A New Schedule

scheduleI’m so damned creative these days, even the latest version of my control freaky schedule has to be ARTISTIC.

I set the alarm for this morning, but I hit the snooze button. Very unlike me.

I really didn’t sleep well: worried about going to the gym, worried about how I’m going to make money in the future.

Once I get to the gym, I love it. Once I get back into programming, I remember how much I liked it and how good I am at it.

But starting is hard.

I had a lovely summer. Spent lots of time with family and friends, saw and did new things. I even went horseback riding. I made a lot of art, I finished the first draft of my latest book, and was, overall, surprisingly productive.

I say surprisingly, because I purposely did not set a schedule for myself. I like schedules, I like plans, I like making check marks on checklists. But I made a conscious decision to just relax this summer and not beat myself up about not doing ALL THE THINGS.

And yet, I did things. A lot of things. Ok, I did have a rather loose deadline to finish that first draft before a certain date, and I did wake up every morning with the idea to work on the book before I did anything else. But I didn’t set the alarm! And I didn’t set a word count! Oh, and I did participate in a challenge with a friend to create a piece of art everyday for the month of July that sort of continued into August… But it wasn’t a serious challenge.

Whatever. My point is, well, I think I lost my point. Or perhaps I just realized, I don’t need to schedule things that I like doing anyway.

What I didn’t do during the summer: exercise or work.

What I really, really need to do, starting right now: exercise and work.

Hence the new schedule.

I just started following a blog called Wait But Why. (Highly recommend). The author, Tim Urban, wrote this very funny post on procrastination that, like all good posts should do, helped illuminate some aspects of my own personality heretofore hidden from me. I’m not a procrastinator, not really, certainly not compared to Tim Urban. (My Instant Gratification Monkey is alive and well, but I have him under a tight leash.)

In the post he mentions President Eisenhower’s first things first quote:

“The older I get the more wisdom I find in the ancient rule of taking first things first. A process which often reduces the most complex human problem to a manageable proportion.”

Urban added: “And to Eisenhower, the “first things” were always the important ones.”

I didn’t know this was a Thing, I’ve just always done this. Whatever is the most important, and often most difficult or unpleasant thing I have to do each day, I just do it first. Just like eating the peas first at dinner when you are a kid. You know you have to do it, so it’s best to get it over with first.

If my parents read this (and they always do cause they’re awesome) they’ll say, “What are you talking about – you never had that attitude with your schoolwork!?!” And they’ll be right. Because school was never IMPORTANT to me.

Eating peas makes sense. I know they are good for me, they are important, and worth the pain of eating.

School never made any sense, and obviously wasn’t important. (I’ve done fine despite all those D’s)

I spent my summer doing things that were mostly just fun: maintaining relationships, having new experiences, getting better at writing and drawing. Not to say they’re not important, they are, but they also didn’t take a whole lot of effort.

Exercise? Important, but not fun. (And I’m not talking about the actual exercise – I actually like that – it’s that unless I’m going to run in place or do jumping jacks over my downstairs neighbors’ heads, exercise means I have to go OUTSIDE. Shudder.)

Working towards that next step in my career? Very Important, but frustrating and hard. And without the constant dopamine bursts of achievement that writing or art can give me.

But the schedule gives me what the exercise and programming cannot – a little box to check that says, “You did it!”

And posting my prettied up schedule here – well, I get two marks for that – one for posting something today and two for making tomorrow’s me a little more accountable – a little more motivated to not hit the snooze button again.

Breakfast

Through my exploration of the creative medium: ‘pictures and words,’ I recently discovered Danny Gregory.  He wrote a book called Art Before Breakfast that I devoured in a day.

Inspired, I painted my breakfast this morning. The food was cold by the time painting became eating and drinking, but somehow more satisfying than usual.

Last month I finished the first draft of a novel and asked two of my siblings to read it for me. Not only did they read it, they both took extensive notes and then sat with me for an hour to share their overall impressions. I can’t tell you how generous this was of both of them (One, a mother of two with a full time job and the other, an engineer running his own company.)

Their reviews were honest, and a tiny bit painful.

The thing is, I get bored with my own writing, and in the long form, it shows. There are places scattered throughout the manuscript where I just didn’t care, but I needed to write something to get onto the next bit that I did care about.

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I always wake up hungry, and I find the foods we typically eat for breakfast to be delicious.

Breakfast is always a small meal, short and to the point.

Breakfast is fast. It requires very little planning or prep: cereal in a bowl, two eggs in a frying pan, toast in the toaster. A slice of ham. A piece of fruit. It nourishes and doesn’t stick around too long.

I’m not sure what to do with my manuscript. As my siblings (and Will, my partner, who never finished it due to utter frustration) have said repeatedly, “There’s a really good story in there.”

But where? Is it only in the bits I enjoyed writing? Perhaps it’s not one long story but several short ones. Fast and easy to prepare and digest.

I’m in love with the idea of combining pictures and words to tell a story. I do not, however, enjoy the idea of creating a graphic novel, a book long comic book. I don’t really like comic books that much. They hurt my eyes. There’s too much stuff happening on a page. They’re confusing.

The illustrated journal seems to be the happy medium, though most, I find, do not use the pictures to tell the story, the way the pictures in comic books do. The pictures in an illustrated journal are there to add something, flavor, texture, but aren’t necessary to the story.

The quick watercolor of my breakfast tells a story all by itself – it tells you, the viewer, even without the words, that it was a meal, prepared and eaten, probably by the artist.  The words written near by add to the story told by the picture, but aren’t necessary. In fact – now I regret writing “coffee and toast” on the drawing. I didn’t need them there. Only the date and the word breakfast were necessary to complete the story.

Less is more.

Pictures and words should complement, not replicate.

There’s a good story in that stack of pages, I just need to draw it out.