The novel I’m now working on – Truth to Tell (TTT) – has surpassed all my other books by having the longest gestation period on record. I conceived of the idea over two years ago when I wrote a couple of scenes, then stalled and put it aside to work on other priorities. Months later I picked the project up again and realized that I had a good character, but the story needed work.
I brainstormed TTT at a Red Door retreat with with the PenWarriors, and came up with a story that seemed fine–but I didn’t touch it again for months. When I did finally return to TTT, I realized my heroine needed a completely different story – and finally the story caught fire for me.
OK, now we’re cooking!
Part of the problem has been that in my other life as a university faculty member, I’d become involved in a long-term project that took most of my writing energy. A continuing stream of time-sensitive tasks had exhausted my creative energy.
On August 1st I started a 1-year research and program development sabbatical, which should mean that I have time for both R&D AND writing. My husband and I decided to take this chance to tour some parts of North America we’ve wanted to see, complete with my books and computer but away from my telephone so that I can focus on both the R&D and my writing.
It worked pretty well during August. I finished and published a new short story, The Broken Gate, and formulated a plan for the last few chapters of TTT. September I devoted to R&D tasks and getting started on our trip. October–
Hmm. October wasn’t looking so good last Friday when I tried to set some goals for the next week. They looked something like this:
- Read and critique a story for a writer friend
- Write four modules for the course under development
- Write this blog
- Get back to TTT
Once again, I realized, my writing had fallen to the back of the queue. When would I get time to finish TTT?
The horrifying thing was that back in mid-August when I was working on the book, I came up with a new title that was a much better fit – and I’d forgotten what it was!
I feared TTT would never get the attention it needed, but items 1, 2, and 3 were time-sensitive commitments that mattered. There was ALWAYS something urgent to get in the way.
Staring at the list I’d written, I could see that I’d fallen into the time management mess Steven Covey talked about in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, where long-term projects of importance get pushed to the back of the queue because they are not as urgent as more short term and often less important tasks.
The trouble was, back when I read 7 Habits, I didn’t have a time management problem, but I certainly do now! I get a lot done, but things that are very important to me get neglected – like TTT, the book whose new name I can’t remember 🙁
First things first, says Covey’s 3rd Habit. If I don’t put long-term-core-value things that reflect my purpose and values first, they’ll never get done.
The solution: turn the task upside down. So, last Friday I rewrote the list of this week’s goals:
- Every day, first spend half an hour on TTT. Use a timer.
- Read and critique the story
- Complete one module for the university program each day
- Write the blog for Monday
My short story, The Broken Gate, will be appearing in the upcoming PenWarriors anthology, It Happens at Midnight