Miranda: Getting my #%^&* together
It’s been a long time since I last posted a personal entry. Regular readers of this blog will know that I spent the last two months under an intense pile of client projects and had little bandwidth to do anything else. I have finally — and gratefully — emerged from under the mountain. I should now be able to get all of my work done on my two full workdays each week plus an hour or two of client e-mail and quick projects on the other three weekdays.
It’s time to take a little inventory and get back to my two main priorities: family life and finishing my nonfiction book.
The Current Condition
What’s my current landscape? We’ve settled into some kind of new routine and I’ve adapted to my preschooler’s pickup schedule. I have to leave every day at 11:30 to get him — but my husband takes him to school, so I don’t have to do both legs. The pickup takes 45 minutes in total, which does eat into my two workdays. But I try to use some of that car time for phone calls.
All five kids are in good places at the moment; no real issues or crises. That said, the 5-month-old doesn’t yet sleep more than three or four hours at a stretch during the night, which obviously means that I’m a little tired, but I’m usually able to just deal with it. I do have to pay some attention to my oldest son’s college application process and all that that involves. Toilet training with the 3.5-year-old is not going well at all (in fact we’ve regressed) but my husband and I are launching a new strategy this weekend (putting him back in underwear and then totally laying off the pressure, rather than keeping him in pull-ups and laying on the pressure), which we’ll commit to for a month. But nothing is going on beyond the usual parenting agenda. In fact, the household is in a pretty happy place right now. My husband and I are in a great place and we’ve had a nice long run without blended family conflict. In fact, there have been some very positive developments on the domestic front.
I’m also trying to up my fitness level — running at least twice a week and hoping to get back to my 4-6 mile runs three to four times a week before too long. I’m making progress. Yesterday I had a terrific run and really felt strong the whole time.
Our house is still on the market, but showings are infrequent and I’m able to keep my perspective. I no longer agonize over what will happen if we stay and how much I want to move; things are workable where we are and I will just make the best of it. At some point I realized that I have to get on with it and not wait for the house issue to be resolved; in this economy it could easily take us another year or longer to sell.
The only other significant time drain at the moment is the election. We’re an avidly political family and I have to get my evening fix of political shows on cable. I often multitask with the laptop during this time, but I do look forward to enjoying other schedule options post-election.
So, not much to complain about. Guess I’ll have to rely on Cathy’s 24 ways to avoid your manuscript if I need an excuse to procrastinate. But of course, I don’t need any more excuses. It’s time to finish the book and get on with my stew pot of other creative projects.
My nonfiction proposal is being shopped by an agent, but as I’ve said here before, if we have no takers I will self-publish. I can’t let the manuscript languish while waiting to sell it. If I end up selling the thing when it’s already near completion, and the editor wants to make substantive changes (as would be expected with a nonfiction ms), I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Time to commit to the work with a concrete roadmap.
On Monday I made some calculations. My manuscript is currently 53K words long. I estimate that I need another 40K-50K to finish. Seeing as I’m working from a fairly comprehensive outline, the writing comes quickly when I’m actually writing (or, I should say, quickly for me — compared to writing fiction). I can probably count on writing 1,000 words in four hours. I’ll round that up to five hours just to have some margin for the remaining research, etc. Now comes the sticky part.
If I spend five hours a week on my book, I will finish the first draft in a year. If I double that and eke out 2,000 words a week, I will finish by the end of April. That’s a little more appetizing, wouldn’t you say?
Where am I going to get 10 hours a week? At first glance it’s hard to see, but I know it’s really a matter of priorities. How is it that I can be so committed to keeping this blog going, for example, but not show the same level of commitment with my manuscript? Since we started the weekly creativity contest, I’ve never missed posting the Wednesday winner post, even though it sometimes takes well more than an hour of work the night prior or early that morning. Tomorrow I will post our 20th Breakfast interview — a weekly project that sometimes takes three hours of work or more. But I would never miss that deadline, even if I’m up until well past midnight staging the post.
As my cousin Charlotte rightly pointed out over coffee on Tuesday, the blog involves a lot of other people, and I hold myself accountable. That’s why I am able to stay up late at night preparing a post when it wouldn’t occur to me to spend those same hours on my manuscript. True, I can also rationalize the time investment with the knowledge that the content of this blog as well as the creative social network it provides are both intrinsic parts of my book. I have no intention of cutting back on the blog, but I need to keep my eyes on the real goal: finishing my book.
While 5 hours a week seems do-able, the year-off finish line is a real party killer. A 6-month timeframe is much cheerier, but I don’t know if I’m going to have 10 hours for writing every week. I spent some time going back and forth, trying to decide which way I should commit. Charlotte suggested starting with the 5 hours for a few weeks to see how it goes, which was a practical suggestion, but seemed to rub my Superwoman instincts the wrong way (yes, I should know better). But I agreed with Charlotte in that I didn’t want to set myself up for failure by setting the bar to high.
It occurred to me that my son’s Montessori school has a schedule arrangement that I really like. Instead of having a straight pickup time (say, noon) we have a pickup window: 11:45 to noon. I have 15 minutes within which I can arrive and not be late. Every day, I appreciate that I can vary my arrival time within those 15 minutes and still be right on time. Why not apply the same forgiving structure to my ms goal? This “range” makes sense to me and allows me some wiggle room within a demanding and unpredictable schedule.
So, I have now committed to writing 5 to 10 hours every week. If I only manage 5, I have still succeeded. If I make it to 10 or more, I am simply moving that much more quickly toward my goal. I will be tracking time and wordcount to monitor my progress; adjustments will be made as needed. Each Sunday I will map out where those hours are going to come from, and add them to my Outlook calendar as I would any other appointment.
There it is. I have a plan, and I’m sticking to it. Gotta go — I have 2 hours of manuscript time to complete today. 🙂