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Work flow for the creative mind

Remember to schedule
research trips in too!
Trail of the Hiawatha—16.5 mile bike ride
Angela here chatting about how my work flow for the creative mind is a little different than the calendar year standard planning.

The hardest thing about looking at the past year's accomplishments is comparing them to the idealistic list we first started with last year.

Then life hits, right?! And people start asking questions...

How many books have you written?
This question usually comes from someone trying to put me into a box. They either think I'm dabbling in a hobby because they have no clue what I do or they think they need to compare. Don't try to compare. We all have different opportunities, callings, and life needs. But also, don't try to put a creative mind in a box. It just doesn't work.

 When I say I've written somewhere around 15 books, but I think 4 or 5 this year, people want a hard answer. I don't have one. I haven't taken the time to go back and count or figure out whether the story spanned the cusp of a month or not. I just keep writing. I let go of what happened in the past in order to focus on the project of the moment. Sure, I can go back and scour my calendar to give the right answers...

Here's some of the books I've written, available in paperback/ebook/audiobook 
(4 this year, 1 reissued, 1 newly in audio)

But, are we talking ebook, audiobook, collection, how-to manual... fiction or non-fiction or business? What about republished editions? See the issue? Then there's the comedy projects and devotionals. I think I've written enough articles this year to equal a few more books. Sometime I might sit down and go through my computer and count. But I'd have to have time to do it...and it's just not a priority right now with my production schedule.

How many classes have you taken?
I think people are interested in supporting me through my college classes. But because I write professionally as a job, some folks don't realize how serious I am about college either. I'm trying to keep up with 2 classes a month through an online program that allows me to go my pace. But sometimes on deadline that may have to adjust. It could be my need or it could be, as in one case already, that a new class became available and I had to reorder all my others. Or, my advisor called and told me to drop one class because all that material was covered in a class that had more that met my career goals.

How many... fill in the blank.

We work forward on our goals as well as take stock of whether we accomplished the goals we set out to do. I've found working on a calendar year isn't as encouraging and helpful as it seems on the surface. Are you like me?

Many of my projects/goals are ongoing or straddle the cusp of a major annual marker. The last few years I've had book deadlines that cross through December and into January. This year is no exception. I'd love to finish my fourth (or is it fifth) novella this year before Dec. 31st, but there's not a likely chance of that happening. I have to be realistic with a course final due that day. And I have to keep working. So I use a rolling calendar with a set of reminders via Google Calendars. To keep the projects in order, I write them on a white board and move them between columns for the type of work needed. The most important thing I learned about myself is that I don't work on an annual calendar. I work by project and date. So if a book is due on X date, that's my goal. By the way, I have 3 days to finish my 2nd course this month and 14 days to finish my next contracted novella.

Being realistic isn't making excuses.
Realistic is a recognition that priorities have to be in place. My year had both traditional and indie deadlines, managing a national non-profit writing organization (the Christian Authors Network), assisting with a state level non-profit (the Jadyn Fred Foundation), going back and forth to Vegas to take care of family, writing proposals for future contract opportunities, marketing (till I'm blue), teaching at two major week-long events, writing those talks, my daughter's wedding (including the planning), starting college to get my genealogical studies degree, and we could go on...

Yes, I'm busy. Lots of people are busy. I might try to help someone understand, but I don't want to worry anymore over whether they agree with my priorities and circumstances. That worry about approval from people who feel the need to impose guilt because they don't understand me is a waste of time and just ties us up with more time-wasting annoyance. I've found they usually do understand more than they want to admit. They just want me to do it their way or abandon my goal for theirs. My new motto is ignore ignorance. Now let's see how I do with it :)

Focus Isn't Always a Safe Word
I've had a few people try to shout "focus" at me when I was very focused. They just thought I should be doing something differently, but most often they couldn't recognize the progress because they didn't understand the project or how my mind works. It's almost become a battle word for me. With all that stuff going on in 2016, I've learned to focus on the thing I'm working on and let the other things roll around in my subconscious. I might stop doing something, switch gears and add to a different project because that subconscious problem-solving worked. Happens to me a lot. Much more productive!

If you're like me, set the project aside and work on something else. You'll come back to it when the knots untie in your head. No head banging required...or staring at blank screens.

I've also learned I like variety and that keeps me more productive because I don't get bored if I can switch to another project when I'm frustrated or hit a wall. But the best thing I've learned is that I work best in the way I was made to work. I don't have to do my work the way someone else does to get it done well. There are many ways. I will honor my style rather than allow someone else to dictate a style that is less productive for me.

So how do I get all this done? I schedule—and then I flex.
When I know the deadline for something, it goes on the calendar. Then I back up and write in anything that has to be done in sections or smaller doses to have the bigger thing finished on time. Sometimes I have to adjust or reschedule. I no longer beat myself up about it.

Mature Means Adjusting to Reality
A couple of times, due to illness or emergency, I have had to delay a deadline. I used to be so proud that I'd never missed a deadline. But then I think God wanted to teach me humility. Seriously. When we have to adjust due to something outside our control, that's when we realize we are not the sun, moon, and stars. Most people will work with us when we let them know of a difficulty. Sometimes I have to stand up for myself better, too.

Pushy Doesn't Mean I Have to Give In
Another thing I learned is that other people's sense of urgency to get something done doesn't mean it has to be mine. I have had to learn this same thing over a few times. Frustrating, but I'm finally getting the message. I need to say no, mean no, and not budge because someone gets upset that their "want" isn't my need. I've learned a lot of people will push and bully to get what they want regardless if that "want" isn't really that important. Have you experienced pushy people demanding something from you that either isn't important or is possibly laziness on their part? Sometimes I think people are more energetic about pushing things on others than the energy it would take to do the thing themselves. You know?

Do I plan for the next year? Sure...
I have 3 contracts, a combo screenplay/book project for spec with a colleague, another screenplay I would like to do myself, and a comedy book with Muse still on my white board. I have at least 1 audiobook to record and maybe I'll do a 2nd. I plan to earn my first certificate in my genealogy studies by April (in Methodology), and keep working on my full degree program. I have a few speaking requests, but I'm not sure how those will work into the schedule quite yet with college classes building in difficulty. I also have 2 new radio/podcast shows: Historically Speaking with Angela Breidenbach is the first Friday of the month and Lit Up! with Angela Breidenbach is a weekly show starting in January all about the world of literature including book reviews, industry experts, and author interviews.

I serendipitously met distant
cousins at the SLC FHL!
And nope, it wasn't planned.
This year I'll be working on a daily schedule that includes writing time, exercise time, class time, recording time, and rotates volunteer time. But true to my own creative mind style, I'll work on it after Jan. 10th...my next book deadline... Oh, and I need to fit in time for those awesome experiential research trips like the Hiawatha bike trail I rode with Hubby in preparation for writing Fanned Embers in the Second Chance Brides Collection coming out August 2017 from Barbour. I'd like another to the Salt Lake City Family History Library before sitting down to plan my trip to Scotland in 2018.

My style is definitely mine. It took a while to get comfortable with it in all the noise of success/goal programs out there selling high-priced, high-productivity programs. Some people do great with those. I find a few ideas to incorporate now and then. But I no longer battle myself to stay in one of those or join one. I've learned the daily project management works best for me—and a fun challenge with other writers now and then to hit 1K a day or 1K1Hour. Tough, but a good basic momentum builder when I need them :)

How will you incorporate your work/life style into your goals?
Do you feel a little freer now to design your own work/life style?

1 comment:

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