Tag Archives: time management

My Writing, My Identity

Should I even apologize for neglecting to blog? It’s becoming a bad habit. Sorry, True Believers!

Part of the reason for my absence lately is my increasing busyness. I’ve written often about time management, and while some of my busyness is my own doing, much of it lately has been thrust upon me by outside forces. Most notably, my “day job.” Whenever people quit or are unavailable—as has been happening recently—it invariably throws more responsibility on me because I’m competent, reliable, and available. It’s supposed to be a part-time job, but I’ve been getting full-time hours (which has led me to call it “my part-time full-time job”). This has eaten into my writing time like Pac-Man would an apple.

I’m not happy at my day job.

There, I said it.

I took this job thinking it would be temporary and would allow me time to pursue my true passions. While I’m grateful to have the steady income and enjoy (most of) my co-workers, I feel like I’m not doing what God created me to do. When I have to work long hours and lose writing time, I feel this most potently. I get annoyed when people see me not as a writer, an author, an artist, and/or a creator but as my day job. I don’t care if it’s, unfortunately, where the majority of my time is going. It does not define me. It is not what I want to be doing. If I had my way, I’d be living like most of the great writers, who spend eight hours a day working away on their craft.

As you would expect, I’ve been reflecting on my identity. I think of myself as a writer. That’s what I tell people I do for a living. Yes, I add that I’m working a part-time day job until I can write full-time, but writing is always mentioned first and foremost. That’s why I hate when I have weeks (or months) where the day job consumes more of my time. I start to feel like I’m lying to people. Most of all, I fear complacency will seize me, and I’ll stop writing, resigned to the humdrum of my daily labor.

However, in order to have a healthy identity, I believe, one must have a multifaceted one. I’m not just a writer. I want that to be a bigger part of me (and I do believe it is already a big part), but it isn’t all of my identity. Lisa Edelstein said in the movie Keeping the Faith, “I am many things, no one thing defines me.” (FYI, I found that quotation with a Google search. I’ve not seen the movie). I’m also a Christian, a man, a brother, a son, a conservative, a gamer, and a ballroom dancer, among many others. By having so many smaller identities within my larger one, it prevents me from becoming totally dependent on any one of them for my self-worth. I could, God forbid, be in a car accident tomorrow that damages my hands or my brain, thereby robbing me of the ability to write. It would be devastating, but hopefully once the dust of grief settled, I’d have other things to fall back on to form a new identity.

In the meantime, I’m gonna keep fighting to preserve and protect my writing time!

What facets make up your identity? Are you too dependent on one or two? If you’re a writer, what else are you? How would you cope with losing part of identity?

Confessions of a Story Junkie

I’ve written often on time management for writers and my own struggles with making time for writing. I certainly have the desire to tell my stories, but oftentimes life simply gets in the way. It sucks, but it’s true.

Except when it isn’t.

I should clarify: sometimes I don’t make time to write not because of circumstances beyond my control, but because I choose not to write. How’s that?

Besides being a seemingly rare extroverted writer, I’m a self-described “story junkie.” As in I go out of my way to enjoy as many stories as I can. Most of my hobbies—reading, gaming, movie watching, photography, among others—revolve around storytelling (or at least creativity). I eat that stuff up. You might even say I’m a borderline addict. I tend to go through phases. Right now I’m trying to read the pile of comic books next to my bed. Other times I’ll play story-driven video games or read a lot of books. Whatever phase I’m in, I usually inject something else amidst all that (like a trip to the movies to see the latest blockbuster).

The trouble is I get so caught up with other stories that I neglect my own. Consumption is easier than creation. An old adage (erroneously attributed to Dorothy Parker, apparently) says, “Writers don’t like writing—they like having written.” In other words, writing is hard work. Authors may enjoy it, but they much prefer finishing a project than being in the middle of one. Sometimes it’s a chore to grind out 1,000 words or figure out what your heroine will/should say next. I say all that to say that it’s a common trap for writers to procrastinate because they would rather go enjoy someone else’s completed story (or at least an analysis of a story) than work on their own. “Write another scene for my Great American Novel? Maybe after I binge watch a few episodes of Clone Wars on Netflix.”

This is a trap I often fall into. I’m so desperate to get my fix of story, I procrastinate on whatever project I’m working on. Sometimes I even the excuse that whatever story I’m consuming will somehow help with whatever project I’m writing (how a Godzilla movie relates to Children of the Wells, I don’t know. 😛 ). In reality, though, it’s just me making an excuse to not to the hard work of writing. This is why I’ve had to train myself to use my “story fixes” as rewards for accomplishing writing goals. Then I can use those stories as inspiration.

It’s not always easy, trust me. After a long day at my day job (a part-time job that’s been giving me full-time hours lately, making time management even harder), I don’t always want to write. I’ll just want to relax with a good book or a new video game. But as Jack London famously said,

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Are you a “story junkie”? Does it distract you from your work? How do you deal with it?

Protect Your Writing Time!

I’m once again touching on the subject of time management, but not exactly like I’ve done before. I’ve been reminded in the last few weeks of an important writer’s mantra:

Protect your writing time at all costs.

As writers, our time is valuable. We don’t have more than other people, so we must block out sections of the day (or week or month) to sit at our desk with a keyboard (or typewriter or paper) to do what we love. But, if you’re like me, you have a lot of other things vying for your time. There are chores that need done. Day jobs that must be worked (ugh!). Friends and family who want to spend time with you. It can be overwhelming. It can also be easy to let those other things steal your time, whittling it down until you get to the end of the day and realize you didn’t write any of the 1,000 words you wanted to have completed in your new novel.

Those things, however, are the “good” ones. Writers need to be around people (writers are human, after all), and until they become more successful, they need other jobs to sustain themselves. But trouble comes when other things like social media get in the way. I’m not saying Facebook and Twitter are terrible things that should be avoided, but there comes a point where they become huge time-sucks. You may feel obligated to rummage through 50 notifications and leave 1,000 words-worth of comments on Facebook instead of focusing that energy and time into penning 1,000 words for your current writing project. Trust me, I know.

As Sean Connery said in Finding Forrester, “Writers write.” That requires time. In this (over)busy society we live in, time is even more precious. Writers can’t afford to let it be stolen unnecessarily. It is a treasure hidden in a castle and there are barbarians at the gate seeking to steal it. We writers must stand our ground. We have to set boundaries and, if needed, quote Captain Picard, who said, “This far! No farther!” when something infringes on our writing time. Otherwise, we will miss a deadline and/or regret that we didn’t get anything done.

How can you go about this? I think it depends on your particular personality and situation. If social media is an issue, consider doing a “detox,” i.e. fast from it for a time. If your hobbies are taking you away, discipline yourself to use them as a reward for completing your writing goal. For example, I try not to play video games until I’ve finished working or completed a task. Heck, a friend told me about a couple of apps one can get on a smartphone that turn goal setting into an RPG. I believe they’re called LifeRPG and EpicWin. Those might be great tools for you.

I started this blog by saying writers have to defend their writing time. I ended with talk of role-playing games. Perhaps it’s time for you to “level up” and protect that treasure!

Falling Through the Cracks

Get it? 😛

I’ve written many times before about time management and how I tend to take on more projects than I possibly could. Well, this week, that bit me in the butt—hard. Remember how I was supposed to have a book signing at the North Webster Public Library Monday?

I completely forgot about it.

You read that right. I didn’t even show up at my own book signing. That’s never happened before. I’m the kind of person who keeps his commitments. I feel terrible if I don’t. I don’t like letting people down. Yet despite seeing promotions for my signing and even blogging about it, it completely slipped my mind. Since I was scheduled to work at my day job, I couldn’t even show up late. I spent the next 24 hours beating myself up over it until I talked with the librarians this afternoon and found out all is well. I’ve been rescheduled for June 6 from 3:30pm-6:30pm.

Me yesterday when I got the call from the library.

I had no excuse or justification for forgetting it. The problem is I’ve had a hundred other things on my mind, from writing/creative projects to family concerns to a ballroom dance showcase this weekend, and everything in between. Something was bound to get lost in the shuffle, to fall through the cracks. It’s not the first time it’s happened, but it was never something this major. It was usually just something like forgetting to blog (I’ve apologized many a time for that) or neglecting my writing time (a greater crime for writers). Never have I neglected an entire event centered on me that was promoted for several weeks, if not longer, beforehand. My only solace is the library is too nice to make me wear the proverbial bag of shame over my head whenever I’m there.

At the height of my metaphorical self-flagellation over this, I told myself I should just cut out everything that isn’t work or writing from my life to avoid more gaffs like this. Now that I’m in my right mind, I don’t think I’ll go that far. I’ll certainly put some thought into cutting back on some things, though. More importantly, I’m going to be smarter about remembering my own schedule. Put it on my calendar or in my iPhone as a reminder.

Or marry a secretary. 😛

The point is I can’t afford to make a mistake like this again. It was unprofessional and irresponsible. At least it only happened for relatively small event. If I forget Gen-Con….

So, be it known that future events will not sneak up on me like one of Master Heeyah’s ninjas. 😛

Are Extroverted Writers at a Disadvantage?

I do a Google search for “extroverted writer” and discover that an old TUFW classmate has a book on the subject. Who knew?

I sometimes wonder if my writing is hampered by my own personality. What do I mean by that? The fact that I’m an extrovert.

Traditionally, writers are seen as introverts. It’s not surprising since they have to retreat into their office (or, as I like to call it, the “Fortress of Solitude”) away from people and other distractions so they can pound out their daily word count. Writing is a lonely art and profession. That’s why it seemed best-suited for introverts, who thrive in such an environment. This isn’t to say there are no extroverted writers. Just look at journalists. They’re always out and about looking for material.

But then you have those rare birds like me who are extroverted but also filled with stories to tell. It does have its advantages (I’m a pretty good salesman and enjoy networking), but I can be pulled away from actually writing if offered hang-out time. That’s partly why I had to institute a new plan for how much material I could produce. It doesn’t help that I’ve seemingly become popular lately. This weekend alone I have several friends, my old English/writing professor, and family who want my attention this weekend. In anticipation of this, I’ve been scrambling to get stuff done while also going to my day job, so you can imagine how stressful that can be. Admittedly, most of these deadlines are self-imposed, but they nonetheless hang over me. (I’m particularly disappointed I haven’t made a new “But I Digress…” episode in a month).

To use the old adage, it seems like I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Either I produce new material but miss out on social activities or I socialize to reenergize myself but get nothing done. I can’t quite combine both activities (if you know how, please tell me!). What makes it doubly difficult is, as an extrovert, I’m more easily drawn to being around other people, and by extension taken away from my work. That isn’t to say that I don’t love my work, because I do. I’m a storyteller by nature. But I also know that if I didn’t have the discipline to say, “No,” sometimes—indeed, oftentimes—I’d never get anything written.

Yet as I type those words, I’m reminded that procrastination is a common problem for most writers. I’ve read many articles talking about how writers will often find anything else to do besides writing, how they’ll come up with excuses not to do it. It could even be important things like chores that need done. And as I mentioned above, the majority of writers are introverts, so even they’re guilty of not getting work done. They just have different reasons.

What do you, True Believers? Are extroverted writers at a disadvantage compared to their introverted peers? Do need to take special steps to remain productive in a normally solitary profession? What are those steps? I’d love to hear your ideas!

I Should Be Writing, Not Blogging!

It’s been one of those days. Or weeks. Or months.

Not only have I let my writing projects pile up higher than the stack of comics I needed to buy at my local shop (it’s what happens when you neglect to pick them up for two months), but somehow everyone and his dog’s cousin is vying for my attention. I have friends who want to hang out just because, for their birthdays, etc. I sometimes run errands for my family or spend time with them. I have my increasingly demanding “day job.” I have hobbies I try to enjoy now and then.

All of this is eating into my precious writing time. I haven’t penned a word in the next Children of the Wells novella in a month, nor have I touched Hope’s War for a long time. My last Examiner article was in December. Yet here I am firing off a quick little blog because I resolved to be more consistent with posting content on my website. Blogging should be secondary to all my other writings.

I’ve heard that a writer should never blog about how he hasn’t been writing much. I broke that “rule” a long time ago, unfortunately. Besides, I hope I can use it as a lesson for aspiring writers.

Learn to say, “No.”

It’s totally okay to do that.

You’re only one person. You can’t do everything. If you want to be successful at anything—especially writing—it will take sacrifice. You’ll have to turn down many things, even good things, so that you can squeeze in that daily goal of 1,000 words or whatnot. You’ll probably upset some people, but the ones who love you most will understand. In fact, they may eventually adjust their expectations and schedules to better accommodate your goals.

I’m not sure how I became as “popular” as I am. I do, however, know that what I do with my time is my choice. I have no one to blame but myself if I miss a deadline or don’t get something done. I have an active mind that seeks as many creative outlets as possible. I’m also a bit of a weird writer in that I’m extroverted and have to come out of my writer-ly solitude to be with others. All of those things together can create a lot of tension. What am I saying? I know it does because I’m experiencing it right now!

That’s why saying, “No,” is an important skill to have. You can’t please everyone, no matter how hard you try. You have to learn to make priorities and stick to them. Otherwise, you’ll lose your mind. I’m sure most loony bins have wards set aside for writers and other creatives who went crazy. You’ll have plenty of collaborators and time to write, but I doubt anyone will publish you. 😛

Anyway, I have places to go, stuff to do, people to kill. (Wait…did I say that out loud?)

Setting Boundaries (or, “The Line Must Be Drawn Here!”)

Remember that classic Picard speech from Star Trek: First Contact? Lately, I’ve found myself quoting its most famous line:

Except it’s supposed to be “farther.” That was the actual line and proper usage. (Yes, I’m a grammar Nazi). Silly meme. 😛

Why? Because I’ve realized I need to set boundaries for myself. No, I’m not talking about ways to keep people from touching me or whatnot. This has to do with time management, something I’ve written about here in many past blogs.
The problem I have is I tend to take on as many projects as possible. Some of them, like my YouTube show, are self-imposed. Others I volunteer for impulsively. For example, my editor at GigaGeek Magazine said she got an advance copy for a hardback book collecting reprints of early Superman comics and wanted someone to write a review. I jumped at it despite 1) already trying to make a video with a fellow Giga writer (which still isn’t done); 2) attempting to write at least two reviews a week for Examiner.com (which I’ve been lax on); 3) writing a new novella for Children of the Wells (which I wanted to do as a mini-NaNoWriMo); 4) writing the sequel to Pandora’s Box (which I haven’t touched in months); 5) going to book signings (which I’m thankfully done with for the rest of 2015); 6) working a part-time day job that feels like a full-time job; and 7) trying to spend time with family and friends. Among other things.

Phew!
I think I might be something of a workaholic overachiever—except I’ve let my attention get so divided, I haven’t made much progress on many of my projects. Heck, I haven’t blogged in nearly a month despite the fact that I promised myself I’d post one each Tuesday and/or Thursday each week. I used to be crazy-good (for the most part) at time management back in college. I had set routines and rituals. I knew how long each assignment would take me. But I was just concerned with getting good grades, not making a living. On the other hand, not everything I do to make money I enjoy, so I look for avenues through which to be creative and/or promote myself (hence my YouTube channel).

The worst part of being an independent author is most, if not all, of the promotion I have to do myself. I can’t just sit down and write all day while a marketing department makes me famous. I really, really wish I could most days. Then I could feel like what I do in my free time—i.e. my social life, etc.—didn’t have to compete with everything else I do. At least, that’s what I’d like to think would happen.

Being that I have a very practical/pragmatic father and graduated college shortly before the “Great Recession,” I picked up this habit of taking whatever opportunity I could get and not wasting it. Subsequently, I developed a desire to try new things to get myself out of a subpar situation (again, hence my YouTube channel) because it seemed like traditional methods weren’t working. It’s a weird combination of what seems like diametrically opposed mentalities. (Have I ever mentioned that human beings are weird, and I tend to be weirder than most?) 😛

With 2016 approaching, it’s time to make some changes. I’m not sure what all of those will be, but I do know that it’ll involve saying, “No,” to some things I’ve been saying, “Yes,” to, and vise versa.

More on that as it develops.

Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo

You may have noticed that while I participated in National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo), I’m not partaking in the more popular National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). There’s a simple explanation for that:

I’m too busy.

I’m working on the Children of the Wells serial (which if you haven’t checked out yet, you should!); I’m writing a devotional for nerds/geeks with a friend; I try to write an article or two for Examiner every week; I just started with GiGaGeek Magazine as a freelancer; I attempt to make a vlog on occasion; and I’m working a part-time day job that keeps eating up more of my time than I want it to.

But most importantly, I’m already working on a novel: the tentatively titled Hope’s War, which is a sequel to Pandora’s Box. I think NaNoWriMo is something meant to jumpstart writers (or would-be writers) into writing a book they keep saying they’ll write but haven’t. Or it’s a prompt to actually sit down and write a novel when you haven’t done such a thing before. But I’m already in the throes of writing my next book. Mind you, I haven’t gotten nearly as much of it done as I wanted to by now. I was going to use NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to get more of it done, though probably not completed. Trust me, True Believers, I’m as disappointed with myself as you are—if not more so.

It seems I have a tendency to overload myself with projects. I hang out with a lot of creative people. I have ideas swirling through my head constantly that want out, that demand to be given shape and form, to have life breathed into them. (Okay, I’m going to stop before I get a god complex).

For me, it'd be, "Deadlines. Why'd it have to be deadlines?!"
For me, it’d be, “Deadlines. Why’d it have to be deadlines?!”

To use a more down-to-earth analogy for my original point, as a writer, I feel like Indiana Jones (who, by the way, is my favorite action hero). He had a habit of unintentionally getting in over his head. He usually didn’t go on an expedition looking for trouble; it found him. He just wanted to find the Ark of the Covenant for its archeological and historical value, not pick fights with Nazis. Or land in a snake pit.

For me, I just want to be creative, which usually involves writing. I didn’t mean to take on so many projects that I couldn’t keep up. I’ve been learning that time management is vital to writers. That it’s important to say, “No,” to some things, though they may be good. That’s hard, especially for the seemingly rare extroverted writer like myself.

But I promise I’ll get stuff done. I’m just not sure when at the moment.

Distractions, Distractions, Dis–Oh, ‘Doctor Who’!

distraction (1)really need to update more often on here. Heck, I took a writing seminar at Gen-Con where I was reminded that if I want to be successful as a writer in the digital age, I need not only maintain a blog but update on a regular basis. I’ve been trying to do that more often, usually writing about things besides, well, writing, but life has a way of interfering with my best laid plans.

But it’s not just that. It’s me. Dr. Hensley, my English professor from TUFW,  would be disappointed with my time management. What’s weird is it seemed easier to be disciplined back then. Maybe it was because there were fewer distractions–or at least fewer readily accessible distractions. Regardless, I’ve been taking on more and more writing projects than I originally expected. Remember my last vlog of 2012 where I mentioned what my big projects were gonna be for this year?  Well, it’s at least double that now. I’ve taken on a co-writing a nerdy devotional with a friend; making an updated version of Destroyer; writing short stories for a pair of collections; writing a script for a fanfilm I’d like to produce; and I’m still trying to keep up with my aforementioned projects!

If it was just because I’m trying to do too much, I’d say it was a good problem to have. But that’s not the only reason. I’m somewhat unique among writers in that I’m an extrovert. I like being social. I’ll usually respond to friends asking me to hang out. Or I’ll jump on Facebook and “hang out” there. Lately, I’ve been showing my brother Jarod the new Doctor Who show. He’s hooked–and so am I to showing it to him. Or I let my hobbies, like video games, sap my time.

Meanwhile I’m still have a part-time job and I want to go back to the gym.

Procrastination is a fiend!

Then I stop and realize I haven’t gotten nearly as much done as I wanted to. This bugs me. I like feeling accomplished everyday. The problem is I let myself feel accomplished doing things like earning trophies on my Playstation 3 games. It needs to come from getting a minimum 1,000 words written everyday (and that excludes blog posts like this!).

So, first, let me apologize for my poor time management. I still need to get photos from Gen-Con posted on here, dangit!

Second, you have my permission to harp on me to get stuff done. You’d be surprised what pressure from fans can accomplish. Also, if you have any advice for overcoming distractions and/or procrastination, please share them with me.