Wildcard Topic: Goin’ with the Flow

I was going to hold off and post this on Sunday, but because I’ve decided to discontinue the “Wildcard” topic after this week, I decided to go ahead and post it today. Check the newsletter coming out on Sunday and/or “News/Goals” post next Monday for details on the new posting schedule as of next week (new topics/days are already in the sidebar to the left). Thanks for bearing with me as I move things around here…read on to find out why “Wildcard” is going away. 

Last Saturday as I was trying to figure out why I was having trouble working on my WIP before my blogging & newsletter, I had an epiphany. All my life I’ve organized tasks by how long they would take to accomplish. I don’t even think about it – I just automatically do it. The shortest tasks move to the top of the list, followed by longer items, and the last things on my list would be those that were impossible to actually *finish* that day. This strategy works well from an efficiency standpoint (and gives people the impression that I’m an incredibly fast worker at the day job), with one major caveat – sometimes those “unfinishable tasks” get pushed off to the next day…or even several days later.

My writing just sort of slid into this system with everything else. I wait to work on it until the end of the day partially because it’s quiet then, but mainly because that’s when everything else is done, and my focus can be fully on my writing (as long as I turn off Twitter, anyway).

I’d like to say the system is flawed, but it’s the one that comes most naturally to me, and to say it’s flawed would be to say that my natural inclinations are flawed – and I don’t believe that. I’m a big believer in working *with* my natural flow…which means I simply need to find a way for the writing to fit better within my system.

This isn’t really so much of a problem when I’m drafting, because I have a daily word count goal to reach, after which the project is “finished” for that day. I can normally reach that word count goal within my normal writing time slot, so it’s not an issue. I’ve tried to give myself daily revision goals, but due to the nature of revisions, some nights I can actually go backwards in word count. I don’t always have time to finish an entire scene in an evening. According to the chatter on Twitter, I’m not the only one who has issues with trying to quantify revision work. For now, I’m measuring in scenes for the short term, and chapters for the long term, which is sort of growing on me.  But because a “scene” is something I can’t count on completing, my brain still wants to make it the last thing I do in a day.

The only solution I have for this is to get nearly everything else done *earlier* so that I have more time to spend on these revisions. I have things that need to be done from 10 – 10:30pm every night (just before my normal writing time), and I am trying to fit exercising into the evening as well, but even half an hour extra per day would be enough, I think. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I cut out two days of blogging each week, I can get that extra half-hour per day that I need for revising.

I know it doesn’t seem like it makes sense. How can cutting just two blog days out result in a gain of three and a half hours of writing time per week? It’s all in the scheduling. At the moment, I write out each day’s post the night before, and schedule it to post the next day. Cutting out two post topics will scale back the time I need to write posts enough so that I can write three posts ahead of time on the weekends, leaving all the weeknight time I spent working on those free. Then I’ll only have the serial novel chapter and the notable posts to do the night before.

I’ll undoubtedly need to play around with it a little to find the “sweet spot”, but even just cutting out one post this week has raised my productivity on revisions (and I’ve snuck in a little work on some other writing projects too). So I’m definitely on the right track. As of next week, I won’t be posting on Thursdays or Sundays anymore (with the exception of blog tour posts written by others that I’ll post on the occasional Thursday).

Do you “go with your natural flow” when determining how to allocate your time, or do you try to “retrain” yourself to do things a different way? Have you written out your daily/weekly schedule to see how well things are balanced between what you *have* to do and what you *want* to do? Is the time you’re giving to your writing allowing you to stay on track to meet your goals?

10 comments on “Wildcard Topic: Goin’ with the Flow

  1. Dolly

    I agree that we can’t quantify revisions, but there are ways around that. And my way (because I find I need fixed goal to feel the sense of completion) is to set goals by page count.

    So my 44 day challenge for example is divided by number of pages I am supposed to do on each given day. Now if I have to add a new scene, that’s just something I have to do – it doesn’t mean I can skip on that day’s pages. This works for me. Some days it is more work, and some days are piece of cake.

  2. Samantha Hunter

    Hey Jaimie — I think you have to do what you have to do to get things done. In the past, I tried to retrain myself, and I am not trainable. LOL.

    For me, my schedule always changes, I really am a go with the flow person, every day might be a little different depending on what needs to be done, my mood, the weather, whether I feel like writing or words are coming, etc.

    I try not to set word count goals, etc, I just keep in mind to get work done each day, unless I am on some kind of critical deadline schedule (almost never).

    I have a kind of avalanche of little life things right now on top of writing, and while I keep up with online stuff, email, blog as I can, etc but FB and Twitter will be the first thing to go when I get busy. I can still check them once or twice a day, but not as much as other times.

    Writing things down and setting specific times, etc would never work for me. I just kind of have priorities in my head, and I go from there.


  3. Tara McClendon

    I can totally understand how you’ll gain time. My blog schedule has gone to completely random, but life has other priorities right now. I would love to comment on everyone’s blog as well as post daily, but it just isn’t working right now. Maybe one day… Good luck with the revisions.

  4. Carol

    I usually start out strong at the beginning of the week, then fall apart around Wednesday night. This is one of the reasons I want to start getting my weekly posts written on the weekend, to give myself more writing/editing time during the week. Like you, my writing always seems to fall to the bottom of the priority list. Of course that list seems to get longer by the day! 😉

  5. BigWords88

    Though it makes sense to me, people have commented on my inability to tackle simple problems before the larger and more interesting (to me anyways) problems. I something requires complex and time-consuming work, I tend to get more excited than anyone really should get. Simple is equatable to boring, so I jump straight to the mind-bending stuff.

  6. Jamie D.

    Congrats on finding something that works for you, Dolly. I know a lot of people use pages, but since I use yWriter, the document is split out into scenes and chapters rather than pages. I’m kind of spoiled with that, being able to move scenes around on a whim, so I can’t imagine going back to editing one long document…

    Cool that you have a good “fixed goal” to go by…very helpful.

  7. Jamie D.

    I don’t think I’m “retrainable” either, Sam. I’ve tried pushing myself to do things outside my “instinctive” way of doing them and failed just about every time.

    And that’s exactly what I mean by “going with the flow” too – it’s different for everyone. I need routine & schedules, ’cause that’s just the way my brain needs things to work. You work best with a lot of flexibility – it’s the most natural way for you to get things done. We all have to first identify, and then go with how we work most naturally, IMO.

    I have to say, I’m envious that you don’t need word count goals, etc. If I didn’t set those, I’d get nothing done.

  8. Jamie D.

    Thanks Tara!

    Sometimes “life” has to take precedence…the nice thing about blogging is you can always jump back in later and not be too much worse for the wear.

  9. Jamie D.

    Me too. By the time Thursday rolls around, it’s all I can do to knock out that chapter for the serial novel. And I’m going to do the same – write/cue up my posts on Sundays, so I don’t have to worry about anything other than responding to comments during the week.

    Lists really do seem to grow by themselves…

  10. Jamie D.

    I’ve actually heard that before from a lot of guys (computer people especially). They view the smaller tasks as “mundane and boring”, something to be avoided.

    Ironically, I actually feel the same way – I just prefer to get the mundane, “boring” stuff out of the way first so I can really enjoy the larger, more interesting things without guilt over what little things aren’t done yet. Interesting how we actually perceive the tasks the same way, we just have a different approach to dealing with them…