Tuesday, May 13, 2008

That Illusive Butterfly

Imagine a gorgeous 5 karat ruby has been given into your protection. Its facets are perfectly arranged and though the stone is absolutely clear, the color is deep, intense, startlingly red-black. It's rare and beautiful. As you stare at it, a butterfly (just work with me here) settles on it and then takes flight, removing the stone from your palm. The little guy is weighted down and his flight is erratic but you are responsible for the safety of that stone and must get it back. The butterfly dips and spirals while you on your toes chase madly after it. Pebbles skid from beneath your feet, you dodge small bushes and now you are teetering on the edge of a precipice with that illusive little butterfly just out of reach.

That's what I equate with time management.

I'm one of those people who, if given the opportunity, will plan her calendar to its nth degree. Right now, for example, it bugs me endlessly that my moving schedule reads "arrive June 12, 13. leave for Texas June 16, 17". I would much prefer a single date with the exact hour of departure. A map with the precise duration of the trip along with incidentals such as tolls penciled in and road construction accounted for. In the absence of knowing all, I try to grit my teeth and just accept that there are some things I cannot plan for.

And then there are those things I can plan for but don't, exactly. Like writing.

My husband and I trade off on driving the girls in to school so we each have a morning to "sleep in". Today was my day and I still couldn't manage sleep beyond 8:30a. Either way, once I'm either awake or the girls are taken in (hopefully I was awake for that. driving in your sleep is frowned on), I start my writing day. I don't typically set a goal for myself to accomplish a certain amount, but as I answer morning emails or post blogs (ahem), I am already thinking about the direction of my novel. I handle business after the blogs. That's promo, letters, emails to businesses, chat set ups or calendar events. It also includes real life stuff which might otherwise interfere with writing, like the charity I do grunt work for once a month, kids' practises, band presentations, games, brownies, and general smooth running of the house which doesn't include cleaning.

Then my writing day begins. As I said, I don't really plan it, it just sort of works out that I write about a chapter a day unless I'm really stuck. Like lately when my mind is on moving. I usually forget to eat. I never answer the phone unless it is family. I don't go to the door. I stop for bathroom breaks, water, and to get the mail. IF I REMEMBER to eat something during those moments, I will grab something fast and then get back to writing (I know I promised to eat breakfast and lunch, Anny, but I keep forgetting).

All said, I spend 10-12 hours a day, six days a week with 2-3 hours minimum on that seventh day, working. It's insane looking at these numbers. Anny posted that she does 40 and arranges her day like a work schedule. I envy that because I cannot sit down without a computer on my lap. I always see that butterfly just out of reach--my work load completion--and chase it to the precipice. Then at the precipice whine that I can't quite reach it, so I begin swatting the butterfly with wide-spread fingers. I WANT it. I really WANT it to settle back in my palm. I want that jewel where it's carefully managed and without the headache of chasing it down. But life doesn't work that way.

I spend many, many more hours working at writing than I ever did in a 9-5 job. Even in salaried positions which have overtime built in... can't come close. I hated institutional jobs for taking me from my family and setting limits even though I liked the work I did. But here, working crazy hours from my couch with kids running in and out and a husband talking out loud about nothing in particular and then chuckling over it.... this is where I happily commit my time. Why is that?

So I figure I'm not the best one to talk about time management. I get it all done. I write like a fiend. I promote like a pusher with inventory. But organized chaos is the only way I get through it. As I sit here, I have yet to shower and dress for the day. While I have brushed my teeth, I haven't eaten or grabbed my glass of water yet. There is laundry waiting and dishes in my sink. I see a pizza box from Sunday night on my dining room table and there are three pairs of shoes in the middle of my living room floor. And I don't care. That butterfly just took off again and I gotta go catch it.



  1. Excellent post, Kelly.
    Wow, that sounds really chaotic, but it seems to work for you. :D It sounds like the way my days felt when I first starting working from home. It nearly cost me what little bit of sanity I posessed, lol.

  2. Sanity!?!? Can I get some of that? LOL. Do you write full time James or work from home doing something else as well as your writing?

  3. I didn't mean to imply that I was ORGANIZED! Nope. I just spent two hours cleaning up enough so that I can take delivery of a couple of bookcases later today. I couldn't see the top of my desk...or the general area where the bookcases are going. Still have clothes from RT piled on the day bed. Still have boxes of books, card decks, mailer envelopes, beads... sigh.

    Think I'll go back to writing.

  4. Ah, man. Organized chaos. Do I ever understand that. I'm happiest when my rear is planted in this computer chair but I get soooo frustrated when I have to stop to do real life stuff. I need to do my floors right now and finish up the laundry. It's nagging at me like a bunch of little ants. For what it's worth, I have a HUGE house and my housekeeper moved to California so it has completely fallen to me and I just suck at it. SIGH.

    I keep telling myself to tackle things one bit at a time. Right now I'm going to write at least 3 pages then take a break to fold the laundry in the dryer. I MIGHT remember to eat but I usually don't.

    Ah...I can already tell I have a lot to say in tomorrow's blog. LOL.

  5. If I had some to spare, I'd surely give it to you, lol. Actually, I'm an Instrumentation and Controls Systems engineer, but most of my work can be done from home, with occasional trips to the plants I do work for. So, I divide my day between complex calculations and complex realities, lol.

  6. Love the butterfly analogy, Kelly. And yeah, I really know where you're coming from in the organized chaos. And here's to working in your jammies!

  7. Very nice personal tag line, James! And no wonder you write fiction to get away from all that mathematical right-brained stuff.

  8. LOL Cindy!! Yes, I love working in my jammies. What's great is that if I still haven't cleaned up by mid-morning (erm, today for example) and Scott comes home from class, he still thinks I'm sexy. Go figure. I'm keeping the standard low though. Don't want him to expect too much from me. ;)

  9. LOL:) I decided to take Anny's advice and keep track of my working hours...and the computer froze up! Nothing to do except turn it off for 15 minutes, and then reboot. And since it takes 5-10 minutes to reload, I did laundry and cleaned up the kitchen. And then I got excited by the amount of money in my royalty statement. I'll start work this afternoon!

    I rarily forget to eat, unless I'm doing signings. I do habitually skip lunch, hence the 3:00 Chex Mix break:)

  10. I wish my chaos was organized...mostly it's just chaotic as I trip while trying the to catch the freaking butterfly.

  11. I am not at all good at time management. And I so admire those people who have set days for certain tasks.

    I wish someone could teach me the secret to it all. I am in dire need of organization, but I seem to just hop all over the place lately.

    But what kills me about people who are terribly organized is the way they refuse to move their schedule at all. They will not fudge one bit. Now that would drive me insane!

    Great topic!

  12. And THAT my dear Tess is why I don't over schedule, squint my eyes, grit my teeth, and try to go with minimal planning as long as I hit the high points. It's a killer for an organizer, but it keeps me from going atomic when plans have to change.

  13. I am really impressed that you stay so focused on your writing. I blush to admit, my mind wanders.....

  14. My mind wanders too, note my personal blog entry for the day. Very wandery about Adam Levine. I love his music.

    And I should be writing right now, not emailing or blog answering, but alas, I am distracted.


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