Business Musings: Schedules and Structure

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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.

I’ve been giving that advice so often that I’ve blogged about it as well. I think the first time was nine years ago, in a blog post that eventually became part of my Freelancer’s Survival Guide. 

I wrote:

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.

Who knew?

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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Thank you all for sticking with me during this chaotic spring. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the support.

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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


11 thoughts on “Business Musings: Schedules and Structure

  1. Sounds like things are settling into routines. When you said you’d found places to camp with your laptop, I immediately wondered what kind of Library system Las Vegas has. Which made me wonder how open the UNLV campus library might be. When I moved house, the kitchen was the biggest issue for me because it has a third the storage and pretty much nothing I brought will fit where my instinct is to put it. The only thing that works is that I can work at the table in the kitchen and be surrounded by light from the windows. Laptops rule. I love the shot of your ginger boy sizing up the printer, he looks fascinated by it. I guess it makes a different sound where it is as opposed to where it was.

    1. Our dinner plates don’t fit in the cupboards. (And the cupboards are too high for Dean to reach the upper levels without a ladder. 5’5″ me has no hope. I don’t care about the dinner plates, though. If the cabinent is open half an inch, so be it. 🙂

      And yeah, Gavin (aka Ginger Boy) now runs toward the printer when he hears it start. You have to take your amusement where you find it, I guess. 🙂

  2. I read your blog religiously. You could say it’s apart of my structure. Wake up at 5 am. Write until 6. Edits previous week’s pages during my hour lunch break. at least 5-10 current event publishing related articles a day to keep in touch with what’s going on. Every Thursday? Check Kris’s blog. Two more hours of work after dinner. Rinse/Repeat Mon-Fri and then, spend 6 hours on Saturday and 12 hours working on Sunday. This has let me get a LOT of progress and remain productive because I’ve trained myself that those are ‘writing time’ and that’s when I clock in.

    I would have never been able to develop that mindset if I hadn’t found the Freelancer’s Guide in 2014. While I might have put in the work, having someone give verbiage and outline the structure of a plan? That helped me get from hobby-writer to someone who is almost at her 1 millionth’s word.

    I am really glad you’re talking about developing the structures again. My husband graduates next month and I have a feeling my next year will be in flux with moves and a new job that will, FINALLY, allow me to go ‘full time’ on my writing. I will re-read those sections of the FLSG of course, but it’s really great to see how you’ve adapted it all as time goes on.

    Good luck Kris. I’m so glad your health is improving with your new surroundings. You are my cyborg hero okay. ^_^

  3. I’m glad you’re settling in and finding your way to a new structure! On my end, I found I’d been floundering productivity-wise, so I picked up a school van driving job, thinking I’d get a CDL and drive a big yellow bus, and write between runs. I quit 3 weeks in (people, be nice to your school bus drivers. They put up with more than you can imagine. And yes, this was good writing research.) BUT. But structure. I got a lot more writing done getting up at 4, exercising, and putting in one good writing session, then another one between runs, then a short one after dinner, than I had been before the job.

    Except my butt hurt from all that sitting, and I guess I’ve been self-employed too long… so I left. If I can choke down sitting in traffic for 7 hours a day, I can joyfully do so while writing, right? (I seem to make an attempt at a Day Job every 2 years or so.)

    My structure revolves around my karate lessons, gym time, and also co-working with friends. This involves getting together at a venue where we can hunker down and do our jobs at the same table, but not socialize. That comes later, either over lunch, or while we take a walk before we get back in our cars, or back to our laptops. Co-working is a recommended practice for remote workers in many fields, and some companies even recommend hiring an office for a day in one of those start-up shared spaces. I co-work with a geologist who takes down dams, and with a photographer who sifts through tons of e-mail and handles client calls in the hallway. The peer pressure of keeping focused works. So does actually the commitment of showing up at a venue. The key is getting out of the house.

    1. I’ve been dithering without much progress on book revisions, until I got some day work. I just sub, but that provides some needed structure to my day (which, otherwise deteriorates into endless meandering around on the Web). Retiring last year initially provided a boost, but – every time my schedule changed (husband on summer break, visiting family out of town, having to take over bills and organizing taxes), I got out of the previous structure, without bringing a new structure.

  4. I’m glad things are settling down for you in LA!

    I hope you don’t mind me asking an unrelated question – do you have any collections of your own short stories out? After much googling and Amazon-searching and blundering about your website, I’ve managed to find ‘Familiarity’ but otherwise just anthologies where you have a single story or that you’ve edited.

    1. I have many collections out, from Recovering Apollo 8 and Other Stories to Secrets and Lies. I also have a bunch of shorter collections, usually labeled “Five” something or other. Just look up my name and “five” and that should get you to them. Thanks for the query.

        1. Looking forward to getting Five Female Sleuths and Five Diverse Detectives! And then a whole bunch of other Fives.

          Do you think it would be worth having short story collections as a fifth category under your ‘Books’ drop-down menu? And to possibly include lists of your award-winning standalones, or something?

          1. Of course, but I simply don’t have the time to add all of that right now (or any other now). I’m very behind on the informative part of this website, unfortunately. (I’d rather be writing…although I seem to still be moving.)

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