First off, I remember that there is joy in writing. But, it’s easy for other concerns to overshadow the enjoyment of creating with words, of telling a story that engages me as a writer and and demands to be told. I try not to allow schedules and plans to take precedence over the joy of creativity.
Great plans require great execution. So do good plans. I’m happy with my goals and objectives for next year, but I’m apprehensive about whether I will complete them all. During this final week of 2016 I’m taking the opportunity to think about some how-tos that will put my goals in reach.
Step 1 is self-care. This is something I often neglect. The world and national events of 2016 took a huge toll on my concentration, mood, and desire to accomplish. And, the many deaths of iconic performers whose works have defined the world I live in were a series of blows that became a part of life. The expectation of another death, and another, and another reached a creschendo this week with Carrie Fisher, though 2016 isn’t done. I expected the worst. I wouldn’t let myself hope. But, the news of her death was devastating. I won’t wax eloquent in this article about what she and her works mean to me as a person and as a writer. For more than one generation, she’s our Princess. Not a Disney princess. She was a gritty, determined, outspoken woman who faced overwhelming odds at times in real life and on the screen, and who got things done and inspired her companions to do more than they thought possible.
Anyway. Where was I? Self-care. One way I can take back control of my attention is to simply spend less time reading the news, watching the news, and following every social media paroxysm of outrage over the news. I don’t mean I should bury my head in the sand. But, I don’t need to spend hours a day keeping up with each new horror as it unfolds.
To that end, instead of making it a morning priority to catch up on the latest not-exactly-presidential 3:00 am tweets and the storm of memes they generate, I’ll start the day differently:
- Self-assessment and meditation. I’ve restarted meditation this week and it makes a difference how I feel. I start the day by asking myself how I feel mentally, physically and emotionally; choosing a meditation technique based on my self-assessment, and then reassessing after 10 to 15 minutes of active or resting meditation.
- Stretches. Loosening up and getting the blood flowing puts a spring in my step that doesn’t seem to happen otherwise.
- Hot breakfast in the winter. My go-to is oatmeal, with the occasional savory bowl of grits. Oatmeal for breakfast is a challenge because I dislike rolled oats. They cook quickly, but the texture is like wet cardboard to me. So, I’ve begun making oatmeal from steel cut oats overnight in a crock pot. Eight hours on the low setting results in a decadent, creamy bowl of breakfast. Dress it up with fruit, spices, and your favorite sweeteners. And enjoy feeling cared for by yesterday-you who cared enough about you and everyone else in your household that he or she made a wonderful, hot breakfast for you.
Now that I’ve cared for myself, I’m in good shape to get things done. And the day has hardly started!
- Do your thing. For me, this is writing or researching. Do this before you dip into the aspects of your work that can lead to distractions. Give it at least a half hour (more if you can) before you take a break.
- Turn to distracting work during your breaks. And time your breaks. Giving myself 10 or 15 minutes to catch up on social media keeps me focused on what I actually want to accomplish on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram instead of scanning my feeds for every little morsel of information.
- As you run into interesting and important things you want to delve into, save them. Keep a list. There will be time to focus on them later.
- Set aside time for your side projects. My plans for next year include taming and streamlining the time I spend developing my platform. To do this effectively, I need templates and schedulers. So, I’m going to spend an hour or two in the afternoons working on my platform toolkits. Depending on the size of the interesting and important things I’ve found throughout the day, I can work on them during this time, or during my short breaks if the topics are not too involved or can be broken into smaller tasks.
- Spend your best time on your passions. For me, the late evening is my most creative writing time. It’s also often my most productive time. The day is done, the house is quiet, and I can slip on my headphones and disappear into the universe I’m creating with words. Whatever your best time is, use it extravagantly on your passions.
Of course, other things happen in a day. Exercise, errands, chores, unexpected tasks. Schedule them, do them, and get back to your plans.
I’ll try this loose schedule out for a few weeks and see how it works. The first weeks of January will challenge me because I’ll be traveling and spending time with extended family. I don’t expect to spend as much time on my writing projects as I will later in the month, but it will be a good test of whether these ideas help me make more out of my available time and energy.
Find and hold the joy in what you do. And so will I.
How do you intend to make your plans happen this year?