…but I’ve learned that planners don’t work for me.
I read a book recently, Dear Writer, You Need To Quit by Becca Syme. It was great and it gave me a lot to think about. One of the things was a process the author calls QTP or Question The Premise. This is a tool to use when you need to question something, perhaps when something isn’t working the way you think it should or when you start to adopt a thought process because it works for everyone else and you believe it should work for you, too. For instance:
Planners make people more productive. But…do they?
Everyone should write every day. But…should they?
Procrastination is bad. But…is it?
Becca suggests questioning the premise of the thought, idea, statement, belief, etc… And it can work with anything. She has a whole series of QTP videos on various things regarding writing and I haven’t watched them all yet, but I will because I’m learning a lot. She has one about planning the year out and I did plan my year out because everyone says you should and I fell off that wagon before January was finished and now I’m curious about her QTP video about the subject.
Anyway, so yesterday I found Becca’s video about planners on YouTube and I’ll link it at the end for you to watch if you’re interested. Basically, I fit what she describes.
I buy the planner. I use it for a bit. Then I don’t.
And then I see all the writers who use planners, who swear they’re more productive because of the planners, who spend hours and small fortunes on decorations and stickers for the planners…
Inevitably, I think that I just haven’t found the right planner yet. I haven’t found the right system or method or layout or collection yet. So, I’ll waste time searching online, going to the stores (when they were open for us to do that), spend money I don’t need to spend on yet another planner that should work because it worked for this or that writer.
When I get home, I’ll lay it all out and fill it in and check the boxes when I’ve done the things, all proud of myself for about 3 days or 10 days or a month, sometimes I can stretch the feeling for 2 months, and then… I don’t use it again for weeks and weeks.
Then… Because I’m hella behind, I’ll feel a surge of ‘boy, I was more productive when I used the planner’ and I’ll open it up, skipping ahead to the current date and start again only to fall off even faster. Pretty soon, I’ll start beating myself up because I’m not productive at all, planner or no. I’ll go right for the I’m just too damn lazy spin and I’ll stay here for a while, then dust myself off and just go about life without a planner. But the cycle will start all over again. It always does. Because there’s something wrong with me. I have a defect. It’s me. Not the planner. Not the system or method or anything else. It’s me.
And truthfully, it is me, to a point.
I’m not a planner person.
I’m not a planner. Not like that.
I’m what Becca describes as a Data Responsive person… And I fit her definition of If I see it, I’ll do it.
She uses another term… Data Controlling. If I plan it, I’ll do it. That’s not me. Planning three months, six months… Hell, planning one month in advance or even a week in advance doesn’t work for me.
I do like getting all the shit out of my head because it will help me focus to brain dump. And I do like seeing the list. I do like crossing things off the list. But I’ve tried three different planning methods this year so far and it’s only the middle of April.
So, what does this mean for me? Well, it means, I need to resist the temptation to buy planners. I need to unsubscribe to all the planner newsletters I receive. It also means I need to stick to that which does make me more productive and what does keep me on top of all the things. I need to be able to see things. I tend to look up more than I tend to look down and when I look up, I see the whiteboard and the calendars on the wall. Everything is written out in bright colors and catches my eye and triggers something in my brain. I know these things work for me, but damn, I wanted the planners to work because the planners work for everyone else! Or…do they? (See what I did there? LOL)
Another thing that works for me is not getting up from my desk. Once I get up from my desk, I don’t want to come back to it, so my list of get-to-do’s needs to be short and sweet and only comprised of the top things I want to get done that day. I plan to try the index card or post-it note method to see if either of those will work for me along with writing things up on the calendars.
I have three calendars on the wall…
One is yearly. I put releases up on that one.
Another is monthly. I add my daily word count on that one.
The last one is weekly. I haven’t used it much, but the idea is to take what’s on my index card/post-it note and add it to the calendar each day so by the end of the week, I can see progress being made. I’m one of those people who needs something enforced multiple times and in multiple places so it gets into my head.
I also have a large, plain whiteboard where I keep plot points or other books ideas so I don’t forget them, or things I might need to work out, or the direction I want to take a book in. I have a OneNote account where I keep this information, too, but if it’s not IN FRONT OF MY FACE like the whiteboard, I won’t open it up, I won’t look at it. I will, in fact, forget that it exists most of the time even though the folder is on the desktop.
I need to see it in order to do it. It doesn’t need to have an extra step like open or find under a stack or clear the desk so I can use it.
I’ll miss looking for the pretty planners and seeing all the cool things that people do with them, but planners don’t make me more productive and therefore are a waste of time for me.
Another thing about me…
I’m an all in person. If I see one part of thing needs to be done, I’ll do all of it. For instance, laundry… If I see one group of things needs to be washed, I’ll decide there and then that it all needs to be done and I’ll just do it. I was trying the house cleaning method of this room this day and that room another day and nope. I would rather do it all and get it finished. That kind of lends itself to the If I see it, I’ll do it mindset as well. I don’t want to have to drag cleaning supplies out multiple times a week or fold laundry every day of the week. I’d rather just do it and get it done.
Same with reading a new book. I want to read it all. Either the whole book or the whole series. I want to spend every waking moment reading until finished.
And the same with television shows. I’d rather binge and finish, than to start and stop and start and stop. I’ll lose interest, even if it’s something I love.
If I see it, I’ll do it. If not, I won’t do it at all, or I’ll forget about it for a while until something triggers my brain about it.
So, I’m going to link the video from Becca here about planners and let me know which type of person you are… Does a planner work for you and help you be more productive or are you more like me in that you need to see it and then you’ll do it?
Homeschooling one or more kids, possibly differing ages.
Significant other working from home now, too.
A bit of history…
Working from home began for me 21 years ago. It wasn’t my first choice. I wanted to go back to work because I loved my job, but I had a crushed ankle and had a newborn baby and a 5-year old and no family nearby, and the job I loved required me to stand 8-12 hours a day. Needless to say, I couldn’t go back to it. We made different choices. We made a lot of additional sacrifices.
So, I took a job working from home and raising our kids as a stay at home/work from home mom. I cooked and baked a lot, learned how to do a lot of things without a car and without Amazon. The Spouse worked about an hour away at the time and my daughter was in kindergarten. Fast forward 4 years and home schooling became another new normal for us at the suggestion of one of my daughter’s teachers.
My son was in kindergarten by then. I was still working from home. I had flexible hours, but still had to put in my 6-8 hours a day. We still only had one car and we still didn’t have much money. And most home school material at the time was religion based, so I had to put together my own materials and get real creative. Online learning wasn’t a big thing at the time and there wasn’t a lot out there. The support system was extremely small and in a lot of cases, non-existent.
When we moved to North Carolina from Florida, things really weren’t much different. We had two cars and a bit more money, and I didn’t work for that other company anymore. They went out of business and I took the plunge into romance writing. There was a lot of home schooling red tape in North Carolina that there hadn’t been in Florida, and I was still putting together most of my own material for lessons. Home school activities primarily took place on the other side of the city and we made the trek quite a bit, but were still pretty much on our own.
I say all this because some people now do feel as though they’re on their own. They’re isolated in their homes, can’t get together with friends or family, kids are home and they’ve been plunged into the world of home schooling. Now, the advantage is that teachers are preparing the lesson plans, online learning is lightyears ahead of where it was when my kids were doing it, YouTube lessons and instructions are plentiful, and there’s a lot more accountability. But I know it isn’t easy.
If you’re not used to being at home, or being at home with everyone else at the same time for more than evenings and weekends, or being working from home with others also working from home and schooling from home, or whatever the variation is that you find yourself in, it’s hard. It’s an adjustment. It takes time to find a new normal and new ways of doing things. And if you’re living arrangements are such that it feels as though you’re stepping on each other and can’t get any space to breathe and collect yourself… I get it. It’s not an easy thing what everyone is being asked to do right now. I made conscious choices to go that route for the most part, but… The one that really threw me for a loop was when The Spouse started working from home full-time while I was working from home writing and home schooling our son. My whole day to day routines were shaken up and I floundered. A lot. After more than 15 years of having a routine, it was shaken up. Much like everyone’s is now.
There’s a new normal to adjust to for the next few weeks or months. There’s a new way of processing life for many people. This is my normal, though I’m used to there being more flour and yeast and milk and toilet paper and meat in the grocery stores than there is now, but for the most part, this is my normal. My kids have been able to entertain themselves because they were raised that way, they were raised to not have others around all the time or a boatload of activities to entertain them, so, they’re doing well with this. But I know a lot of others aren’t. It takes time and it takes patience that can be in short supply. It takes hiding out for five minutes in the car or the closet or around the back of the house. It sometimes takes screaming into a pillow or putting in earbuds and listening to your favorite song so loud that it drowns out everyone and everything else for 3-4min. It takes getting creative. It takes support and luckily for most, the support is there. The world has come together online to support each other. That’s something I and a lot of others who have lived this life didn’t have. We were always the ones looked at as odd and strange and why would you home school when you could have your free time with kids in school or more money by getting a job or… Well, this is a good reason why, it seems. What you’re going through now, I’ve already been through. I’ve already done it and with less support. I’ve already done it and come out the other side with resilient kids, a relationship that survived, and…a coffee addiction, but that’s a whole other topic.
Music is such a fun and lively and mood enhancing and comfort.
I turn to music almost more than I turn to anything else when I need to get out of a mood, when I need to get into a mood, when I need a smile, a reminder, a hug, a good memory, a certain feeling, to feel safe, and when I need to clean the house.
Music got me through some of the most awful things as a teenager. Music got me through some incredibly lonely times. Music got me through heartache and loss.
And music often gets me to the memories of my grandpa, to the memories of when parts of life made sense, when I need to feel connected to something or someone that isn’t physically there.
Music influences my writing as much as anything else does. A song, a melody, a harmony, a guitar riff, a bass line, a lyric can convey exactly what I’m feeling and exactly what I need to infuse into a character or a situation.
Things in life are a bit strange and crazy and fucking scary. People are getting sick by the tens of thousands and people are dying by the thousands. Cities and states and whole countries are under Stay-At-Home orders by local and federal governments as efforts are made to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
The Internet has become the place to be for virtual concerts by celebrities, by bands we love, by people we don’t even know. Music has always come together when there’s something that needs the support of the population at large around the world. This time in history is no different. Music comes to the rescue when we need our collective spirits lifted and attention drawn to the bigger picture.
I know I’ve needed it and turned to it more in recent days.
Spotify is constantly on when I am doing anything at all or when I just need to drown out the dread and fear and worry for a while. It’s not good for us to watch so much negative, to be exposed to so much sadness and horror because our moods spiral downward, and our anger, stress, anxiety, and depression spikes. Music, though… We can never be exposed to too much. At least, in my humble opinion we can’t.
What’s comforted me lately is the music that got me through those horrible times as a teenager I referenced earlier. Prolonged sexual abuse led to an inability to process stress and fear and I developed a medical condition, depression, and an inability to trust anyone. Music got me to the other side, both listening to and attending live concerts.
80’s Pop (mostly European acts)
Duran Duran…my all-time favorite. Forever.
I have an 80’s playlist on Spotify that has 54 songs. Over 3 hours worth of songs. And I keep adding to it.
There’s a Duran Duran playlist as well that’s just… I usually listen and sing along when I’m writing blogs or doing revisions or just need them.
There’s a 60’s/70’s playlist that was started because I wanted a lot of the Guardians of the Galaxy songs that I had forgotten I knew once upon a time and the feels they give me.
I have other playlists, too, songs and classical pieces I want at my fingertips.
Music reflects our thoughts, our consciousness, our struggles as individuals and as the human race. It’s art. It’s interpretive. It’s not always and shouldn’t always be politically correct. It’s full of emotion and pain and joy. It’s a statement, a belief, a hope. It’s an expression of everything we’ve been through, are going through, and it reminds us that we’re not alone even when we feel as though we are. And at this moment in this time when many are isolated and feeling the stress of what the world is going through and when the pain and challenge seems insurmountable, I hope they’ll turn to music and find comfort in it, find a little bit of joy in a lyric, a melody, a harmony.
What about you? Do you turn to music? If so, do you have a go to band or musician or song that brings you comfort when you’re in need?
I wanted to be. I still do want to be. But the honest truth, y’all? I’m not.
And it’s not because I set unrealistic word count goals. At least, not anymore. I used to. But then I’d fall off the wagon a week in and I’d be running to catch up, only to be left in the dust because I didn’t run fast enough or hard enough or consistently enough.
Being a consistent writer… Well, what do I consider consistent? Every day? Yeah, sure. I’d love that, but again, that whole honesty thing and no. I’m not an every day writer. This is something I’m still coming to terms with. I’d like to think that I will one day be an every day writer, but… Now, some people consider any writing, writing… Journals, blogs, books, short stories, essays. And if that’s something I adopt as a truism, then I am an every day writer because I journal, whether it be my regular empty my head of the shit journal or my gratitude journal daily.
I am always thinking about writing, whatever book or books that I’m working on, how to re-write a blurb, what’s coming, what plot point needs fixing… An author I love, V.E. Schwab considers these ruminations writing and well, who am I to argue?
So, if I’m not a word count writer, what am I? And can I aspire to certain word counts?
The answer to the second question is yes. A group on Facebook that I’ve joined has a 10K Words in a Day challenge. I have tried it once. The other days they did it, didn’t work for me as I was either on the road or had family things come up. But I did try it and I did do well. Not 10K well, but over 6K that day and it was good. Of course, my brain was fried afterward and I didn’t write for several days.
Not being a word count writer I think is also why I don’t win NaNoWriMo, even though I try every year. But if I approach it differently this year, maybe… If I approach it the way I plan to approach Camp NaNoWriMo, I should be able to pull it off. We’ll see. (I did not pull off Camp NaNoWriMo, this year.)
I tried doing 10K Weekends and I loved this idea so much, but I couldn’t seem to get my ass in gear consistently enough to do it. I’d put it off on Thursday, and say that I’d make it up on Friday, and then oh look! it’s Saturday and then Sunday and well, I’ll try next weekend. Yeah, that sucked. It sucked hard. I haven’t attempted it in a long time.
Now, the answer to the first question… I’m a deadline writer. I think I’ve always known it, at least always as far as my decade+ long writing career has been going on. When I wrote just for me, or for Literotica, or whatnot, I wrote until I was finished. I wrote a lot in a short span of time. There were no expectations. No one cared. It was just me. And often in the middle of the night after the family was asleep. Once I began pursuing publishing and writing as a career, I wrote my own way. A lot here. A little there. A lot more somewhere else. So on and so forth until the book was finished. If there was a deadline, I rarely missed it. Except when it came to self publishing. I could move that date around all I wanted. And that’s pretty much what I did.
When 2020 began, I took author Sarah Cannon’s writing plan workbook and worked up a plan for releases, word counts, days off, etc… And within a couple of weeks, I’d once again fallen off the wagon. I raced to catch up. I modified my route to make it easier, but it didn’t work. By the end of January, I’d only written 24,448 words. I was 40,000+ words behind where I’d planned to be. I was discouraged. I was sad. And I wrote all of 1444 words in February.
I spent most of February depressed and aimless. I was falling back into this pattern that I have every single time I’d set word count goals. I tried to fight through it because my plan for 2020 was bigger than a single month. And then… I ended up spending 10 days in Florida. I wasn’t on vacation. My time wasn’t my own. My mom had knee replacement surgery the day before my 49th birthday and got out of the hospital on my birthday. That same day, my grandmother came down with the flu. Was taking care of two of the most stubborn women I know, alone. I didn’t get to celebrate my birthday and that kind of depressed me, too. I spent very little time doing anything but seeing to their needs and running errands they couldn’t. But it did offer me some moments to think…especially in the car on the drive down and back home. I wondered what I could do differently than I had been. What could I change? What inside my head would make any sense? That’s when it kind of hit me. I’m a deadline writer. And I didn’t know why I couldn’t see it before.
1K1Hr… That was the standard word sprint. For others. Give me an hour to write 1000 words and I’ll waste time until the last 30min. Give me a deadline and I’ll typically write a little here, and a little more there, and bust my ass the last two weeks to get it finished. I usually have multiple projects going, too. This is how I wrote as much as I did when I first started out in 2008/2009.
I kept telling myself that I couldn’t write that way anymore, and yet… Why not? Cleary the way I wanted to write wasn’t working for me, so why couldn’t I try going back to what I know did work?
I’m currently working on 5 different books. 3 new ones and 2 re-releases, along with re-writing 2 blurbs. I know what I’ll work on next month because it has a pretty immediate deadline. But the ones I’m working on right now, have later in the year deadlines. I’ll be putting things up for pre-order to seal in the deadlines from Amazon and that will help me out a lot. And yes, I could do the same thing and set daily word count goals, but that’s never been me as a writer. Facing the truth of how I write is not fun or easy. Not when I want to be some other way. But it’s also kind of freeing. I’ll enjoy it more if I don’t force myself into a hole I don’t fit in.
In light of the last few days and the horrible loss of nine lives in the California mountains, the most well known being Kobe Bryant, many of us have been plunged into thinking, into wondering, into questioning whether we’re living our lives to the fullest and doing the things that matter and make a difference and make us happy.
I’m not an NBA fan, but one can’t deny the impact off the court that Kobe Bryant has had and the light he was for so many, and the countless messages of inspiration he left in his wake through soundbites from interviews, through his books, his documentary about the game he loved.
He did what he loved. More than once. His career as an elite basketball player. Then, as a father who was fully immersed with his family.
Sometimes I wonder if I still do what I love, the thing that makes me happy, the thing that I would miss if I didn’t do it anymore.
I’ve always written. Since I was in Jr High and going through some personal things at home. I’ve written stories, books, flash fiction, poetry. I’ve written to escape reality and to put reality in a form that I could dissect and understand it. I’m almost 49 years old and I’m still writing. It wasn’t the thing I aspired to do when I was growing up or when I graduated high school. I wanted to be part of the music industry. A roadie, to be honest. And a concert flautist. And a composer. And… And… And…
Being married and having children was not on my radar and the things I’d wanted to do and the things I actually did do were so completely different.
I miss music. I miss playing. I can still finger a scale in the air the way a guitar player can finger chords on an air guitar. I can still see the music in my head of pieces I played my junior year of high school which won me medals in competitions. I still have my flute, my music, and so many I wish I had… thoughts.
I wasn’t the best at all times. I was sometimes, but not at all times. But I never gave up. I used to spend hours a day practicing. 6 hours. 8 hours. 10 hours. I loved it. And I never stopped. Not until life changed and I didn’t know how to be one thing and still chase this other thing that meant so much to me.
I miss it so much some days.
I used to write like that, too. I used to write for hours and not stop. I used to write books that meant something to me, to readers. I used to write and write and write. Even while I was raising my kids and homeschooling. And then… I did stop. I did get discouraged. I did lose my nerve.
I keep coming back to it.
But I don’t chase it the way I once did. And I wonder why that is. I have no idea.
Do I miss it when I don’t do it? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no.
There are always ideas in my head. There are always stories that run in circles through my brain, like the bunnies that hop through my backyard. But could I leave it behind and in 25 years still miss it? Or would it just something I did once upon a time? These are the things I wonder when I’m being honest with myself and to be honest with you, I don’t know what the answer is.
Music still flows through my bones. It’s still embedded in my blood. It’s still part of me. It’s something I need in my life that a day without it sets my teeth on edge and I start getting really grumpy.
There’s a song for every emotion. There’s a melody for every mood. There’s a harmony for every memory.
The one thing I will say about writing, about music, is that they go together for me. I have to have the music right before I start writing. And maybe for me that’s where the two meet and mix and mingle and bleed together. Maybe that’s how music is part of my life now. Not in the same way it once was, but in the way that fuels this job that I have chosen to do.
The other thing that goes with writing for me is reading. I do a lot of it. More recently than I did the last few years. And the more I read, the more I start wanting to write. Wanting. Needing isn’t part of that vocabulary. But wanting, is. So, maybe as long as I’m a reader, I’m going to want to be a writer.
There are always stories to tell. There are always my stories to tell. There are always words to express what I’m feeling, what I’m going through, what I’m trying to understand about reality, what I’m trying to heal from the past. And as long as there’s music, I’ll be able to put those words down, I’ll be able to write and in that way… I do love it. I do still love what I do. I do still have passion for it.
And maybe, in this, I will have made my own mark and inspired someone else to find a way to marry their passions enough love what they do, even if it’s not a straight line. I think that would have made Kobe Bryant, a man, an icon, and one who sought to inspire others to follow their dreams, proud.