Progress, But Is There Purpose?

It’s been a busy couple of weeks at school. End of semester, final exams, last minute makeup work to grade, then the start of a new semester and a whole crop of new students. I’m starting my check-in this way because all of this may actually be why I’m not feeling a lot of focus around my goals even while I’m getting some things done. My perceptions may be skewed at the moment.

These were last week’s goals and what got done:

  • Write and publish a blog post for MuseCraft–DONE
  • Write at least the bare bones of a second post–STARTED
  • Spend at least 15 minutes working on the web page for the new offering I want to put up–NOT DONE
  • Do writing practice at least twice–NOT DONE
  • Find three recipes to make and freeze next weekend for future meals–NOT DONE (although I did get a giant box of frozen meatballs to use for easy dishes and made a list of dishes to use them in)
  • Get my embroidery project stuff reorganized so I can get back to that and eventually finish it.–STARTED

So, things done. Things not done. But I’m feeling like it’s all been in the background of doing all the things I need to do every day. I don’t actually know if this is a problem. It feels a little bit like a problem. I think I want a shining light that I’m aiming for. Instead, I’m just moving along, but I don’t see anything I’m heading toward. Anyhow, these are things to think about. Meanwhile, I’ll keep moving.

For the coming week, some more pointed goals (experimenting here):

  • Write another MC blog post
  • Share the post more than once
  • Share older posts at least twice
  • Rearrange my couch working area and put a notebook for blog post notes in easy reach
  • Do writing practice about what I want to aim for
  • Set up a work pouch for the embroidery project

I like the feel of this list. I’m looking forward to seeing how it feels as I work through it. Hope we all have a great week!

The Little Things

Embroidery floss organizing project in process

I love details. No, I need details. I need things to be just so. Not everything, but my important things. Notebooks and pens and paper and how I keep things like embroidery floss and my most-used and loved art supplies.

Sometimes my need for the just-so makes me take a long time to get started or do things. And for many years I thought that this was part of my procrastination tendency. I thought it was a way of stalling or not starting at all. And just today–actually just about a minute ago–I realized that’s not what’s happening. At least not all the time.

When I figure out exactly how I need a thing to be so that it works right for me, then I use the thing and do the thing. And for years, especially in recent years with the growing deluge of productivity articles and coaches, I believed that I needed to stop working to find what’s just right and just plow forward. Get things done! Just do it!

I don’t stick with those things, though. Or if I do, I don’t like it. I don’t feel happy with what I’m doing. Things feel off. So it’s important for me to allow for the daydreaming time and the experimenting with different things so I can find my just-so spot. The trick is to find a balance between getting what I need and using this for procrastination.

Right now I’m trying out keeping a single notebook, and I have paused several times because I’m working out just how I need it to be. Until today and my lightbulb moment, I thought I was just avoiding doing work. Today I realized that I’m creating the tools and containers that will let me do the work. Funny thing is, as soon as I noticed this I figured out how to handle one of the issues I was hung up on (taking notes from a book I’m reading while also continuing daily notes) in a way that will let me do both kinds of notes while also feeling workable and comfortable for me.

This past week has been about organizing and putting things in place to be used. There’s also been some writing practice and a bit of blogging. Mostly, though, it’s been about readying those containers and tools. This coming week, this is what I’m planning to do:

  • Create at least the template for the image for my new creative dream tarot spread offering
  • Write a MuseCraft blog post
  • Participate in the Instagram Colour My Everyday challenge I ran across today
  • Continue daily decluttering through the end of January

It’s finals week, so there will be lots of grading of late work that kids are finally turning in. There will also be lots of making sure everything is ready to go for the first day of the new semester next week, so I think this short-but-sweet goals list is enough for this week.

I hope your week is sweet whether it’s short or long!

Choices

I’ve been thinking about something, or maybe around something, for a couple of years now. About the need to give one thing priority over the others in my list of things I want to do. Not stopping any of them, just making one the thing that gets the most time. But I haven’t been able to get myself to do it, because the thing I want to put at the top of the list isn’t writing, and somehow that makes me feel guilty.

But I’m ready to say it now. I don’t want to stop writing, but I want to put my writing on a lower rung than my teaching and coaching work. Why am I ready to say this now? I’m reading Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff. In Chapter 3, “Choose What to Bomb,” he says, “The only way to accomplish a new goal is to feed it your most valuable resource: time.” This followed on the heels of talk about how you really can’t do it all and all sorts of other good advice and good ideas. And I knew that I’ve been fooling myself by pretending that I can get a blog and website up and thriving while keeping my fiction writing my top priority.

So my goals are changing. Not really that much, all the same things are still on there for the most part, but they are changing. This is where I’m leaning right now:

  • MuseCraft: write blog posts or copy at least twice a week; share things on social media at least twice a week.
  • Writing: continue writing practice several times a week; work on flash fiction when time and interest converge; I want to see how it feels to just write for fun and brain clearing and not think about writing stories, finishing things, any of that.
  • Making things: fit in time regularly, at least twice a week, to work on creative projects just for me.

I have other areas I’d like to work on. I’m not sure how they will fit in with my job plus trying to build up the blog and website and coaching business. But I’d like to have a clean and welcoming home. I’d like to go out and do things more; I let my pain and ongoing exhaustion and general ennui keep me at home and alone more than is good for me I think. I want to make clothes for myself.

I need to work on professional development hours for keeping my teaching license up to date, and I need to find a full time position. I want to do more photography. I need to have food more organized and easier so we have decent meals even when I’m tired.

Most of all, I need to find ways to make this all feel more organic. I’ve been feeling like my life is just checking things off my list. I get a lot of things done, but too often it doesn’t feel like it goes together. It’s just separate little check boxes, and I don’t like the way that feels. So a more amorphous goal is figuring out how to get things done without feeling like all I’m doing is moving from task to task. But for now, I am going to focus on getting things done while enjoying things more. As Jon Acuff says in Chapter 4, “Make It Fun If You Want It Done,” “Make sure there’s laughing and smiling involved with that thing you’re going to do.”

Time Stretches

I thought I’d do a blog post to check-in since it’s been a while. I thought I’d be taking a break for a week, maybe two, but time has pulled away from me, and even though it’s a month later I find I still need the downtime.

I’m in the midst of trying to find summer work and looking for full-time work for the fall. Writing is haphazard and solely focused on writing practice right now. I am still in Lull mode, resting, trying to do what I need to do. Reminding myself that I will have more writing time after I take care of the employment stuff and get all of that sorted. For now, writing practice and resting will do.

Creative Cleaning

 

A shelf in my favorite bookcase, clear and waiting for me. My grandfather made this bookcase for my mother around the time I was born, and it has always been my space for my special and favorite books and things.

Cleaning has never been my forte. I avoid it. I ignore the need until things are so awful that I have to clean just to find my stuff. I may be changing my mind.

This past week, I participated in a Get Back to Creating challenge led by Jen Louden. Each of us picked a project to focus on for the week. Before we began, I thought I would work on my revisions or perhaps on a short story I have hanging around. Day One came along, and I found myself writing that I was going to work on organizing my studio. That wasn’t even what I meant to say! But I guess it was. The clutter and boxes still unpacked after two years and general chaos have been bringing me down more and more.

I wanted to back out after the first day, change my mind, quit the challenge. But Jen said to work on the same project. And it was for such a short amount of time! I was only doing one little section of the space each day. So I did it again. And again. And at the end of Day Five, Friday, there was a noticeable clear space. And yesterday and today I found myself doing a little bit more. And today, there’s even more noticeable clear space.

So what does this have to do with creativity and writing? Everything. By Thursday I was flooded with new ideas for my novel. On Friday, sitting in a 7th grade band class, I dreamed up an entire embroidery series in my head, and it was vivid and complete enough that I was able to write it down after class, and I’ve started working on the design. Today while I was emptying a box, an entire scene that really belongs in my novel popped into my head.

Does this mean clean space is required for creating? No. My space is far from clean. But it is getting cleaner and more organized. I think having spaces you’re comfortable in while working are important. But I think doing something physical also stirs the mind, especially in this instance where I was surrounded by my creative toys and supplies and touching them and moving them around. I also think that taking the next small step you can see and doing your best not to try to see what might come later lets things unfold and open up whereas trying to force yourself to figure out what’s going to happen further out closes things off. It’s too much pressure. The slow, small steps? No pressure.

I still don’t like cleaning. I haven’t changed my mind about that. But I’ve changed my mind about wanting to do it. I hope I can keep this going and move through my house and my novel creating things just how I want them. But for right now, at least I have one completely clean shelf waiting to be exactly what I want it to be.

Pause

Today I finished the read-through and note taking of “Haunt,” just in time for the final 2017 check-in for ROW80.

I’m planning to not do much of anything before the next round. Mostly some reading and playing with character sheets. It’s the end of the year, and I like to spend this time dreaming and writing and making lists, and I plan to do just that.

I am reining myself in and not doing plans or outlining or anything for the next 11 days. I can already tell this is going to be hard. I am really worried about losing my momentum, because that happens to me a lot. But I have a specific plan of what steps are coming next, and I know when I’m going to start them, so this time really is different. I will remind myself of that often and fill my time with other pursuits, and I am going to pick this story back up and do the next steps without months in between!

Meanwhile, while I let the story stew, I’m going to plan my 2018 year-long embroidery project. More about that later, though. More about all the plans after some time to pause.

Looking Ahead

I love this time of year. I love the planning bug that hits me every time the calendar is about to change. I love the possibilities of a brand new calendar. This time, though, my writing work is coinciding with the change of years, and it feels good. New year, new part of the work to do. I’m not just continuing writing an in-progress story. I’m starting a whole new part of the writing process.

Meanwhile, I’m still working on the “Haunt” read-through, which feels like a wrap-up of the first draft more than an actual part of the revision process for some reason. I’m about 3/4 of the way finished with it. It’s kind of fitting that I’m hitting the end of this part of my plans just in time for the end of this round of ROW80. I just hope I’m going to be ready for something new when the next round starts.

To help with that, here are more plans for the ROW80 break:

  • Study revision techniques
  • Character building (my three characters are too similar)
  • Make a list in one place of next steps
  • Pick a date for starting revisions
  • Possibly do a loose narrative-style outline of the story as it stands to help find the holes and weak spots

Okay, now I feel a little more ready to tackle whatever’s coming next in this writing life.

 

NaNo Wrap-up

I’ve started this post numerous times in my head. I have so much to say! It’s all still tumbling around excitedly inside my brain. This might call for a list!

  1. I won NaNoWriMo with 52,513 (52,527 in Google Docs) words.
  2. I finished the story! This one is huge. Immensely, amazingly huge! I have never done this before. Not just during NaNo, either. I have only ever finished short stories before. Every long work I’ve started up until now remains unfinished. But not this one. This one has an ending!
  3. I’m feeling niggling worries about whether or not I know how to do the next steps to add scenes, clean things up, do revisions. It’s all going to be my first try for my own work. I’ve helped other people do theirs, but I’ve never done this on my own. It feels completely different and like brand new territory. I have to remember that finishing a novel felt that way, and I did it by just figuring out and doing the next thing without knowing what I would do after that. I have to let go of wanting to know how every part of it will look before I get there (oh so hard for me!).
  4. I have a plan for what I’m doing next. During December I’m going to be reading through about 4 pages a day and making notes about things that need to have more info or different info, marking places where I need another scene, marking places where a scene needs to be removed or replaced. My plan is to be ready to do the writing and clean-up starting in January. I’m trying not to try to figure out how long that might take right now (oh my control issues!).

 

Slogging

I’m struggling to get to the writing today. I’m exhausted and headachey. But I am so close! Just under 3,000 words left to write to win NaNoWriMo. And I think that’s going to bring me to the end of my story, too, so it’s really exciting. Except I can’t get off this couch!

There are too many of these exhausted and not-quite-well days. But at least the fire is going again, I am not freezing like I was earlier, and I have a plan to put together a quick dinner and get it into the oven so we will have food. Things could be much worse, right? If only the motivation fairy would come and get me on my feet!

NaNo Meets Thanksgiving

This week has been really hectic. I’m trying to clean things up for Thanksgiving, and that’s not going well, and I’m really behind. I’ve kept up with my word count–I’m even still a day ahead–but everything is kind of foggy. There’s too much going on in my head, and it’s keeping me from being fully engaged with anything I’m doing. I’m getting writing done, but the having fun part has slipped away.

I don’t know if I’m going to get back to really enjoying it until Thanksgiving is over. I’m really looking forward to not having to prep for a holiday! Thank goodness Christmas is at someone else’s house!

I’m going to set a pre-New Year’s resolution–next year I am *not* going to wait until November to start getting my house in order so that I can have people over. Now I just have to figure out how to actually get myself to get organized enough to not do this again.

Meanwhile, back to my haunted world. Things are easier there.