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Tag Archives: project management

Making an Author’s Disaster Recovery Plan

Self Improvement 150One of the constants of my life has been a distinct lack of consistency. I’ll start many projects with the firm belief that I’ve cracked whatever problem has prevented me from seeing something through to completion in the past, lay it all out so that I see the path to victory before me, make a post about it telling people where I’ll be going over the next few months and then…nothing.

What happens is this: Once I switch from a high-level, overall project view back towards the trench-work of the project, it gets really difficult to overcome my inertia. Or, once I’ve managed to do that, to keep productive inertia going. All it takes is one bad day where I come home exhausted, or a spontaneous and fun thing that would wipe out my plans for the evening, and then I’m done. Once I’m off-track, it’s easier to stay off-track. And then, once I’m ready to hop on again the shame of being off the wagon for so long makes it uncomfortable enough that I delay that again. So forth and so on, until it’s months later and I can quietly declare my latest bid for organization and discipline a failure.

It’s a frustrating cycle, to put it mildly. I want to finish things. I want to share those finished things with all of you. I want to be the kind of person who says he’s going to do something and then do it. But for some reason I’m just not and becoming that person feels like a very long road of hard work and reflection away.

One of the things I’m learning about project management is that you have to plan for failure. The longer and more complicated a project is, the more failure points there are — and you have to drill down towards each one and make a contingency plan for it. This is actually really difficult when it comes to figuring out failure points for personal projects, because you have to take a long, hard look at your worst impulses.

For example, what happens to that short story when you decide to spend those two hours scheduled for Saturday work on a movie, dinner and a ton of alcohol instead? What happens to preparation for your Pathfinder game on Tuesday evening when you’re mentally exhausted and spend the hour you’ve set aside for it playing Facebook games instead? What happens with the blog when work swallows up more of your free time and mental energy than you were expecting?

These are pretty difficult questions to ask myself, let alone answer. But you have to if you have a hope of cultivating the discipline and consistency you need in order to be a writer. It makes for a good thought exercise — if the trials of Job were to somehow befall me, how would I find a way to keep creating?

That’s where I am right now, in multiple aspects of my life. I know myself well enough to know the common pitfalls that will derail me, and now I have to step up my game of cat-and-mouse with future, shittier me. I have to find ways to deconstruct every excuse and trap for myself ahead of time, clearing any possible obstructions between myself, my failing resolve and my goal.

What are some of your pitfalls? What do you do to navigate around those?

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Self-Reflection, Writing

 

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It’s the End of Summer, Start Falling

Self Improvement 150The summer of 2014 was a pretty crazy one for me! Most of it has been structured around Ryan’s trip to Clarion, the associated Write-A-Thon and all of the lessons I’ve learned since then. It turns out I needed to take a bit of a break from writing after that, just to process what I had done and return to the desk with a greater understanding of what I’m about.

Now that August is behind us and we’re looking ahead to the season of turning leaves, cooler weather and hot drinks, I thought I’d take a little time to think about how I would like to spend it. Where do I want to be by the end of the year? What would I have liked to accomplish?

There are a few things that I’d really like to focus on over the next four months: writing, reading, exercising, eating. You know, the basics. I think of them as the four things that encourage both physical and mental health, two sides of the same coin. You have to exert the proper effort to keep yourself in fighting shape, and you have to make sure that you’re intaking the right things to fuel that effort.

For writing, I’d really like to get more consistent. A friend of mine intimated that his goal for word count is 500 a day, 3000 a week — I think that’s pretty strong, so I’m going to shamelessly steal it. That word count will only count towards short stories (both preparation and writing) and the Pathfinder game I’m running. Blog entries will be their own thing entirely, hopefully focused on over the weekend. Putting in the effort consistently, grinding out the words every day rain or shine, has never been one of my strong suits. I really need to learn how to do this if I’m going to get serious about writing.

For reading, I’d really like to read short stories and novels in both the science-fiction/fantasy and furry fiction “genres”. There’s a ton of great stuff out there in each space, and I think there should be more folks who are really invested in the literary traditions that have been built. I have a unique perspective, and I’d like to get better at thinking about fiction critically. Part of that means reading as many stories as I can and breaking them down to see how they work. I’d like to post critiques and thoughts about these stories as I go, just to get into the habit of talking about them, sharing them with all of you.

For exercising, I really need to get a bit more flexible than I am! I’ll be trying to settle into a routine with body-weight exercises and stretches/yoga so that I’m toning myself and making it easier to get in running and biking. For the next few months I want to focus on cardiovascular health and mobility — those are pretty easy spots to hit with a minimum of, say, going to the gym or needing special equipment. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I’m going to need to remove as many barriers as possible to getting exercise. Otherwise, it’s just way too easy to make excuses.

Finally, for eating, I’m going to have to retrain my palate towards healthier food. I love carb- and sugar-heavy things at the moment, and that really needs to shift towards fruits, vegetables and lean meats. I don’t think I’ll do anything as crazy as Whole 30 or Paleo right now, but cutting down on carbs — or at least being a lot more mindful about the carbs I do eat — is absolutely necessary. It’s going to suck for a while, but I need to push through that if I ever hope to slim down and get rid of this rather impressive spare tire I’m sporting at the moment.

So those are my goals, in broad terms. I’ll have to develop a plan to make sure I actually stick to those, and that’s fairly exciting. I know I talk a lot about my interest in project management, and it sounds really boring, but there’s this exciting bit of alchemy in taking these vague, broad, big goals — “I have to eat better.” “I have to write more.” — and figuring out how to actually turn them into working, flesh-and-bone plans of action. Drawing a line from desire to doing is pretty satisfying.

So that’s my fall — as usual, putting my head down and trying to calm the mind from being flighty and thoughtless. Every time I put a new plan together, it’s a little stronger. I learn from my mistakes, incorporate more personalized protection against pitfalls, have a bit more willpower. I accept that I might not reach all (or even most) of the goals that I’ve set, but striving for them gets me closer than I would be otherwise.

 
 

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