Business Musings: The Fourth 2017 Process Blog
I’m almost terrified to write this post. Shortly after I wrote the last one, my year imploded—and it had been a tough year anyway. Until today, I had actually forgotten that I had written the third process blog. All of the things I developed lasted about two weeks, before I tumbled off the edge of the universe into real life for a while.
I wrote about what happened in a previous blog, “A Few Words in Amazed Appreciation.” That covered those weeks when I was out of circulation, but it didn’t really address what happened as I slowly dug out.
There were a dozen things that I had to do Right Now! None of them could wait. Some of them had already waited too long. Most of them had to do with promised group promotions or planning two different workshops this fall or answering important business emails.
In addition to writing, I had been conducting several high-level negotiations, and I managed to continue those. One of them finalized as everything ended. Another is still ongoing. But they took some of my brainpower.
I suspect I confused one guy I had worked with closely all summer when I told him that I simply didn’t have time to examine something he had been doing. I said it more politely than that, and explained that I had a family emergency. But I had gone from very hands-on to you decide in the space of a week, and I’m pretty sure that gave him whiplash.
It did me.
I almost felt, as I surfaced, like one of those protagonists of an action movie. I finally break free and get to my goal, only to find an empty control room with every single alarm going off. Lights, beeps, and that controlled androgynous voice, counting down the minutes to the self-destruct.
I dealt with the self-destruct first, then the beeping alarms, and then the flashing lights. I managed to get ahead on some projects, set others aside, combine a few more, and slowly ease my head above water.
I had no idea what I was doing next.
All that careful work I had done all year, setting up my various deadlines and setting aside the right amount of time for writing, had become irrelevant.
I could look at the writing I needed to do at the end of August and all of September, and try to catch up.
But I’ve been writing for a long time, and I know that running extra hard, extra fast, doing five times the work you did before when you didn’t have time for anything previously, is pretty stupid.
I finished the major deadlines and tried to postpone one but the editor didn’t let me. I wrote that particular project in a great white heat, somehow managing to finish with hours to spare.
The promotions were done; the emails were done; I had a few blog posts set aside. The planning for the next workshop continues.
And I knew that I needed to revamp the last part of my year on my schedules and calendars.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), I had finished and turned in the next Diving book before the shit hit the fan. I was poking at a fantasy novel that felt a little odd (not the Fey, sorry), and I had started another project that was dear to me.
I managed to keep working on that project during the September workshop, but the fantasy feels like someone else was writing it.
I’m really familiar with that phenomenon too. When life throws something major at you, everything shifts. What preoccupied you before the curveball isn’t important now.
I had to deal with that earlier in the summer, when my cat Galahad died. He was the last straw in a year that saw me lose a lot of friends (and acquaintances) to death. (This phenomenon has continued. 2017 is proving to be truly ugly right now. So many people have died that I can’t even keep track of when they passed on and if I managed to send condolences or not.)
I couldn’t bring myself to finish the Diving book although it was close. I couldn’t do anything after Gally died—until I wrote a novella that has no market, although I sent it to one of my editors anyway. I had to get that novella out of my system.
And it worked, even though the novella didn’t fit into my carefully planned schedule. So I revamped the schedule again, which was process blog #3.
Then the big emergency, the lost time, and all kinds of other stuff.
I can’t even remember what I was thinking about in August. In fact, I’m rather stunned that it’s not August. When I went on my run this afternoon, I left at 5:15 p.m. and wondered why it felt late.
Well, duh, dumbass. It’s October.
Sunset is around 6:30 now, not 9 or 9:30 or whatever it was in August. I mean, seriously. I had to remind myself that it’s Fall, even though there are dead leaves everywhere, and the air has a bite to it that it didn’t have even a week ago.
The difference between my choices now and my choices when I was in traditional publishing is simple: when I was traditionally published, I had to meet my external deadline for my publisher no matter what.
That lead to me writing a happy upbeat book during one of the worst two-month stretches of my life. I was not happy or upbeat, and the book was not a refuge. I fought it every single day. I remember that entire experience as a time of teeth-pulling and great unhappiness.
I finished, slower than I normally would have. But I finished. And have never wanted to return to that world ever ever again.
Now, though, I can rearrange my self-imposed deadlines. I can figure out what I would rather be doing—or, in the case of the Fall of 2017—what I’m capable of doing.
I noodled a bunch of it on my own. I wrote down all of my short fiction deadlines, and all of my blog post deadlines. I wrote down some of the other external deadlines—like my bimonthly column for The Grantville Gazette and all of the Fiction River writing that I do.
And then I stared at my choices.
I knew I did not want to continue the fantasy novel. I tried. I couldn’t even remember the names of my characters or what I was trying to do, despite copious notes. I suppose I could have finished it, like I finished that traditionally published novel I mentioned above, but finishing would have been sheer torture.
The other project, though, was toddling along fine. It is a refuge, and it’ll probably get done later this month or early next.
The question was…what next?
Because I had hoped to finish the fantasy, and do another book by now. That plan had completely gone out the window. That other book should have been a Christmas book, but even if I start now, I probably won’t finish in time to publish by this Christmas.
And really, I’m having trouble accepting that it’s October. I really am not in a Christmas kinda mood.
So…I finally hauled in Dean. He’s my emergency go-to when I need to clarify things.
He and I went through every possible project I could do. We drilled down on each, figuring out which ones actually interested me and which ones I do not want to write.
We also discovered a few that I was going to write only because the fans of those books had guilted me into writing that book next. I had no idea what the book would be, but people kept asking and asking and asking, and I had planned on caving in—at the expense of some other books that actually took a lot more work and research.
I’m ready for the work and research. Research allows me to escape the day to day. I can get lost in work that required a lot of research ahead of time.
But the end of my year is choppy. I have the Business Master Class at the end of October, which will take a lot of focus. I won’t be at my computer for ten days, returning only on October 30, and then I probably won’t have much of a brain, certainly not one for fiction.
November is a clearer month, but there is the Thanksgiving holiday in the middle of it. And no matter what my best intentions are, I get no real work done between December 19 and December 26. Never have, never will.
I have six short stories to write between now and the end of the year (minimum), and ten blog posts, not to mention the extra stuff. I have to finish a lot of editing-reading in that time as well.
I don’t get concentrated writing time until January and February. Then there’s the anthology workshop at the end of February-beginning of March. And nothing until mid-April.
Dean and I figured out that if I’m going to do lose-myself-in-work writing, the best time is from December 27 through the beginning of April.
Well, that made my inner writing planner very happy. I have other projects I can finish before the end of the year, and all those stories and blog posts.
I could structure again, and structure I have.
Of course, the day after I set all of this up, I face-planted. It wasn’t just the fault of the schedule: it was also because my chronic health problems flare up when I’m under severe stress…or when the stress ends.
I didn’t fall over at all during the Family Emergency that caused everything. And except for getting exhausted during the month of September, I had no health issues there either.
I tried to rest, I really did. But I had a lot of promises to fulfill in October, and I did so—all external promises. The same day that I finished structuring my work was the day I completed my last IMPORTANT! DO IT NOW! DON’T MISS! deadline for other people.
Kris, flat on her ass for two days.
Right at the start of the new program.
I don’t really plan sick days any more, although I do plan a day off every week (and one day at half-speed). So I used those right up front. Now, I’m back at it, still rearranging things, but getting the work done.
In August, I did not plan to be writing the books I will be writing at the end of this year. I had a completely different set of books to finish. I’ll get to those, maybe in May/June, by the look of the new schedule—if the sun continues to shine and the creek don’t rise (as my American Western husband is fond of saying).
I like the freedom this new world of publishing gives me to rearrange my schedule. I can do things that benefit my inner muse and my mental health, rather than struggling to complete something that doesn’t speak to me because of life events.
That’s a nifty change—one of many.
But I must admit: I spent days paralyzed by the sheer number of choices I had. It was easier when it was do this or don’t write (maybe shove in a few short stories as palate cleansers). Easier, but not as much fun. Or as good for me.
Tomorrow, I start one of those short stories. Then I turn to the project that’s nearly done, while I investigate where I left off on the other project that I’m going to be working on from now until the end of the year.
I’ll do all of that while I’m planning some presentations for the Business Master Class. I’ve written three blogs in four days. I have one more to write before the class, and I figure I’ll write one immediately after class. That takes care of the five (!) I need to complete this month.
I’m hoping this process blog is a lot more on point than the last one. I don’t want to lose focus two weeks from now.
Even though I know that life can throw serious curveballs—and often does. I’d like to get through the rest of 2017 without any serious implosions of my schedule.
Of course, I’d like to win a 20 million dollar lottery too.
I’m not holding my breath for either of those things, given the year I’ve had so far.
I’m not yet counting the days until 2018. Mostly because my brain is still thinking it’s August. Once I become convinced it’s October, I suspect I’m going to be chomping at the bit to get to January.
Maybe I’ll just focus on my work…which would be a lovely change of pace.
You folks have told me time and again that you like the process blogs. I do too. It’s nice to set out my thinking—and even nicer to have the opportunity to revisit it when the time is right.
As you can tell from the blog above, I spend a lot of time on the blogs every month.
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“Business Musings: The Fourth 2017 Process Blog,” copyright © 2017 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © Can Stock Photo / andrewgenn.
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It’s way past time for me to thank you for pushing through and continuing to produce these valuable business posts. Since last January when an online writing colleague linked to your series on contracts I’ve binge-listened to all your business blogs, and Dean’s, too. (Yes, I said “listened.” On top of my two day jobs, some freelancing, and my fiction writing, I’m also renovating my house. It works great to copy and paste your articles into TTSReader and let them pour into my ears as I strip woodwork or whatever.) And now that I’ve run through the backlog, I wait eagerly for late Wednesday night, when your latest installment usually appears.
But I’ve never commented before now.
I’m almost ready to self-publish my debut novel, and it’ll be healthy for me to go back and review the posts on marketing and discoverability. I could use a little clarity on the subject, especially to get me past my fear that if I don’t sequence everything surrounding the launch just right, My Writing Career Will Be Doomed. But that’s silly. It’s just one novel out of what should be many, and I can learn from this experience and make adjustments the next time.
So thank you again. You’ve been so helpful, and not without cost to yourself. I pray that your 2018 will be much better.
Even though I got worn out and stressed out just reading this, your posts always inspire [or shame] me into trying harder. But being seventy and having spent too many years at soul-sucking jobs wishing I could just write, now I find it hard not to put the writing down and sit on a deck in the sun. How do you do it? I know. Just do it. [Ugh, did I just sound like Nancy?]
I love it. It’s what I want to do the most in the world. I have more stories in my head than I’ll be able to tell in my lifetime, so I’m working as hard as I can to live longer, stay healthy, and write more. But I think you have to love it to work this hard. (Also, I do have a post in the Freelancer’s Guide on self-discipline. You can read it here: https://kriswrites.com/2009/06/04/freelancers-survival-guide-discipline/) Good luck!
I had been told that the saying, “God willing and the Creek don’t rise,” referred to an Indian uprising. Up until then, I had always assumed it meant flooding.
Wow. You’re right. I didn’t know that either. I thought body of water. But noooo. Here’s a link: https://nativeheritageproject.com/2012/08/20/god-willing-and-the-creek-dont-rise/
Learn something every day…
Yes. My mother passed away 12 days ago, and my brain has come to a full halt. Right now I am accepting that I simply don’t know when I’ll be able to return to more normal activities and to writing fiction. I find myself writing poetry about my grief process, so that is what I am doing. It feels uncomfortable to barely be able to string two thoughts together, but I gather it is normal when you lose someone who you love very much.
I’m so sorry to hear this. Yes, being unable to think clearly is normal. Your brain is processing its new reality. Give it time. (Poetry sounds lovely.) Take good care of yourself. Grieving is different for each of us, and takes time.