Friday, October 22, 2010

You've Got to Play to Work

Last week I posted about finding your dream and going for it with no excuses. My first tip to pursuing one's dreams and goals was to make time to do it. There is no such thing as no time to do anything unless you are working three jobs and raising a family. There just isn't. If you have a half an hour, you've got time to work toward your goal.

Establishing a minimum time requirement per day is crucial toward reaching your goal. Even if all you do is research what it will take to accomplish reaching your goal, then it is still productive use of your time. As a writer, that half an hour might be about researching some facet of my novel. But if you're dreaming about becoming a doctor, it might be about researching what areas of medicine are best suited to your personality. Each step, even a baby step, is still a step forward.

If you've been reading my blog this week, you'll know I haven't been working as much as I've been playing. In fact, I didn't even meet one of my big goals for the week because I preferred playing to sitting down and reading through my two requested partial manuscripts. I always like to do a read-aloud before I do my final tweak and send my babies out into the world.

Bad me! But not really. Why? Because I did  manage to meet my minimum goals every day this week. I also exceeded them more days than not. My minimum goal this week was to write 100 words a day about my new book which I am exploring, follow up on blog comments, write three blogs for the following week and schedule them, and continue working on my social media knowledge via Kristen Lamb's book, WE ARE NOT ALONE and my online courses. Yes, despite my deliberate hooky from serious work, I managed to accomplish quite a lot.

I could have accomplished more if I had hunkered down and forced myself to stop playing and work. But I know something important: my brain needs a break and this season is the one season I feel fully rejuvenated if I take the time to play. Every year in the autumn I slow down a bit to let my brain relax and enjoy the beautiful season. I need to.

Usually I've been working super hard and this year was no exception. I was working on my full manuscript's revision until September 29. On September 30, I immediately went to the Georgia Writers of America Moonlight and Magnolia's Conference and immersed myself in all things professional via pitching my manuscript, learning about writing from Michael Hauge, Allison Brennan and Kelly Stone, and celebrating my writing friends' victories at the MAGGIE Awards Ceremony.

There wasn't much time to breathe between that trip and our fall break with the family. I knew it would be pointless to undertake a large project so I stuck to my mini goals and gave myself some space.

This is my second tip: Understand your rhythm as you undertake pursuing your goal.

If you don't understand how you work and when it is best for you to work, then you will burn out. Everyone has a different rhythm. I tend to operate well on long jags of intense work with time out for good behavior breaks. I need my social time, my sun time and my time to relax if I am going to get the big tasks done. I've also learned that as a writer, I must touch or do something with my current work in progress everyday or I'll lose my connection with my story. Now that doesn't mean I write through major holidays like Christmas or New Years Eve, but I do write a bit every day through almost all the days of the year.

The trick is I know when to notch back my efforts and I don't beat myself up for not attaining major goals. I can make up for the loss during high work days. Giving myself permission to chill helps me to work harder when I am on full schedule. This can be true of students as well. I used to look at my schedules and I could see where my days were filled and not so filled. I made sure I cut back a bit, let myself play and regroup, during those slower days.

It's important to know when you're strongest creatively. Is it mornings? Nights? Afternoons? I tend to be super awake and creative in the mornings, lull in the afternoons, and then pick up a bit again in the 4PM-6PM time slot. Afternoon lulls are when I usually play more during my "off time" but if I am in full work zone, I usually use afternoons to catch up on the business and boring parts of my job as a writer.

Years ago I read a great book by Dr. Robert Arnot called THE BIOLOGY OF SUCCESS. I still have it in my bookshelf and refer to it regularly. Understand how you operate and you will optimize your chances of succeeding in your chosen profession.

Do you know your rhythm? Do you know your strengths? How do you relax? Do you have flex time built into your schedule?

If you are working toward a goal, writing or non-writing, share it with me. Share your challenges and your solutions with me. I'd love to hear about them.


KarenG said...

And when work becomes your play that's the absolute best! Or is it when your play becomes your work?

Christine said...

Hi Karen:

I think that is when it is the best of all worlds. I have a quote sent to me from a friend that embodies how I choose to live my life.

"The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both." James Michener.

Great ideal to live up to as a friend, a wife, a mother, a writer, a (fill in the blank).

Melissa said...

First, I LOVE your blog title! It sums up my life perfectly. LOL

I'm still working to find that rhythm that keeps me writing and my family happy. What keeps me on track most days is actually working the writing into our busy schedule. If I write something on the family calendar it is set in stone. And thanks for the reminder not to beat myself up about not reaching every goal. I really needed to hear that today. :)

Christine said...

Hi Melissa: I'm so glad you dropped by to say hello. I know exactly what you mean about making an appointment to write. Scheduling time to write is very important. Being kind to ourselves when things don't quite work out the way we expected is important, too. We are on a journey and detours happen! Enjoy the process and best to you in all you endeavor.

Wendy S Marcus said...

Hey! You get to work on those requested manuscripts this instant. You can play later. You are so close.
And thanks for the tip on Lamb's book. I ordered it from Amazon!

Christine said...

Hi Wendy: You're welcome for the tip! I hope you find it beneficial. I am working on my requested materials. Just got my final critique from a CP and have hand edited the pages. I'm inputting the changes this weekend, printing again, reading again, editing again and polishing it all. Should have it out by next week Friday. And I've been working on my fifth book, too! I slow down a notch, but I never stop turning my wheels.

Another funny thing happened to me. I started going through my first manuscript to look for names I'd used (I have a tendency to pull out the same names over and over again) and I started editing it for the GH. It's a bit slow in the beginning and needs hooks, but there is a story in there. Might sign it up for the GH if I can polish the first fifty on the fly. Course, there is the pesky synopsis but I think I can get that done, too.

Guess writing is like playing to me :-)

Gwen Hernandez said...

I posted a comment the other day, but for some reason it didn't go through. I've now forgotten all of the witty and wonderful things I said. ;-)

Good post. Understanding your rhythm and knowing when you need a break is just as important as determining when you're most productive. You're doing great, and I think the year ahead will be amazing for you.

Christine said...

Hi Gwen: knowing your rhythm is important to making the most of one's creativity. I am slowly gearing up for the big push in November. Got to birth that next book. Meanwhile I am polishing up those fifty pages for the agent. I should have them out the door this week.

I think that when I make myself do less, my brain gets a little bored, and then I am eager to work hard again. I'm starting to get itchy for harder work. That online course and book number five should do the trick in November :-)