Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Time Management Tuesday: Living Chaotically

I just finished up another May Days, that month of the year when I get together with some Facebook friends to set aside a time, in this case the month of May, to work on something special. For some people it's finishing a draft, for others it's editing, or getting started on something new. Our leader checks in once a week with encouragement. There's a lot less enthusiasm at the end of the month than there is at the beginning, but, nonetheless, a good-ish time is had by all.

I Love Set-Aside Times

I use the term set-aside time for blocks of time set aside for a special project. You see them a lot in writing. National Novel Writing Month is a famous one. Last November I wrote flash for a month. Last summer I wrote it for six weeks while taking a flash writing workshop. I've been doing May Days for years, and my May group gets together in October to do it again.

Set-Aside Times have a couple of benefits.

  • Concentrating on one thing helps you to slow down. You're not frantically juggling multiple tasks and can thus be more productive with one of them. Working harder on just one thing is a relief.
  • Working on one thing for a relatively short time helps us to manage chaos. At least that's what I speculated last year, and last month it actually worked for me.


My Plan For May Days

For this year's May Days my goal was to get through first drafts of 3 chapters, which I thought might get me to an important turning point in the story. Recently I had only been doing 2 chapters a month, so this would be a push. I wasn't thinking in terms of writing every day or of writing a certain number of words. I was thinking in terms getting to a certain point.

Living Chaotically

As so often happens for me, I started May Days unable to work for the first four or five days of the month to tend to family. I can't even remember how long I had to put off starting, but it was a significant chunk of time. 
I was experiencing my old friend, chaos. I took a breath, didn't give in to the what-the-hell effect, began again, and leaned on whatever other tricks I'd learned for dealing with chaos.

Then I learned another one, which I'm calling Living Chaotically. 

Remember, I was only thinking about getting to a certain point in my manuscript. The only way to get there, I decided, was to give in to the chaos and give up my weekends. If I couldn't get to the end of a chapter or some other good stopping place by Friday, then I would have to give up the order I've established in my life--no working on weekends--and get to those points by working then. Essentially, I was adding more chaos.

But only for the month of May. I thought I could live with this kind of chaos for one month. And I could.

What Did I Get For Living Chaotically?

I didn't actually get to the point I wanted to get to, because I added at least one more chapter. And then I was noticing that the point I wanted to get to was coming too late in the story. And then I realized I needed to start another draft. 

Since I am a big believer in not pushing through to the end of a first draft when you know something's wrong, that was exciting rather than despair-making. Beginning again, in my experience, always leads to moving forward. 

So I was very happy with my May Days. I got some significant work done, but more importantly, I found a method I plan to use again to deal with and become comfortable with chaos.

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