You know what an average day looked like for me a year ago? 18 hours of absolutely nothing to do, followed by six hours of sleep. I’m sure that sounds good to some people, but personally, I felt like I was in that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the crew keeps repeating the same day over and over again (except without the repeating explosions, which is a shame because it would have livened things up considerably). I was still writing during those boring, repetitive days, but even then my stories seemed just as repetitive. In fact, half the reason I think I got writer’s block two years ago and started this blog was because my writing had become so stale and static that I was bored with writing. Much like my life.
Now, however, I’m living an adventure everyday; often times without even leaving the house. So many new challenges and opportunities have become available since my Mass Effect 3 post that I’m now having the opposite problem from what I was experiencing a year ago. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Between my freelance writing, writing copy for my own business, and writing my blog, I’m suddenly overwhelmed. I’ve been typing on my keyboard so much that the letters on the keys have rubbed off and I bet if I looked at the keys under a microscope I’d see a perfect indent in the shape of my fingerprints.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that this has happened, but it’s all happened so fast that suddenly I’m trying to do four to five different things all at once. And therein lies the problem.
When I’m writing the words aren’t constantly flowing onto the page (unless I’m having a particularly good day), I often pause and reread what I’ve written. I consider how to proceed from where I’m at, what details I need to put in or take out, or double check my facts if it’s an assignment that requires accurate information. That was all fine and dandy when I was working on one story at a time. Now in the pauses between my writing, I’ll suddenly break into a cold sweat and remember that I have another item to write. In panic I’ll open up the other piece I’m working on and work on that for a while.
Just a few days ago I was working on a blog post, a piece of freelance copy for a website, writing an email to a prospective client and trying to write a few chapters in my science fiction novel. The moment I started making any real progress on one item, I would pause and remember one of the other things I was working on, and go scrambling to write something for that too. It’s like I’m in the middle of a circus high wire act. I’m standing in the middle of the high wire and I can’t decide which platform to go to. I take a few steps forward on one, change my mind, and take a few steps toward the opposite platform. At the end of the day I’m still in the middle of the high wire, which by the way, has been strung over the open chasm of an active volcano with sharks swimming in the lava.
To put it in a less dramatic way, I’m dividing my time between so many different things that at the end of the day I’ve made no real progress on anything. And you know what really pisses me off? This is exactly why I had such a hard time in school, this is the same kind of thing I would do with my homework. And the worst part is that no class I ever took ever really taught me how to manage my time. Of all the worthless hours spent preparing for standardized tests, all the irrelevant minutia I learned, and the years of teacher’s reinforcing the fact that they’re there to teach us how to survive in the “real world”, not one teacher or class ever thought to teach a simple and essential skill like time management?
I know some people just seem to have an innate sense of organization and this isn’t an issue for them, but I know I’m not the only one who finds themselves completely befuddled when confronted with multiple tasks at once. Luckily for me, those organized people out there have written various books all centered on the topic of managing your time and organizing your life. The most helpful resource I’ve found, however, is this fellow freelancer’s post on her website. I stumbled across the site as I used Google to find a solution for my plight.
I didn’t actually expect to find a site like this, but I’m incredibly glad I did. It’s an entire website dedicated to helping people like me overcome the challenges of freelance writing, and since she’s an actual freelancer herself, I know she speaks from experience rather than theory. I was more surprised to see that my problem could be solved so easily, as the title of that piece says, it’s just one simple step. I highly recommend you read the piece, especially if you’re having issues like I was, but let me sum up that one step:
One thing and one day at a time.
It’s so simple. It’s so stupidly simple that I can’t believe that such a simple answer was eluding me. It seems like just common sense and yet here I was acting like this was the biggest obstacle in the world. I was so close to the problem that it looked like an insurmountable cliff and I was trying to climb it armed with only a toothpick and floss instead of rope and anchors. Then I read her article. And suddenly I notice the elevator next to me. And at the top is a paradise of beautiful women.
Today I set aside my entire day to writing my blog and only my blog. That’s it. The result? I’ve written today’s blog and two entries for next week as well. Some of you may have noticed I posted a blog post yesterday about Star Trek Voyager, but after being repeatedly told it didn’t quite live up to the quality of my usual posts I took it down. It’s probably due to the fact that I wrote that post over the course of a week, adding to it a few sentences at a time. Well I’ve had time to completely rewrite it and it’ll be reappearing this Wednesday.
From now on I’m going to be posting every Wednesday and Saturday without fail. It’s a whole new Writer’s Block! So keep writing in with suggestions and requests for topics, because it’s time to take this blog into high gear.
This is an easy time trap to fall into as secondary/High school has us in timetables of 4 to 5 subjects a day each with their own backlog of homework to do. Then in the work place we find ourselfs in situations where we have only 3 hours of work left but need to finish 3 jobs that take over an hour each. Since we are expected to get this all done we can find ourselfs rushing some of these tasks so they look moderatly done but not quite complete rather then complete 2 tasks and then have to explain why we couldn’t finished the last one.
Ritalin, dude (I joke).