Saturday, June 30, 2012

I Need To Switch Gears Better, But My Transmission Is Blown

Transmission by arbyreed
One of the greatest blessings of Life2.0 is joint custody of my children. Every two weeks I get my girls for two weeks. Every two weeks my life is tossed upside down by their joyful demands on my schedule. They are so cute; I love every minute of it. Well, there are some dramatic minutes that I'd rather live without. Aside from that it is all joy. Then they switch over to their mother's and my life is filled with a vast emptiness.

With two entire weeks to myself you'd think I'd live it up during all that free time. Time to write. Time to draw. Time to do freelance work. Time to be busy. Time to socialize…

Instead, I spend the first few days out of sync with life. After seven months of this I've discovered that I experience Empty Nest Syndrome each time my daughters leave. Then I adjust. Then I get productive. Then I get the girls again and start all over.

By Wensday of this week I began my adjustment. Landed a job interview. Updated my résumé. Finally scheduled and attended that physical therapy appointment I had been procrastinating. Read a book on writing. Made goals. The productive period had begun.

This period will last all through this weekend into next week, then get blown apart by a shotgun blast filled with pink & glitter. Every two weeks I go through this. When I get the girls, I take a few days to adjust as well.

And that's the problem. I can't switch gears from single guy to parent and back again. At least not gracefully, and certainly not productively. My book gets set aside whenever I have the girls, then I need to pick up steam again. This has proven to be very difficult for me. Each time I switch gears I lose focus. Squeezing writing into my life takes faith and discipline. Unfortunately, instead of faith and discipline I have news and Netflix.

I may have found the solution, however. I was reading James Scott Bell's Self-Publishing Attack! the other day. The first chapter alone has been well worth the $2.99 price tag. Under the section of Self-Discipline, Bell details goal setting and time management. Since I couldn't be on time if you strapped a clock to my fanny I assumed the section on time management would be the most relevant for me, but it was goal setting that opened my eyes.

Just as my friend Carol Lynch Williams helped me see that outlines provided the roadmaps I needed for my novel to go from point A to point B without meandering around the alphabet, Bell helped me see that goal setting was like sketching out an outline for my life. Obviously, I've have written goals before, but they were either too vague or too unrealistic.

  • Finish the next 37 chapters by Tuesday
  • Smile more
  • Be perfect

By using nerdy math Bell helped me see how much work I'd actually have to do daily if I wanted to finish my book by, for example, the end of next month. I don't know why, but I never calculated it out before. I would just make the goal, miss it, then get frustrated.

So I estimated how many words the book would be, calculated six days of writing a week to my goal, added up the total amount of days, then divided the word count by that number. I came up with a daily word count that I rounded up to 825. Basically, I discovered I would have to write a blog's worth of words every writing day from now to July 31st to meet that goal. That was something I could very well do, but only if I knew it. Otherwise, I would spend valuable time goofing around when I should have been focusing.

Will I be able to write 825 words in my book every day? Only until the girls arrive. Then it's doubtful. And what if I finally get a job, too? My July 31st goal isn't very likely to be realistic. The thing is, now I have a tool I didn't have before. Each switch with the kids was like starting over from scratch and figuring life out all over again. I realize that Depression played a part in the confusion, but I needed structure to help me switch gears.

Now with concrete goals in front of me, I can better learn how to manage my time. 825 words a day may be fine when I don't have my kids, but it may not be possible while I do have them.

So I'll have two goals: One with and one without them. I'll shoot for 400 words per day in my book while I have my girls and 825 words per day on the other two weeks of the month. I'll likely write more, but as I've shown in my Distracted Writer's Club (which needs updating) sometimes the greatest obstacle is justifying the time to write. Small goals help salve that concern. Who doesn't have time to write 25 or 100 words? I feel confident I can do even more.

When I get to the other side of my next time with my girls I won't flounder without focus again. I'll have my roadmap. My future suddenly became much more manageable. I'll let you know how it goes.