Thursday, May 21, 2015

Baby Steps - Big Things Are Made of Smaller Things

In the beginning of May I talked about April being a tough month and had a fairly down revelation about what I was doing with my life. Today I'm following up on that, because, well, I figure if I started the whining on here I can continue with it.

So how have things been going?

Better, honestly. May has been a much better month so far. I can attribute this to a lot of things, but I think chief among them is that I've been a lot busier at work and have had a lot less calls on my personal time at home. It also helps that I've been developing some momentum in my writing, and while I'm still not in a place where I'm willing to call it good the signs are at least hopeful.

So what has changed?

Like I mentioned in the previous post, part of it is asking questions. The other part of it though is I've been taking baby steps. So far this month I've been focused on one thing and that is getting my workflow back with writing. How have I done this? Well, by writing. I don't force myself to a goal as long as I make forward progress. My writing is broken into small enough chunks that I regularly feel like I'm hitting a landmark. I'm not letting myself leave off a day of writing with a blank page waiting for me the next day.

These are all small things, but they're adding up. Enough so that over the past week I've written 8 chapters in a new work and given an old work a fresh editing pass for language. I'm enforcing this small change with questions. If I haven't written at night I am sacrificing some sleep time to get some writing done because the question honestly comes down to "is 30 minutes of sleep really worth more to me than keeping momentum up on my writing?" and the answer to that question is no.

This in turn is better for me mentally. I feel better about myself when I am making progress on a project, and each chapter that gets finished is a check box in the "shit I've done" category. Against my previous better judgment I'm sharing the chapters as I write them with one close friend - just one - who in turn is reading them. This gives me the chance to ask if they've read the newest chapter yet, and their thoughts. in turn it also makes me beholden to someone. It gives me a deadline of a sorts, and not a huge deadline like "finish this book by May 25th" (not happening btw.)  However, "finish this 2300 chapter before bed" when it's already 300-700 words in is totally doable. And once it's done, my mind then kicks in with the fact that I can't leave a blank page for tomorrow, so that's another 50-300 words to start the next chapter and then bed and thinking about the story.

Like I said, it hasn't been going long enough for me to call it done, but it is going and so far it is working. I have the story sketched out in a document in 5 chapter chunks that gives me a direction but also lets me use the actual writing to wander. Maybe one chapter the character is just going to go off on a tangent of how much they love icecream. I don't know, and it doesn't matter. As long as by chapter 10 they've found the gun and their sister just killed the russian mob boss, who cares what fills the time in between, right?

But that's just writing. What about the other stuff? Well, like I said, writing makes me feel better mentally. That is letting me see some other projects I have around me. Some of these are big and scary. Others are less so. The thing is, like everything else the big things are made of smaller things. Small things are so much easier to do. And so that's the plan here. Start with something small. Back it up with a question.

I can fold my laundry, put the new dirty laundry in the bag, and put away my laundry. That's three small tasks, but in doing so so much is done otherwise - including cleaning a corner of my room that's been languishing.

Baby steps. You don't build a wall by building the whole thing, you build it by putting one brick on top of, or beside another. A wall is impossible to build on its own...but bricks? Almost anyone can arrange a few bricks, right?

Hopefully the trend continues.

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