Tag: lists

Avoidance

On this blog, I’ve promoted the use of lists to accomplish tasks in a timely manner.  I have found this a very useful technique for both writing and non-writing chores. Once I’ve itemized a job and added it to a weekly list, changes are pretty good, I’ll get it done.

Except. . .

Clean the sewing room has been on my weekly list for the past four weeks, and still the stacks of fabric, missing buttons and lost threads accumulate in corners. I have become a master of avoidance when it comes to a deep dive on organizing my sewing room. Can’t explain it, but the many times I’ve transferred to task from last week’s list to this week’s is testament to a deep-seated resistance. Mind you, the little clip at the top of this post is another reason the sewing room is not decluttered.

Decisions and Fear

Perhaps it’s the need to make decisions that holds me back. To really tidy the room I’ll have to decide on what to keep and what to throw away. Fear of making the wrong decision keeps me from making any decision and the detritus grows.

The Discovery Stage

I’m also resistant to writing the “romance” in my romance novel. I’ve finished the plot line days ago, but cannot arrive at a logical happily ever after, because I haven’t built the love story into the middle of the manuscript. This is a common failing of mine. I should be used to it by now. 

Because my first draft is more a voyage of discovery than a charted journey, I’m afraid of locking myself into a bad idea, of picking up a theme that I cannot sustain throughout the novel. So, I hedge. I leave my options open, hoping that somewhere in this flight through the mist, I’ll stumble upon the key to the romance. Usually I do. Usually it is not until I’m about to smash into the mountain. The clouds lift and I see where I’m going.

Resolution

Having reached the crisis moment where h/h must chose each other or the story turns from romance to downer, I finally have a clue as to what the big issue between them is and how to resolve it.

Hint:  It is not the issue that seemed to be the stumbling block at the beginning of the story. That first conflict is never big enough to hang a novel on. 

Promise

So, my promise to myself and to you, dear reader, is that this week I will face the challenge of both the laundry room and the romance. I post that promise here to give myself extra motivation. Having publicly made a declaration, I don’t want the humiliation of admitting I dodged the issue once again.

Conversation

So writers and readers, how do you cope with avoidance? Is there a magic formula that will get that closet cleaned out? Do you have to be stuck at home amid a pandemic before boredom drives you to the neglected recesses of your home and your mind? Does avoidance make you feel guilty or clever?

Use the comments section to share your wisdom or your frustration.

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Social Distancing Blues

flatten the curveSo, how are you all doing with this social distancing thing?

 

 

 

Here’s how I’m coping.

  • As soon as someone says, “stay home,” I want desperately to go out.  
  • I wander about the house looking at the chores I could do, but not actually doing any of them.
  • I find myself compulsively watching newscasts repeating the same information over and over.
  • I should be glad of the extra writing time, but can’t settle at my computer.
  • I sleep too much in the day, then can’t sleep at night.
  • I want to go out for lunch even though I don’t “do” lunch on weekdays.
  • I whine that the library isn’t open, even though I have a stash of books at home.

You get the picture — I am the opposite of a heroine!

But, I want to do my part to flatten the curve, so I’m staying put. I don’t feel vulnerable for myself, but I have a lot of older friends and others with asthma or on chemotherapy. No way will I be the one that spreads the virus to them. I also have family in the healthcare system, sure don’t want to add to their workload or put them in danger if supplies of masks, etc. run out.

Now, after a week of moaning and avoiding my fellow humans–I don’t have little ones or elderly relatives in my home– I’ve resorted to my failsafe coping mechanism — lists.  

I’ll share some of mine here in hopes they’ll help others find peace at home.

  • Gratitude  — I’m warm. I have enough to eat. I have a roof over my head.
  • I have endless ways to “socialize” electronically.
  • I have some new, unread books and several shelves full of old favourites.
  • The cats are endlessly amusing and nice for cuddles.
  • There’s more, but you get the idea.
  • Chores — Adapt the old housewife’s routine. Monday is wash day, Tuesday is ironing, Wednesday is mending(sewing),Thursday is shopping, Friday is cleaning, Saturday for baking and Sunday for church. I may substitute “exercise” for “ironing” or rearrange the shopping and cleaning,  but you get the idea. Make a schedule and write it down.
  • Reach out to friends. We can’t go to church physically, but we can watch a service on television, or get one on-line. Our minister sent out a youtube of his prayers and sermon on Sunday morning. I watched it during our regular church time. Then, as if it was coffee hour after the service, I telephoned several church friends just to check in. They were all grateful for the call.
  • Keep my family close. My brothers live four provinces away, but we all managed a phone call last week. They are healthy, I am healthy, and we are reminded that we are family–a blessing like no other. 
  • Write. Just like in the days before COVID-19, my writing  benefits from routine. I’ve resolved to watch only one newscast in the morning, then go to my desk.  Somedays I stay there until I’ve reached a certain word count, other times I set a time limit. I’m not inflexible with my “rules” but it sure helps to have personal guidelines in place, especially in times of stress.

We are having beautiful, spring weather. Gardening isn’t on that list of housewifely chores, but I’ve been outside, digging in the dirt, encouraging the crocus and daffodils. I’ve walked around the property and made plans for the vegetable garden. I’ve pruned the roses and the fruit trees. Like all gardeners and farmers, I’m convinced that next year,  next month, next week, will be better. The world needs optimists!

Keep safe, everyone. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stay home with a good book.

If you have a great way to keep calm and useful during this pandemic, please share in the comments section. It’s a safe way to be social.♥

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Confession Time

A few months ago I wrote a blog on my new “chunky list” method of time management. I proudly proclaimed my affection for lists and recorded my successes.   I haven’t talked about lists much lately.  There’s a reason.  I’ve fallen off the page.  My lists are short and general rather than long and specific.  Some very measurable things, like laundry, get done in their regular time slot (Monday) but others like “write” aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.  My productivity has fallen in recent weeks along with my drive to finish the story.

Enter my friend/critiquer/encourager/fellow-traveller from the other side of the world. We met several years ago on an on-line course.  The presenter said “pick a partner.”  I decided to find someone as far away from my usual world as I could.  My partner, AB, had the same thought, so now a Canadian and an Australian are travelling the road of life and writing together.  We e-mail each other every Monday with an account of our week.  Sometimes the e-mails are full of glowing achievements, thinking aloud about plot/character problems, or the sharing of a highlight in our personal lives.  Other times our exchanges consist of a tirade about the unfairness of the world/family/work/fate, take your pick, or the clueless comment made by a husband.  As our friendship grows, there are more of the personal notes in our correspondence but always something about the writing.

Last week I was moaning about being stuck and she was complaining about lack of inspiration. We both have January birthdays and the horoscope for our year was not encouraging! AB proposed that we set a word count goal and tell each other what it was, then report back.  I’m always up for a challenge.  I set my goal, the same as AB’s as it turns out, and then my week went haywire. Unexpected errands, a power outage, freezing weather and a weekend away, made the goal hard to attain, but I wasn’t going to report failure on Monday morning.  I wrote while I waited for the car to be serviced, I wrote before breakfast and after supper, I sandwiched in some coffee shop writing between trips to the grocery store and the pharmacy.  By Friday night I’d reached my word count and went off on a wee holiday with a clear conscience.  On Monday morning I wrote to my friend trumpeting my success.

           I’m not giving up on my lists, they are an excellent tool for me, giving me an overview of my week, illuminating a timetable to accomplish all my tasks, highlighting where and when the writing can happen, providing a roadmap to the end of the book. I’m very fond of my lists.  However, I forgive myself easily for not reaching my goals, especially when it’s Christmas and I have a new book or three and a really hard jigsaw puzzle.  That word count is just a number I made up.  It doesn’t matter to anyone else.  But having declared my intention to AB, I had renewed motivation to get there.  We’re both Capricorns and hate to fail!

So, if you’re feeling stuck, whether it’s with writing or sticking to a diet or managing your budget, or any other life goal, I recommend finding a partner to hold you accountable.  I met AB more or less by accident but we hit it off – a lovely piece of serendipity — but there are other ways of networking.  Some of my writer’s crowd have set up small critique groups, our chapter has a goal-setting exercise every February, a couple have a relatives who serve as  sounding boards and task masters.  There are on-line sites to help writers set goals and achieve them.  Here are three suggested ones.  Some charge, others are free.

The Writer’s Circle

Absolute Write

There’s even an app for that at Novelicious

It’s important to find the type of group/partner that works for you. I’m not a chart-type of person so if I have to fill in boxes, the system won’t work for me.  If you love tables and graphs and fill-in-the-blanks type accounting, then you should look for like-minded people.  If you want to keep it strictly professional, maybe one of the paid circles is your choice.  If you like to mix in some personal stuff, then a friend with similar goals may be more your style.

Of course, just like in real life, no one writing partner will fulfil all your needs. I have writing friends whom I meet in person, we brainstorm, commiserate, encourage, share information and sometimes exchange recipes.  I love our gab sessions.  Fortunately, friends in person and friends on-line is not an either/or situation.  I can have both, eat my cake and have it too.  How often does that happen?

It has been said before but I’ll say it again, writing is a lonely business. It’s easier with company.

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Lists Revisited

It has been two months since I began my experiment with lists to order my writing life and some of my “real” life, so today I’m going to review and assess the method.

If you missed my original post on the method, you can find it here.

So, I give you my take on the experiment.

Pros:

  • Making a list for a week, then dividing it up over the days of the week is a useful exercise in time management.
  • The list helps me realize how many demands there are on my time so I don’t beat myself up over not getting to everything.
  • Making a list helps to prioritize tasks.
  • Writing down my tasks relaxes me.  I don’t have to keep remembering what I meant to do.
  • Making a list reminds me to make time for exercise and other healthy activities.
  • There is great satisfaction in putting a tick mark beside every accomplished item.
  • The list gives me permission to play when I’ve finished every item.  As writers know, there is always more to do.  Homemakers know there is always more to do.  Setting a specific goal gives us a finish line for the day.  We can chose to work more, or we can play.  Play is vital to the creative life.

Cons:

  • Life is busy and it is not possible to itemize every activity of every day.  Sometimes, when life has taken me off-list and into something wonderful, I add it to my list after the fact.  When life takes me off-list into a time-waster, I gloss over it and scramble to catch up the next day.
  • In the beginning I often bit off more than I could chew, especially if the list seemed too short. It’s important to break tasks down to their component parts in order to create a realistic list.

Conclusion:   I plan to continue to make a weekly list and break it into daily tasks.  As a tool for time management, the list works for me.  It helps me focus.  It makes me happy.  It forces me to set realistic goals, then pushes me to accomplish them.  Since the first week, I’ve had some great days and some disasters.  I continue to refine my list-making so there are fewer disasters.  I’d recommend this method to other writers but with one caveat:  the list is only a guide.  Family, friends, colleagues, even pets, have emergencies.  At those times, forget the list and follow your heart.

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