Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Shorter View

Things have a way of working out. 

Lion is to warrior as I secretly want to be to the future!
And that cliché opening is meant to segue nicely into the announcement that I managed to break through the panic about writing which I'd been feeling.  At long last I've again moved toward finishing the preliminary revision of House of Mirrors.  

In a previous post, I mentioned my planning tendencies.  They tend to be somewhat extreme...if I had my way, I'd take the future and subdue it to my will!  I'd beat it into submission and make it my willing servant!  (Insert maniacal laughter.) 

Ahem.  Anyway, obviously the whole point of the future is that it is unknown and can’t be planned out in detail.  My theory is that it’s set up that way to keep humans (especially strategist-types, like myself) from becoming too presumptuous.  I’m sure that if I did know exactly what was going to happen in the next year, or few months, or even few days, my delight over being in control of every foreseen situation would take over my mind and I’d become insufferable.  So I remain thankful that the future is unknown. 

However, since I do like to make schedules, etc., I have to struggle not to let myself get too anxious when my theoretical plans and the nebulous future don’t show any signs of meshing.  A failure to balance this anxiety got the better of me last week, but I did overcome it, eventually.  Since surely I’m not the only person who finds it occasionally overwhelming to make hobbies or artistic endeavors or passionate interests fit into a work schedule, I figured I’d say a few words about how I escaped my panic. 

My trip helped me regain a delicate balance!
Actually, it was largely thanks to another day-trip.  Just recently I wrote about how taking a drive in my state helped me overcome my summer burn-out and produce a poem.  Well, it turns out that a similar drive I made last Saturday also gave me time to think through my difficulties. 

See my trouble is this:  I’m working a lot this year.  This is my third year as a full time teacher at the school where I work, but full-time is a relative term, as the number of classes changes every time.  This year I have 20 hours of teaching, plus 2 hours of test supervision and 1 period of library work.  Then of course there are grading and preparation, which take up 2-5 hours a day besides the other stuff, so I stay quite busy.  It’s fulfilling and interesting and a continuing education for me, so I enjoy it, but still – free time is a commodity that’s rather lacking in my life.

On the other hand, I want to finish the preliminary edit for House of Mirrors, finish the final edit for The Art of Dying, and start research for my next story. 

With these two lists of tasks facing me, I was trying to plan both of them out until Christmas (that’s when I’d love to start writing my new novel, after all).  However, since my school days have been quite busy, I was beginning to despair of there ever being any room for writing.  If you get up at 7:30, dress, eat, drive to work, prepare for classes, teach for two hours, break for grading, lunch, more grading, then two more teaching hours, drive home, take care of the garden and house, exercise, eat dinner, shower, grade, catch up on emails and the news, and then try to get to bed at a decent hour, it seems like there’s not a lot of time left for writing.  Or at least, the time that’s left is hardly the leisurely peace needed to promote a creative frame of mind.  My schedule can’t sound too different from other working artists’ out there, so if you are feeling frazzled, let me say that I feel your pain. 

Imagining such a routine being repeated five days a week from now until Christmas, it was no wonder I didn’t see a place for my three big writing projects.  But this weekend I was driving through the relaxing autumnal weather, and suddenly it occurred to me that there’s no need to think of all three projects at once.  After all, I can’t actually do them all at once. 

My beatitude was as great as a fat Buddha's!
I realized that if I pushed away thoughts of The Art of Dying and of new research, and simply considered the three chapters remaining to be edited from House of Mirrors, I felt entirely free.  Three little chapters can fit into a busy schedule so easily, after all.  And then, relieved of my anxiety, it was easy to open my word document, scroll to the third to last chapter and finally, finally edit it.  After I was done, I felt like standing up and singing hallelujah.  (I restrained myself.)

So what did I learn?  When you’re busy – and we’re all busy more often than not, I’d guess – sanity can be maintained by thinking of things in small pieces.  Don’t plan until Christmas; plan until tomorrow, or maybe even just till lunch tomorrow and let the evening turns out as it turns out.  Don’t think of everything you want or need to accomplish at once; just pick one or two things to focus on, and then when you're done, suddenly your long to-do lists will have pleasantly diminished.  That’s my advice at least. 

Does anyone else have a way of coping and squeezing in a bit of writing (or other creative activities) during their busiest times at work?  I’d be interested to hear about your method.  

1 comment:

  1. Being semi-retired I have time to procrastinate...sort of - I watch my grandson now mostly a good chunk of five days a week. So I pull myself out of bed to get my 'daily' piece done, because I enjoy doing that. Writing that its. Other projects though... I finally took the time out a few days ago to dust every corner of a particular room that was in desperate need. It took hours... I'm thinking if I dust there once a week, (OK realistically once every two weeks or even a month) I won't have to go through that ordeal again. Breaking things down into manageable bits and rewards for even simple accomplishments is helpful. Wishing you continued success in your endeavors. Cheers! (Three of them, cheers that is - go ahead stand up and shout! Or at least take a quiet bow and have some chocolate :) )