May 242013

We’ve been talking about those 168 hours everybody has per week, and this came up in my morning reading. This came from the Time Management Ninja:

A couple things I do from that list:

• Doing things the night before: Not as much as I used to, but still a good one. When I worked a clock-punching job I made my lunch the night before, set up the coffee maker, and set things up for the morning. Left more time to locate my brain. I’ll still set my to-do lists, goals and editorial calendar before I go to bed.

• Using those between times: Stuck in a line? Good time to break out the index cards and start writing. I’m riding the bus more, and using transit time for more actual work. I used to keep my work on my phone so I can edit anywhere, but that’s a little rough on the SD card.

Check it out. It’s good stuff.

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May 222013

I’ve reverse-engineered my weekly 168 hours, and I really can’t find many holes. I mean, no one touches my sleep time, and I need my me-time, my navel-studying tome. Everybody does. But everything else has been squeezed out of it. I think.

Want to know what’s wild? Even though my time allocation is pretty well fixed, my productivity isn’t. I mean my client-work time stays the same 24 hours a week whether I get a little or a lot done. If I need to jam out 3,000 words in three hours, it’ll get done. But if I only need 300 words, it’ll still take … three hours. And it’ll be just as difficult as the 3,000 words.

Maybe there really is something to this theory of expanding work after all. What do you think?

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May 212013

I’m going to cheat here. This is a little more than 3 paragraphs this time. But it’ll be useful stuff anyway. Bear with me …

My biggest juggling act involves those 168 hours I’m given per week. Yeah, that same number you and everyone else gets; this is one of the few aspects of life that’s actually fair. But it’s still on me to decide how to use that:

• Sleeping: 49 hours — seven per night.
• Part-time job: 18 hours.
• Other, part-time work in landscaping: 8-10 hours.
• Client work: 20-25 hours.
• Time with friends: 12 hours. These people are like family, so that’s important.

OK, that’s about 114 hours, and it’s probably similar to how your own week looks. That leaves 54 hours, a little more than what most people spend at work.

Then crank in the usual chunks of time every day (eating, eliminating, hunting for my brain in the morning). That nibbles into the 54 hours, and probably more than I like to think. That could even be as much as 14 hours, leaving me 40.

I try to dedicate 20 hours for project writing; ebooks, fiction, blogs. But that varies depending on whatever time sucks and rabbit holes look attractive along the way. Screwing off on the Internet. Reading (though that’s educational). Contemplating my navel (is that educational?). You get the idea.

Hey, this is important stuff. Reverse-engineering your week is a great way to determine whether you really have enough time for this creative stuff.

How’d you do? Let’s talk about it.

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May 202013

(This is really two posts in one. How cool is that?)

One of the reasons people give about why they don’t pursue their creativity is that there’s never enough time to do it.

Which makes sense. But we’re all allotted the same 168 hours per week. Unless I croak in mid-stream, I get the same amount as everyone else. But I find my own normal activities fill it up very quickly.

I’ve heard it said that work — or non-work — expands to fill the time we have. But is it true? Let’s get personal and explore that thought this week. I’ll go first …

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(Add, @ work)

Been wicked busy all week, doing mostly physical things. Still stiff from that, which precludes my usual standing-up writing.

Despite that, managed to finish some client work (though not as much as I’d like) and edited my older brother’s essay. This was all done in my recliner, feet up, with a semiconscious cat curled up next to me.

The main thing for me is completing the second draft of my ebook. Finished it last night, as planned. That’s huge. Now it’s a matter of fine tuning and formatting. The whole thing checks in at a tick more than 30,000 words; a nice size for an ebook.

Supposedly my writing software, Scrivener, does all my formatting. Maybe, but I haven’t learned how to do that yet and am never patient enough to read all the instructions before starting. Anyway, I’m using LibreOffice for the final draft.

Onward …

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May 012013

It doesn’t matter how I do something or how many hours I put in, the proof is in the finished product.

While it’s cool to talk with other creatives about the number of times I rewrote a final draft, all the fast-moving chord changes I had to learn to play a song or the number of colossal failures I had, that’s all internal stuff. None of this makes a lick of difference to a client. In truth, no one gives a rip about the process, just the result.

I like how longtime baseball player/coach Johnny Sain put it: The world doesn’t want to hear about the labor pains. It just wants to see the baby.

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Apr 302013

I can’t be working. I’m doing this thing I love, not even sweating, no straw boss to bother me and not a pair of steel-toed boots in sight. How can I call this working?

Ask me again in a couple of hours when my brain fuzzes over, my face melts, my fingers feel about this long, and the neck and shoulders scream. Oh, yeah, plus an empty stomach ’cause I spent the last two hours essentially vomiting on the page.

Whoever said this creativity thing wasn’t work is completely full of it. Telling you tales. You may not get the calluses on your hands, but you’ll get them on your soul.

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Apr 292013

[Backgrounder: It’s been a few years since I was 25. OK, let’s be honest. Decades. But at 25 I was in college, taking my first journalism classes, had an 18-year-old girlfriend, still had hair. And at that point I wasn’t published yet. Maybe I’ve become hardened over the years, but I sure learned a lot since 25. Let’s explore some of the things I wish I knew and see if they ring any bells for you.]

Maybe the “oooooh, pick me” works in high school, but not so much in the real world. Few actively seek a writer or musician, and the draft pool is beyond crowded.

OK, I stand corrected. Maybe some will approach you on their own initiative, but these are most likely the ones who want something for nothing. Avoid these at all costs.

A goodly part of the creative process is in me putting myself out there, showing my stuff, screeniing potential clients, networking like a madman and pitching some more. That is, if I consider myself a pro. But being a pro carries no promise that I’ll be picked anyway.

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Apr 162013

I like how multi-published author and Internet thought leader Guy Kawasaki described the process of writing a book. I don’t have the exact quote in front of me, but here’s the gist of what he said:

Writing a book can be compared to the process of vomiting: you spew out your book as fast as possible and then you spend the next 6 to 9 months refining your vomit trying to get to something that is beautiful.

OK, that’s kind of gross but it serves a purpose. It’s not just about writing a book, though. Any creative process involves purging and picking. Ain’t nothing pretty about it but the result.

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Note: To get the full interview (Kawasaki and Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing), check out this link here. It’s a goodish-sized sound file, about 23 minutes, so you’ll want to carve out some time for it.

Apr 102013
little blue pills

If you miss a goal, treat it the same way as a missed dose. No do-overs.

If you’ve ever had a prescription for some really strong drugs, you’ll probably remember the doctor’s stern advice/warning about taking them. One that particularly sticks out in my mind is this: If you miss a dosage, wait until your next scheduled time and resume. With a single dose, not double.

This really makes sense, and it really applies to my creative practice too. So I miss my 1,500 words today. So what about tomorrow? Do I shoot for 3,000?

Wrong again. I try for 1,500 again tomorrow. Creativity is tough enough without the pressure, and the worst kind is the pressure I put on myself. Tomorrow’s a fresh day. 1,500 is sufficient. Now if I really bring the chandeliers down tomorrow and slam down 3,000 or 4,000 words, I won’t complain. But I’m not going to chase it. 1,500 is still tomorrow’s goal.

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Apr 092013

Backgrounder: I’m a big goal setter. I’m also not always realistic about these goals. Life happens. Ordure occurs. My ambitious plan to write 1,500 words a day is sometimes hit or miss. Sometimes, despite my best intentions, I miss a day (or even a week) with this blog. I’m a little behind on my current ebook project. I still haven’t mastered all the chord changes to John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. Sometimes I have a bad day and forget all these goals. So what to do? Let’s explore this idea this week.

So I blew a goal yesterday. Two goals, actually. I didn’t send off some important mail like I planned, and I didn’t get my 1,500 words in.

OK. One of these goals is more time-sensitive and urgent than the other. But both are important enough that they needed to get done. It’s so easy to kick myself in the tail and tell myself what a slacker I am. I wasn’t raised to slack off, so it’s easy to take this way too seriously.

The cool thing is that there’s always today, and tomorrow. Forget where I screwed up. Maybe it’s important, but nothing’s so important that I need to carry the weight of it tomorrow. Just forget about that stuff, put it on today’s to-do list, reload and try again.

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