The curse of the to-do list

First, confession. I am not an organized person. I am a creative, cluttered person who writes to-do lists and loses them, who has brilliant ideas and forgets them, and who has sterling intentions and gets distracted. Ask anyone in my family (especially my husband!) and they will confirm it.

The wonderful Calvin & Hobbes by Sam Watterson

The wonderful Calvin & Hobbes by Sam Watterson

So, with three books out now, a fourth scheduled for release in early 2013, a fifth being written, and a long 2013 goals list, I’m starting to panic. (Oh, let me add that I decided to clean up The Hoard of the Doges a bit — there are some typos and missing words, and that drives me NUTS after all the proofreading I did!) I haven’t had a “full time job” since I worked full time in our own business, about 17 years ago, other than a few months here and there to fill in or fix a crisis, so now that this writing endeavor is becoming full time and then some… Yeah, sometimes I have a bit of a freak out.

And here’s the thing about project people like me. I can set up a day planner or a calendar system or a to-do list (I can even set up the Teux Deux app on my phone) better than just about anybody. It’s perfect. It’s organized. It’s darn near pristine. It is a work of art!

And then I pretty much forget about it. The “project” was setting it up. Doing something – anything – day in and day out is definitely not my strong suit. I wait until I have 3 hours worth of ironing to start (hey, pop in a movie and iron away – it’s a pretty good workout!); I wait until every flat surface in my house is covered with papers and magazines and (inexplicably) my son’s size 13 basketball shoes before I go on a tidying frenzy; I don’t do much marketing until I spend about 20 hours over 3 days doing it.

So here’s the thing. At the ripe old age of 47, I need to grow up. (Bummer.) If I am to follow my vision and continue to be an author going forward, and if I am to actually write, produce, and sell books, I’ve got to start treating it like a full time job. I’ve got to dedicate time and stop surfing the internet (I do research for my husband ‘on the side’ which is a bit of a conundrum). I’ve got to guard the time I have as if I was working for someone else. I’ve got to focus, day in and day out. I’ve got to be the employee I always looked for and valued in my own business.

And that really pushes against my nature. There’s a reason that we’ve been self-employed all these years. There’s a reason that I homeschooled my kids. There’s a reason that I have thousands of dollars worth of art supplies sitting around. I’m not disciplined and organized and able to compartmentalize my life. I’m not the 9-5 type. I’m not the dedicated employee of my dreams. At least not naturally.

But now I realize that I really have to be. This isn’t so much a New Year’s Resolution post/thought as it is a “What Color Is Your Parachute” one. (I remember reading that book in my twenties and being completely flummoxed!) I am, albeit accidentally, now living my dream. I have found my passion. I can see books out in the distance as far as I can see. But my current state of laissez-faire about the hours in my day isn’t going to get me where I want and need to be. It certainly won’t allow for much more to be added to my plate, because my plate is currently looking more like one of those soggy paper plates that collapse as soon as you put the pot-luck spaghetti casserole on it.

I’m not good at following through on boring daily stuff. (Yes, I do brush my teeth. And I journal. Other than things that my family depends on, like cooking and grocery shopping, those are literally about the only things I do every single day.) But I have to grow up now, because if I don’t, the death of my dream will fall squarely on the embarrassing fact that I was… okay, let’s just put the word out there… lazy. Unmotivated. Unable to take what is truly a driving passion and harness it.

There would be some benefits to actually getting a handle on my daily schedule. I would probably get my nights and weekends back (or mostly). I could probably put an end to the panic attacks when I am supposed to be doing something — or think I’m supposed to be doing something — and I’m not able to. I might even be less grouchy about editing. Okay, no. That’s a bit optimistic. But you see my point.

So, after, well, 47 years, I’m going to try. I mean really try, not the “oh, this planner is really cute, and I’m sure I’ll be soooooo organized if I buy it and put everybody’s birthdays in it!” kind of try. This is the announcement of actually trying to force myself into a full-time job mindset. The upside is, my job is being a writer. How cool is that? It’s way better than any job I’ve ever had (mom and wife don’t count). I don’t have to have any employees, I don’t have to pay for an office, I don’t even have to get dressed in the morning!

I’ll let you know how it goes. I got my (latest) day timer inserts for 2013 yesterday, and dusted off my old red leather case. I have a marketing calendar, and I’m pretty much done through February. The rest of December will be doing the things I already have scheduled, going on a much-needed vacation with my family, and Christmas, and I plan to be gentle with myself. But we’re having a family meeting during that time, and I’m going to make the announcement: I now have a full time job. Hopefully they’ll all be on board!

How about you? Are you the creative, cluttered, disorganized type, or the to-do list lover? Are you thinking about a change of perspective for 2013? Maybe we can encourage each other over tea!

NOTE:  Several commenters have taken this post as being hard on myself. I’m really not. I am pretty happy with myself overall, but I have now identified something that can keep me back from where I want to go, and this is meant to (start to) address that. As a 5th generation Floridian who grew up sailing, I’m pretty laid back. That’s not going to change — it’s not possible! But I think everyone can improve, adapt, adjust, and possibly exert a tad more discipline on ourselves, without changing into Mr. Hyde. Thanks for reading!

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13 Comments

Filed under Publishing, Self publishing, Writing

13 responses to “The curse of the to-do list

  1. wynwords

    I’ve come to the same conclusion….if i want to be a full time writer, it’s time to make room in my life for it on a regular basis. Good luck!

    • I think what I didn’t realize before I started on this journey was how much besides writing is involved in being a writer! The writing I’m okay with getting done. But all the rest is what’s starting to take over my life. 😛 Good luck to you!

  2. I’m totally and unabashedly disorganized. It’s disgraceful.

    • Yeah, me too. And I don’t actually dislike it, which is sad! But… I have realized this year, esp since July, that it can’t continue. Well, it COULD continue, but I won’t get where I want to go. So I’m giving myself a kick in the pants. 😀

      • Ahhhh I really need to do that too. Maybe I could make “get more organized” my New Years resolution? But see, there I go, putting things off again. Why wait until Jan 1 when I could just do it now? Laziness. That’s what it is. Pure laziness. Sigh.

    • Well you could kick ME in the pants, and I’ll kick YOU in the pants, and maybe we’ll take some baby steps forward into the world of the left brained.

    • Mine are jeans… They’re made for tough situations! hahahaha! Good luck! I think we both need it. 🙂

  3. At 75 years old, I’ve had to admit that being disorganized is how my brain works. I’m not striving to be a full-time writer, but I still get the work done, slowly and in irregular spurts. Stop looking at yourself as if you haven’t grown up or are lazy, or whatever. That’s the way your brain works. I try to pick one item a day that I really want to accomplish but wouldn’t if I didn’t have a reminder. That’s as far as I’ll go in the to-do list department.

    • Up til now, I haven’t worried about it. But I think that the last 6 mos of feeling overwhelmed – unusual for me, because I have really ordered my life to avoid that! – needs to be addressed if I want to follow the path I see as my future. If I don’t, and don’t get organized (ok, my idea of organization isn’t going to be what a lot of people would call organized, I know!), then I won’t get where I’m going. So for now, I’m going to have to bite the bullet! I did homeschool 3 kids to graduation (last one graduates in May) so I do have some semblence of skills… I just need to marshall them a bit better!

      • Well, we’ve both gone the planner, calendar, etc. route and failed. It seems that the best way might be to take small steps for small improvements, and see what works best. Just ignore everybody else’s idea of what being organized is supposed to mean. Your homeschooling success means your organizational skills are probably much better than you think. Analyze what worked to keep you on track for that enormous project.

  4. You sound like an achiever to me! Don’t be so hard on yourself. I have a full time job and now make my writing dream a top priority. ( The kids and hubby can forage for their own food- and everyone drives which makes it much easier than in years past.) I haven’t watched TV in years (OK , that’s a hyperbole) and forgot what “down time” means. Editing while reclining? I just figure I gotta do what gotta do!

    • I do get a lot done, just not in a linear, organized fashion! 😀 I don’t know that I will ever achieve either, but I definitely need to take a step in that direction. The internet is more of a time-waster for me than tv (my husband is a political writer and I was a poly sci major, so on top of doing research for him, I am a bit obsessive about checking the news)… But if I can go without internet for 3 weeks at a time in Uganda, I can manage it here. I think. Thanks for reading!

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