Monday, January 14, 2013

The Balancing Act

Life is a balancing act.
Recently, I've been listening to the music from Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog with my boys. Why do I bring this up? I mean other than to note the amazing writing by Joss Whedon, and the fab acting by Neil Patrick Harris, Nathian Fillion and Felicia Day? One of the songs is called "My Freeze Ray" in which Billy (Neil Patrick Harris) notes that with his freeze ray he will "find the time to find the words." Now, he's talking about the words to tell Penny (Felicia Day) that he loves her. But still, it made me think about my day, and how a freeze ray would help it.

People and obligations push and pull on us. Many days it doesn't feel like there are enough hours to get everything done. All my "jobs" focus on deadlines. The kids have to be at school by a certain time. Court starts at certain time, and while the judge can be late, I can't. Pleadings have deadlines. For some reason, the school wants me to pick up the kids at the end of the day. Go figure. The animals want to be fed. The dogs want to be walked at least twice a day. Can you believe that? Food needs to get on the table and put into the children. Theoretically, the house needs to be cleaned. I check my e-mails (all three), review the slush for Flash Fiction Online, participate in my writing group discussions, market, and participate in three different blogs on a regular basis. Oh, and then, I need to write, edit and submit my fiction. When I tell people about my "normal" day, and they look at me funny and tell me my "normal" day, isn't.

So, how to "find the time to find the words" until Dr. Horrible's Freeze Ray is available at your local discount story?

For me, it means:

1. Engage in triage.

Each morning I spend about 15 minutes writing down what absolutely positively must be done that day. Once I have the impossibly long list, I then assign a level of priority to those items. I tackle the items by their priority between meetings and court appearances. E-mails are read and responded to at 7 am, 11 am. 2pm and 5pm. I try to limit my e-mail checking to those windows to reduce the distraction. If I have a "free" moment, I'm less tempted to stray onto the Internet or other distractions because I can look at my list and work on an item (or part of an item) that fits the time slot. I triage my work load before I leave the office as well so I know what is likely to be my first priority in the morning.

2. Watch very little television.

While it might not be the opiate of the masses, television is the great time sink. There are those guilty pleasures - or to borrow a phrase from Castle - also a Nathan Fillion show - the "deep fried Twinkies" of my life. Castle is one of them. A few other shows fall into this category. But I know every time I watch a show, I've chosen not to use that time to write or do something with my family.

3. Jealously protect my writing time.

Just like any other work assignment or meeting, writing is an entry on my calender. I have a regular appointment from 9 pm to 11 pm each night. Does that mean I do nothing else for those two hours, seven days a week? I wish. What it means is when I watch TV, go out with friends or sleep during that time, I am aware I am choosing those tasks over writing.

4.  Set goals or deadlines.

I've written before about inching toward success on this blog before. You can find that post here. I have a daily writing goal so when I do start, I'm not allowed to stop until the 2 hours time slot is over or I've finished the daily word count. Because I have such a wimpy goal I always end a writing session feeling good because I've usually blows the minimum word count away.  My writing goal is fairly modest (250 words a day), I usually complete the requirement in the first half hour, but since I still have an hour and a half left time-wise, well, you get the picture. 
Speaking of pictures  . . .

5.  Don't drop the tiger.

If these something threats to chew your backside off, all attention must be focused there. That means, that sometimes writing takes a back seat. Be flexible with your goals and deadlines. Realize that sometimes the tiger's going to win. You may have to take a break from writing for a day or more due to other commitments. Just remember that when that happens, get back to writing as soon as possible, and don't worry about "making up" the word count. If you do, the energy you'll need to overcome the inertia will get greater every day and you won't get back in the saddle again.

6. Get away from the writing and spend time with people once and a while.

To write what you know, you need to participate in life. Writers spend a lot of time paying attention to the world around them. The hot dog vender's mustache might wind up on a character. How he deals with a difficult client might add some local color to a scene.

Until we all have freeze rays life will always be about balance.

You can find the time to find the words.


Heather H. said...

Love Dr. Horrible! I listen to the soundtrack all the time. I agree, a freeze ray would be awesome to have, but since they don't exist, I rely on my planner for balance. It helps keep me on track everyday, especially when things get super-busy! Also, like you, I've been limiting my TV time more and more. While there are a few shows I can't help but watch, I always feel better if I spend that time being productive!

Nancy DiMauro said...

Dr. Horrible is definately a favorite around here. A daily planner is also a great way to stay on task. I tend to book appointments for the paper work I have to do. So today, I have a meeting with a motion for summary judgment from 10a until 1pm. Realizing that you need to plan for balance is a big part of finding it. Thanks for stopping by, Heather.

Sloane Taylor said...

I want a freeze ray, too! Never heard of Dr. Horrible, but I will check him out.

Terrific post, Nancy. To-do lists have been my daily habit for years now. They do help me focus.

You keep up the good work and creating awesome books. This crazy world needs an author like you.:)

Lizzie said...

Good suggestions, Nancy. We all need to remember to spend time with acutal people once in a while. Our characters don't qualify...LOL