Business Musings: Schedules and Structure
The in-person Oregon Coast writing workshop ended on Saturday, and worked relatively well, considering all the things we had to do to deal with my unexpected need to remain here in Vegas. Some things worked as usual, and others didn’t. Surprisingly for me, I ended up as tired on Sunday as I usually am when I am talking with everyone in person. I think that means the video-conferencing worked, and I felt like I was in the room. (I ended up towering over everyone—one of those larger-than-life screens, so for the students I was definitely a presence…)
I made myself take Sunday off completely. I wandered to a favorite restaurant, discovered a part of Vegas that reminds me of Eugene, Oregon, and read a book that wasn’t an assignment for anything. Promising myself every single time I got nervous about all the things I had to do that I would deal with them on Monday.
It’s no wonder I woke up panicked Monday morning.
But in the middle of that panic, I realized something, which made me shake my head and giggle at myself. I’d been deliberately avoiding setting a schedule until after the workshop.
There were a lot of personal reasons for that which I won’t delve into. A few involved the original timing of the move—we planned to leave after the workshop, instead of more than a month before. But mostly, I realized when I arrived in Vegas that I wouldn’t have the opportunity for a regular schedule until the workshop ended.
By then, I wouldn’t be reading assigned books and working on planning. I would have an office, which I do more or less. (More less than more; right now I’m writing on the desk, using a standing laptop desk for my cup of ice tea, a box as a bookshelf, and a really wobbly table for the printer—which Gavin absolutely loves. See above.)
The transition continues, but I have to hunker down and return to fulltime work. A number of you have told me to take it easy for anywhere from six months to a year, but I hate to tell you, that says more about you than me.
Imagine if I moved to Vegas because I had a new day job. If I was a lucky person, I’d be able to take two weeks between the old job and the new job to make the move and the transition. Unlucky folks get an entire weekend to travel across country.
In other words, I would have already been putting in my forty hours per week, starting about a month ago.
When I ramped up for the workshop—which requires me to work about 15 hours per day—I went back to my old workshop schedule. I wrote in the morning, kept exercising, and did all of the workshop work as well. Two differences made it tougher here—I had to exercise in the morning as well, due to the heat that I’m not yet acclimatized to, and the fact that Dean, who usually acts as my backup on food and other errands, wasn’t here. So I worked harder here, and it felt good.
It was the workshop schedule that made me have my realization this morning. The panic wasn’t coming from all of the work I had assigned myself after the workshop; it was coming from the loss of the schedule.
For decades, Dean and I have warned newly minted fulltime freelancers that they will get less done when they quit their day jobs. Dean also warned an attorney friend of his, who reduced his private legal practice so he could work at home.
It’s not that home has more distractions. In some way, it has fewer distractions—no colleagues to talk to when you’re restless, no gossip to share, no one to go to lunch with—but it also has no set structure.
You had a schedule at your day job, but someone else imposed it on you. Now you need to design your own—and post it on the door to your (home) office.
Stick to this schedule, but make it realistic.
I haven’t had a day job in 100,000 years. But I had a schedule, a religious one that I stuck to year in and year out. Much of it was built around Lincoln City specific events, like our Sunday writer’s lunch and our weekly meetings at WMG. Some of it was Lincoln City weather, which is darker and grayer and colder than it is here in Vegas. So running outside late in the day when the traffic was thin and the light was better (from the west) made a lot of sense in Lincoln City. But a lot of my schedule was built around Dean as well. We have dinner together, and we always consult about our day.
He’s only here parttime right now, and wasn’t here hardly at all in April. I was on my own there. There is no Sunday writer’s lunch and the meetings at WMG are catch-as-catch-can by phone. Las Vegas weather is warmer and sunnier, and if I’m going to continue running outside for another month or so (before the heat of the summer), I have to do so early in the day (or rather, early for me).
In other words, that long-honed schedule went away—the same as a schedule long-honed by a day job vanishes the moment you quit the job.
I’d been muttering that I needed to set my schedule. I’d organize a workday, but somehow held two contradictory thoughts in my head at the same time. I seemed to believe I could continue with my old schedule while adapting to my new environment.
It wasn’t until Monday morning, when I looked to the future and realized I had only three scheduled things on my calendar, that I suddenly understood what I was suffering from.
I have a lack of structure. Me! The woman whose superpower is structure.
No wonder I felt at loose ends both before and after the workshop.
You can’t build a new structure in a day. Nor can I build my final structure until Dean gets here full time, which will be by August (if our plans work as we hope).
But I can set up a few more regularly scheduled events now that the workshop is behind me. There are some classes I’m looking at, both at the gym I’ve joined and at some organizations around town. Those will give me structure, as will all the upcoming visits by friends.
On Friday, toward the end of the workshop, my brain also offered up a solution to a problem I’d been noodling with. I didn’t want to be stuck writing at home all the time. Shortly after we moved, my gigantic desktop computer died a terrible death. I could have replaced it with another gigantic desktop, but I balked—although not at the price. At the stationary equipment. I already had a new laptop, and I wanted nothing more than another new laptop.
One to stay home and the other to travel with me wherever I go.
I just hadn’t figured out where I would go.
Friday, my brain solved that for me. I’m not going to list the exact solution, because I don’t want to be findable, but it mostly has to do with working in various parts of the city, in a bunch of venues that don’t care if you hog a table or a desk or a bench for an hour or two or three. Some of those venues are walking distance, and some will require a drive, which doesn’t bother me at all.
I’d been slowly groping my way toward a structure without realizing that was what I was doing.
Now that I know what the problem is, I know how to fix it. What made me giggle was that I had missed the problem altogether. I’d written out lists because lists usually work for me. But they didn’t here. I met every deadline I had and then some. I gave myself a pass because I had just moved, and I had health issues. But I knew I was missing something.
What I was missing was what I had warned countless writers and all of you about for years. When your overall life structure changes, your productivity goes down until you build a new structure.
Well, duh. And yet, I had missed that.
All because of one simple phrase: “day job.” I didn’t have one, so I couldn’t have the standard quitting your day job problems, right?
I’m still giggling. Those peals of laughter you’re hearing are from me, realizing just how much we writers can lie to ourselves. How much I still lie to myself.
I thought the problem was complicated. It’s a simple problem with a complicated solution, one that will take patience as I set up the new life down here.
I have never had much patience, but I do have determination. And I’ve set up structures many, many, many times before. This is something I can do.
And lo and behold, once I made that realization, the panic left and the amusement arrived.
Off I go to figure out the next few months. Excuse me now, while I commune with my calendars. And I’ll see you all next week.
The blog will be back on track too, now that I actually have writing time. The blog was easy to squeeze in, although the longer blogs were a problem, especially as the workshop started. Now that the workshop is over, I have time to organize my notes as well as a place to put my research (even if it still is a box).
So, I’ll be back on board. There are some new developments I’ve been following and I still have a few other things that came up while I was moving that I need to examine in depth. So expect a meatier blog starting next week.
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“Business Musings: Schedules and Structure,” copyright © 2018 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © 2018 by Kristine K. Rusch