End Of The Trail
The End Waypoint. Seeing that last waypoint up ahead is a great moment, both when you're snowshoeing and writing a book. Here's a weird thing that happens, though. It seems as if you have to walk forever across that meadow to get to the cabin.

And, in my experience, that's what happens when writing a book. There's the ending waypoint, you're all excited, and then you realize, "Shoot. I need another chapter." You get that done and, damn, if you don't need another.

You Finally Meet All Your Waypoints. Whether you're snowshoeing or writing a novel, dividing the job into pieces with waypoints helps makes the job less overwhelming.

What Snowshoeing And Writing Does To You
Oh, and by the way? Hitting all your waypoints, either snowshoeing or writing, takes a lot out of you. You'll be soaked in sweat. You'll have no idea that your hair is sticking straight up. Nor will you care. You won't even know what you're wearing, for that matter. That thermal underwear I've got on in the picture to the right? I looked down and saw one sleeve had a stain. Because I'd worn it while staining woodwork. Presumably in cold weather. 

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