S. J. Kelley

And we’re back: On balance, resistance, and motivation

Clearly I’m becoming one of those blog people who announce to the internet that they’re going to accomplish something great, only to peter out after the first few weeks of newness wears off. Or I could say that life got in the way, that my son was diagnosed with a condition that needed daily therapy and really wore us down, and it was just impossible to squeeze everything in, but it still feels like a huge excuse. Sigh.

I can’t believe I started this blog almost a year ago now. It’s funny that I should post around this time of year; it’s a time of revival for me, a time for coming back to normalcy. Basically from mid-July to around early-Feb my full-time job takes 150%; I’m talking evenings and weekends of overtime and some serious burn-out. Thankfully I’m able to balance this with some down time during the rest of the year, and plan to use my saved up time to only work 3 days a week for the next few months (told you it was a lot of overtime). I had cleared my slate to focus on the novel; no teaching, no more students to train, just freedom! Unfortunately things won’t work out perfectly though, as a colleague of mine took quite seriously ill and I have to make up her classes. So my free time is essentially going down the drain. Again. At least I can afford dry wall for the basement by picking up the extra work, heh. It just always seems that there’s more and more work to do, and my own goals keep getting pushed back.

Resistance is my #1 enemy. It’s hilarious that as part of my day job I help people plan out how to complete their own large writing projects. So I took one of the spreadsheets I make for them and made it work for me instead. There will be a mass restructuring at my day job in 5-years time, and I’m hoping to be well set up with my indie side income by then (HAH! But let’s pretend that’s a possibility for the sake of argument). Anyway, I worked out a spreadsheet that automatically generates a calendar to get 8 books out in 5 years. Each book is planned to be 100k and I’ll use 5% of my time for plotting, 70% for writing, and 25% for editing/proofing. The spreadsheet automatically calculates multiple deadlines for each book: for the start/end of each stage, and then at the 25/50/75% points in between, for each of the 3 stages. Basically I always have a deadline looming so it’s supposed to keep me on track. Even though I only use 70% of my time for writing, I still only need to write ~630 words/day on those writing days to get the whole thing done. Seems more manageable that way.

Another thing I’m doing is “Don’t Break the Chain”, which essentially involves printing out the whole year on one page and giving yourself an “X” when you accomplish your goal. So I bought a huge magnetic white board to put my “chains” on and stuck it on my dining room wall. Classy, no; motivating, yes. I’ve got the old standbys (exercise, eat better, get enough sleep), but also some personal goals (no more “dead mommy” syndrome / be in the moment). And of course, writing. But there I ran into a bit of a problem.

How do you track how much progress you’ve made with plotting? Counting words seems irrelevant, as there’s no end-point word count when you know you’ll be “done.” Counting scenes seemed silly. I wanted to have SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based), but in the end had to be satisfied with “progress” for that component. I’ll use my word count goal for the writing phase, but for the rest I’ll just use my deadlines to keep me on track. I hope.

And now I have to go to bed so I can get my “get enough sleep” check. Which I have set at 7 hours to be Realistic, even though I’ve already determined I really need 8.5 and so even achieving the goal is something of a failure. Baby steps!

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