Write Hacks 9: Whack the smallest mole

This post is about stress, so here are some first-aid cats.

This post is about stress, so here are some first-aid cats.

Is this you?

Wake up
Brush teeth
Make coffee
Feed the cat
Sit down at computer
Cry

Because there’s just so much to be done. It’s not a do-list, it’s a tidal wave. Let’s see what’s on my plate:

  • Write more pages of Coed Demon Sluts #4. No, you don’t have to research those two New Jersey high schools right now. Drop in a //fix this// marker and write the damn pages.
  • Revisit the six stories I edited in Sigil last night, only this time in a .docx file, redo the links I inserted last night in the proper styles this time, then re-edit all six stories in Sigil. Upload. Then add the insert to the next eight stories.
  • Create content for assistant to use in upcoming promotion.
  • Nag cover artist.

    I shouldn't have to explain this to you. You're a writer.

    I shouldn’t have to explain this to you. You’re a writer.

  • Line edit standalone romcom now that beta comments are back, trim it by at least 10K words.
  • Peck away at outline for final Hinky Chicago book.
  • Visit Facebook, because it’s been two weeks and everybody thinks I’ve died.
  • Write two more blog posts, because conference next week, and I’ll be too busy & too dead the next day. Actually, write three blog posts, because another one’s due the following week.
  • Get on the publication schedule for new short story collection.
  • Look at proofs of new short story collection, correct, reformat, upload files for format review.
  • Go over metadata for new free book promotion, add a skillion new keywords.
  • Review website vis-à-vis new information from that fabulous blog I read last week about making your website mobile-friendly.
  • Give webmistress heart attack by asking for revamp—again.
  • Read MS for critique partner.
  • Read MS for that kid my sister-in-law introduced me to, why did I promise to do this?
  • Read MS for friend’s book blurb.
  • OMG send requests for blurbs for the new series! Do it now so you don’t panic in six months!

There’s more, but I’m hyperventilating now. Wine therapy stat! <sip> Okay.

Keep the list near the incentives. It helps.

Keep the list near the incentives. It helps.

My strategy, which was always to put out the fire in front of me, has evolved. Now I put out the fire that will be in front of me in two weeks. When I’m a grownup, I will be putting out the fire that ignites in six months. Better than that, I defy anyone to do, because publishing evolves so quickly that in six months those fires will have gone out on their own, but new ones in unforseen colors will have erupted.

When my brain is cheese and today I cannot face being creative or reformatting an ebook whose table of contents is misbehaving, the tactic I use most often could be described as “whack the smallest mole.”

I type the list. I print it out. I keep the printout near the wine. When I sit down and realize there is no juice in me, no spark, not even some good sound sarcasm, I scan that list for the easiest job. Then I whack it.

Then I cross it off the list. This puts me near the wine, and sometimes it’s too early for that, but fortunately it’s also near the coffeepot.

Your cats could teach you to relax. If only you could teach them to do social media.

Your cats could teach you to relax. If only you could teach them to do social media.

Back to work. What’s at the top of the list? “Write some pages.” Can’t face it. Whack something else. What’s the next easiest job on the list? Whack that one. Cross it off the list, refill the /g/l/a/s/s/ coffee cup, rinse, repeat.

At the end of a very long week of braindeath, this tactic can result in the disappearance of many small tasks. I still haven’t climbed Mt. Everest, but I’ve done a lot of chores that are now gone, gone, gone.

And comes a day I wake up, once more ready to scream defiance at the sky.

How do you face that do-list?

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Write Hacks 9: Whack the smallest mole — 5 Comments

  1. I’m afraid I don’t write to do lists–they tend to be the fastest way for me to lose track of something. At my job a few years ago, I was overwhelmed and scoured through every time management book, figuring my system was broken. I tried to do lists, and the thing they told me that I had waaaay too much to do, and didn’t help anything. The problem turned out to not be me, but something management was doing, but I learned a lot about my process along the way.

    I’m not the type of person who the time management people write for. They don’t understand creative types, where the world is hardly black and white. I use two production boards at work–just post its and columns. I also have a lot of little things where I’m waiting on other people, so I use a transitory file on the computer. Date the folder for when I think the paperwork will back, so “10-10 John Smith Application.” If the paperwork comes in, I print everything, delete the folder, and done. Or I circle back and adjust the date. I’m thinking of trying it on the writing side–I have a big event coming up that’s been messing with everything, so once that gets settled in the next few weeks, then I’m going to look at the writing side of this.

  2. I don’t write to do lists, but I do have to put post its on my computer to remind me of certain tasks, or I write them in my calendar. But I do prioritize my tasks for the next day before I fall asleep, and again when I wake up.

    And yeah, easiest and quickest ones first, on less peppy days.

  3. I used to write to-do lists. And then I’d write to-do lists for the to-do lists that I had filed somewhere in the pile of Important Documents on my desk. And then i’d promptly forget about those too.

    Now I write sticky notes for the most pressing things (like paying bills), and I record upcoming appointments in my calendar. But my brain has completely rebelled against any regular task-oriented planning in recent times. I just can’t do it anymore. In the interests of anxiety-management, I just go with the flow right now. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to jump-start my efficiency battery again some day, but for the time-being I’m just letting all but the most imperative things slide.

  4. Perspective: Remember the days in your youth when you dreamed of being a published, and famous author. There are costs and payoffs that come with that dream. “Six in one hand, half a dozen in the other”. Question is, which one takes priority? What follows that? Where can I use this frustration that makes me cry in one my books? Rinse, lather, repeat.

  5. I like lists, too, and while I use “sticky notes” on the computer for some items, mostly the lists are in my “daily book,” which is a hefty spiral notebook with sturdy paper. I do date it when I turn the page. Along with the lists are phone numbers, messages from the roofing contractor, notes of what I found in a format review, and appointments for other people (mine go on my calendar.) Lists get flagged with a sticky note that will stay there until the last item is crossed off. At the moment there are two list flags sticking out of prior pages, but I’ll get them all done. I find it useful and encouraging to go back through this notebook at the end of the year to get an idea of just what I got finished.