Charging Mice and Walking Elephants

Since my to-do list is always full to overflowing (what can I say? I have a lot of dreams!) I spend time daily prioritizing tasks and obligations to make sure that the most important don’t fall off my list. I just discovered a tip for making those prioritization decisions that I love so much, I have to share:

Some deadlines charge toward you and some approach more slowly. We tend to take most notice of those that are charging…but be aware that not all of our obligations are of equal importance. Some are small, like mice; others are large—the elephants.

So when determining your priorities, make sure not to spend all your time on the charging mice. They might be flying toward you, but they aren’t necessarily the most important.

Sigh. Now you know the truth—I’m easily distracted by every new organizational concept that crosses my desk. :) Now I’m back to fielding my mice!

And elephants, of course.

:) Cheryl

Notes to start a writer’s week: signs that you might need to recharge

iStock_000008287624Large I love my family. I love them very much. But I’m an extreme introvert—big surprise, since many writers are—and not everyone else in my family is. So after a week of Spring Break, I find myself with an intense need to spend some time alone. With No One Talking to Me and No Music Playing and No Loud Wrestling Matches in the Next Room.

It’s not that anyone’s doing anything wrong. For the most part, the yelling is happy, the arguments resolve quickly, and the constant interruptions are just overflowing from a bubbling, joyous need to share. In a larger house, or one with a separate guest cottage perhaps?, I’d go away for an hour or so, recharge, and return, ready for the next round of (mostly) happy chaos.

Lacking that guest cottage, though, I’ve just been trying to deal and snatch the occasional outing to my favorite coffee shop—but a snowstorm made that trickier. So I’ve winding tighter and tighter, getting more and more stressed, and have just (duh) finally figured it out: I need a recharging break. So, in case you’re anything like me, here are a few signs to watch out for:

  1. You have the frequent urge to plug your ears.
  2. Your only moment of attempted isolation involves deep breathing in the tub—but it lasts only a few minutes because the kids can’t hear your shouted requests for quiet over the pounding keyboard.
  3. You turn down a family member’s offer to help you shovel snow because it might be your only chance to be alone. Even though you have a sixty foot driveway and sixteen inches of wet, heavy Spring snow to clear.
  4. You fight the constant urge to turn down the stereo volume—even though the stereo isn’t on.
  5. You’re starting to eye the wine bottle and it’s only 10:00 AM.
  6. You’ve created an iTunes playlist that contains 90 minutes of silence.
  7. You’re staying up until 2:00 AM because you desperately need those few hours of solitude to retain sanity.
  8. When someone asks if you want to do something fun, you think they mean they’re leaving for a few hours.
  9. You start wandering in circles, accomplishing nothing because your brain will no longer stick to any task for more than 30 seconds.
  10. You start the day with a pillow over your head, wondering if it’s this noisy in Australia.*

If you observe any of the above symptoms, do not delay! Administer first aid immediately, in the form of silence, a good book, a nap, an afternoon out, or whatever particular cure refills your inner introvert.

Happy recharging!

:) Cheryl

*I checked. It is, unless you want to hang out in the desert, which I hear isn’t that much fun. Plus the airfare to Australia is outrageous. And the family will probably want to come, anyways. :)

Chugga, chugga, chugga…

I’m in the midst of editing a 19 page, single spaced biotech proposal that has more acronyms than articles scattered across its pages. I’m hoping to finish in time to get in a bit of novel work this afternoon, but man! It’s hard to focus on intense editing for hours on end! Gotta love the paying jobs, though.

I’m the Little Engine that Could Edit…

Chugga, chugga, chugga….

:) Cheryl

Beware the crisis of confidence!

P1010048 I’ve discovered something. I can’t pay attention to my current opinion of my WIP (the Peru book, or Lu’s Story, as it’s so originally titled) when writing my first draft. As I plug along, getting this first draft down on paper, my judgment about what I’m writing varies more rapidly than the weather here—and that’s saying something, since it’s 68F today, snowed 16 inches three days ago, and is supposed to be blizzarding (and chilly) again tomorrow.

One day, I think I’m writing the best thing ever—and the next, I’m wondering why I think I can even begin to capture this girl’s situation, her emotional or physical journey, or—especially—the details of a jungle I’ve never visited.

If I stop to think about these things, a hundred other doubts are quick to crowd onto the scene: Can I really write contemporary YA? Am I trying to cover too much in this book? Is the relationship between my main character and her companion too sappy? Is it sexist and demeaning? And, by the way, the whole plot premise probably stinks.

Yeah. It’s better not to go there. Those are great questions to ask during revision, but if I start trying to field them all right now, I’m paralyzed. I can’t write.

But—if I duck my head, cover my ears, hum “la-la-la”, and keep on writing? Pretty soon I have another scene written. Pretty soon another plot twist springs to mind, or another character insight, or a deeper understanding of what my book’s really about. I guess all those things are what you’re looking for in a first draft, right?

This week’s goal is to FINISH that first draft, even though I have a pile of editing work to do as well. I’m planning to distribute it to my critique group the beginning of May (yeah, I’m an optimist!) so I’ll need the weeks following to polish it to the point of non-embarrassment. I’ll let you know how I do with my (maybe crazy) goals!