Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Mixing It Up

I am a creature of habit. I keep regular office hours and follow a fairly predictable routine. Doing so helps me stay focused and productive most of the time. But the last several days have been filled with every task but writing, or anything creative for that matter. And it started getting old. My must-dos included
  • invoicing/bill collecting
  • submitting project bids
  • following up on planned-but-not-scheduled projects
  • troubleshooting issues with EFA's spring classes
  • addressing glitches with my printer, desktop keyboard, and laptop battery . . .
Ahhhh, the writing life. Yes, I am my own boss and can do what I want, when I want. (Yippee!) But what I want — at least until I become independently wealthy — is to operate a profitable business. So, in addition to writing, I also serve as my own Finance, R&D, HR, PR, and IT departments. That doesn't bother me in theory or even in practice. But dealing with all that stuff to the exclusion of writing was wearing thin. I thought yesterday seemed like a good day to just mix it up and see what happened.

Here's what I did and how it affected me:
  • Kicked things off with a lunch-like breakfast of — get this — egg salad. (Not bad!)
  • Skipped my first-thing ritual of managing email, browsing a favorite discussion group, and skimming online news headlines over coffee. Had the coffee but got right to work. Did so, gasp, before my shower.
  • Shocked myself at how insanely productive I was for the next 3 hours. Decided to pause that favorite online discussion group so that I can't log on for, double gasp, two weeks.
  • Popped in a fitness DVD. Normally, I'd do that before or after work. Fully participated in the workout. Endorphins were released and stress was relieved. The 70s music I played in the background brought up story idea after story idea after story idea. Each song triggered intense memories and feelings from my youth — the increased oxygen surely enhanced the effects. I conjured young characters, realistic settings, childhood dynamics, and timeless story conflicts. (I assign music-association exercises to my writing students, and they never fail to inspire.) Some pure fun was had during regular business hours!
  • Walked Asta, my office dog. Made her don a raincoat (hey, I'm not cruel; it was raining; kinda funny, though, eh?). Took one of our favorite paths but reversed the direction. Asta did not know what to think! Left the iPod at home. Enjoyed the reverse sights and tried to keep from talking to myself out loud. (Usually, I'm trying to keep from singing.) Tried to but couldn't shake a stick at all the writing/business/life ideas swirling about. Picked a couple of early-blooming camellias from the shrub outside my front door. Stuck 'em in a vase for my nightstand.
  • Showered. Had a quick lunch while furiously jotting down some of the keeper thoughts I'd shaken loose from dormant corners of my brain.
  • Slogged for 2 hours, then stopped to clean the kitchen. Made a doggie casserole. Did prep work for the big salad I ate later. All the chopping, mixing, pot tending, etc., kept my mind blank enough for some great problem solving.
  • Served the doggie dish to a very surprised pup. It's the food she gets when she has been sick and needs a bland-diet break from her kibble. She could not beleeeeeive her luck at receiving this dish while feeling healthy. "Mixed-Up Day tomorrow, too, please," she hopped and wagged. Thought about how to incorporate some of her behaviors into future dog characters.
  • Worked for about 2 more hours. Finished everything on my list and then prepared for today's tasks.
  • Shut off the computer for the rest of the evening. No emailing, no Googling, no surfing. Read in the bedroom and realized that I had worked in the dining, living, and family rooms today, but had not so much as peeked into my office. Cool! Asta — who tends to act out of sorts when the daily routine is changed — sported a contented greyhound smile all night. Spent a couple of minutes on the floor with her looking at the room from her perspective.
Yesterday was unconventional, but it worked. I worked.

Today I went right back to my regular schedule, but let me tell you something: I felt rested, clear-headed, energized, and eager to tackle the day. And tackle it I did. I knocked out a 750-word article, and I took a little time to work on the outline for a muse-inspired YA novel I've been kicking around for a while.

Mixing it up for one day was a huge success. Can't wait to try it again sometime. You?


Ida said...

I just found your blog and have enjoyed reading it. As a full-time freelance writer and editor, I often find myself getting bogged down, feeling as though I'm making no progress. Your "mixed-up day" might work for me, especially when I have several projects in the mix, including hiring authors for another project. Thanks for the idea.
Another Iowa native, born and raised in Ottumwa

Lisa said...

Thanks so much for commenting, Ida. It's nice to hear from a fellow freelancing former Ottumwan!