Business Musings: Getting Lots Done (A Process Blog)

Business Musings free nonfiction On Writing

I decided to take another Spanish class this fall. I had been on the fence about taking any classes this fall, because of COVID and the election and some massive deadlines that I have. Plus, I’m teaching as well, so I’m exceedingly busy.

After two frustrating random conversations, one as I tried to tell someone about a problem I’d seen, and the other as I tried to help a man find his way to the courthouse, I remembered why I wanted to take Spanish when I moved to Las Vegas. The language is useful here. And my vocabulary stinks.

I know the language’s structure. I know how lovely it is and I can read it, but I can’t easily communicate in it. And that is what I need to fix.

That’s what I used to convince myself to take the class, and oh, am I glad I did, for other reasons besides vocabulary.

The class started online on August 24, and while I miss being in person, the students and the professor are dedicated to having some kind of interaction. Class is not like it was in the spring, when we were all shell-shocked by the rapid change in our lives. Some of the students in this class had been in classes over the summer, and knew what worked or what didn’t. A few I recognize from the strange spring semester. And this professor insists on interaction. (Plus she knows how to work the technology; my spring professor did not.)

The class is putting my days into focus. I need to accomplish this or that before an actual in-person deadline.

Last spring’s class had done the same for me, and I knew I would miss it. I didn’t realize how much.

Time is just flowing both incredibly fast (I have no idea how we reached the fall semester already) and incredibly slow (will this damn year end already?). Because there are very few markers, I have not had the usual punctuation to my days.

The lack of punctuation is made worse by the fact that summer is the worst season in Las Vegas. It’s so hot here that taking a walk to lunch (even for take-out) is impossible. Taking a walk in the evening to see the neighborhood, as Dean and I did in the spring, is impossible. I’ve been running in the morning, at or just after dawn, because I wanted to avoid the worst of the heat. But doing that every day makes that routine, not something that will mark how the days change.

So imagine my surprise as I dug into my calendars this week to add all the Spanish deadlines. My goal this summer was to turn in every editing project I had, some early, so I wouldn’t have to worry about them in the fall.

I did that.

I also needed to turn in two novels that I had finished, after I reviewed them from Dean’s first read.

I did that.

I owed six short stories for a variety of projects. I needed to finish those before the fall.

I did that.

That doesn’t count the projects I finished in the spring, during the nightmare semester. An entire book, another series of shorts, and two drafts of other projects, as well as some sideways editing.

And I never count all the promotion that I’m doing—some of which I wasn’t able to do because I was too buried. But I did a lot (with the assistance of my cats, Gavin and Cheeps, who ended up developing a following as they struggled to become co-workers on promotion. {okay, they didn’t really struggle. Mostly they posed for glamor shots and allowed me to make up crap about them.})

I even got in some leisure reading, on our balcony after dark in the heat, shoes off, ice-water at my side, the neighborhood alive with bicycles. (If you close the bars in Las Vegas, everyone under the age of 35 rides bikes for entertainment. I am not kidding.)

I am usually very prolific. I get a lot done even on bad days. But I reward myself with a movie here and there or with a trip to the theater or listening to a concert. I’ve been running races here in Las Vegas, not to go fast or to win, but as entertainment. I’ll have dinner with friends or listen to a lecture about something I may write about some day or try a new restaurant.

All of those things were markers, punctuation, a way of getting things done. The concert date would be in my calendar, but what was in my head was this: I need to finish that short story before the concert, so I can take the evening off and enjoy.

I would finish by that date, and then I would take the evening off, and those two events would be linked in my mind.

Remove the concert (or the play or the lecture or the dinner with friends) and I actually forget what I’ve accomplished.

I did not realize until this summer that I had spent the last 40 years of freelancing tying my deadlines to my rewards so firmly that I have trouble remembering one without the other.

This summer showed me that. This year showed me that. But the summer in particular, because I had no classes and no dinners with friends, no runs and no promises of anything different.

The Spanish class provides some of those changes. I absolutely have to finish things on a schedule or I won’t do as well as I want. I also will get behind on my work deadlines. I have two in-person online classes a week, and that will help a little.

Also, we’re in a new phase here in Las Vegas. People are figuring out how to live in this interim period. It looks like we’ll have races this fall, with masks and proper distancing. Not the big ones, like the Rock N Roll Marathon (tens of thousands of people) or the charity runs put on by amateurs, but the runs by the running groups that make a small profit from what they do. They’re figuring out how to follow the rules and give us some outdoor entertainment that might help us through the last four months of this nightmare year.

Still, I had a meltdown a week or two ago. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. It wasn’t a temper-tantrum meltdown or anything incredibly visible. I was just…unsettled. Vaguely angry. (Which describes my mood in 2020 anyway, but I was even more vaguely angry, if that makes sense.)

It took a discussion with Dean during which I got more and more agitated. I said, I haven’t even ordered calendars yet. I’m late on doing that.

And then I stopped, because that was the problem. In July, I order my calendars for the next year. I fill them out, and plan for the future, and figure out what my schedule is, if I can.

In 2020, I spent most of this year scratching things off my calendar, and floating in the perpetual now. I hadn’t realized just how unsettled that made me.

Once I had that outburst, I realized what I’ve always known. Life goes on, whether you want it to or not. 2021 will arrive (for some, anyway. We’re losing a lot of lives here in the U.S. due to ignorance, incompetence, and incredible selfishness).

I will be able to plan some things for 2021 for certain. Another Spanish class. My own writing deadlines. Many business deadlines. Maybe some runs. Maybe some other in-person things. Maybe (fingers crossed).

Ordering the calendars made me hopeful. When the first one arrived, I actually felt joy.

Then I laughed at myself. I had so looked forward to 2020. I usually like election years, and even though this one promised to be bitter and nasty and a nightmare, it was (in theory) democracy in action.

I did not expect a hellscape.

So I fill out the 2021 calendars with anticipation of a good year, and in the back of my mind, I worry that I’m looking forward to another hellscape.

Then I remind myself: Hellscapes are possible every year. Usually, they’re not worldwide. Usually, the hellscape can be personal—through a serious injury or the loss of a home or a job, or (worst of all) the loss of a loved one. Usually, though, one family goes through those things while their next-door neighbors have a typical year or even a good one.

We don’t all march into hell at the same time—or we haven’t, in my lifetime, before now.

After the 2016 election, which I found devastating, I read Regency romance for two full months. I look at Regencies as a fantasy world, not historical fiction, and the happily ever after of a romance as the perfect escape.

This year, I can’t read romance. I’m reading mysteries or crime fiction and a lot of ghost stories. I get it: the mysteries and crime are all about putting order on chaos. The ghost stories are about loss and moving on.

I’m not writing those things, though. I’m not writing about the here and now or even the historic past. I’m writing sf right now and I’ll segue to fantasy when I’m done with the current sf project.

I recognize what’s saving my sanity here, what are coping mechanisms and what aren’t.

I’m still a bit stunned though, at how much work I’m getting done, and how little I’m actually processing it—or rewarding myself for it.

I don’t need suggestions for rewards, by the way. I know what works for me. And I’m trying to avoid food as a reward, because that seems like one of the few things this year has allowed me—I can continue eating Vegas’s great food.

It’s a sign to me, I think, as to how much the old rhythm of life has changed. I know some of this will return, as we get the damn virus under control. I know too, that my lack of patience is a privilege. Others don’t have the time or the bandwidth to even notice what’s going on. They’re rushing from one crisis to the next.

I’m trying to wait. I’m trying to be patient. I’m trying to follow the rules so neither Dean nor I will become a statistic.

Most days I’m good at it.

But some…well, some require acceptable agitation.

I’m going to walk the hallways now, because it’s too hot to get the rest of my steps outside. Then I’m going to think in another language for an hour or so, before I have some pizza for dinner.

Life is easy here right now. It really is. It’s just not the life I expected in January.

And I’m still finding that very, very weird.


Throughout this pandemic, WMG has been offering the occasional sale on our online writing workshops. We want you stay inside and stay safe. According to the information I saw just this morning (9/2), here in the U.S. quarantine fatigue is setting in and people are becoming reckless. Don’t let that happen to you! (No matter what.)

We are hoping this is the last time we need to do this. I keep looking at the devastation around us and…well, anyway. Half off until next Tuesday. Here’s the link for more information.

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“Business Musings: Getting Lots Done (A Process Blog),” copyright © 2020 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © 2020 by Kristine K. Rusch.



6 thoughts on “Business Musings: Getting Lots Done (A Process Blog)

  1. I, too, have been unsettled and grumpy. The not-knowing is hard. The lack of a reliable crystal ball is frustrating. The news are largely useless and upsetting, and I’ve been cutting back or reading just the by-lines. I go through my days fighting nervous static that took up residence between my ears.
    But we’re healthy and I’m counting our various blessings.
    I work part time, so I get to see live people. Retail 2020 is like being part of the Borg. I should’ve told them, for my lanyard name, that I’m “SevenOfNine.” We are all on ear pieces, our devices are plugged into the same mega-system. The store may appear silent, but there is a steady hum of the hive as workers help each other using the radio (finding items, arranging for breaks, reporting mask violations to security). I find it curiously comforting – but only while I’m there. It drowns out my own static, I think, and the comfort I get from the “hive effect” is mostly that have to stay on-task and fully engaged.
    Being fully engaged is a zen skill I have somehow misplaced. I miss it.
    Writing happens almost every day, but not always the way I want it to. Sometimes I pace around the neighborhood and dictate, then transcribe using software, and do a solid pass-through. Sitting to write is hard, as I get distracted too much by worrying over things I cannot change anyway.
    We all adapt and learn new ways, new coping mechanisms.
    But this too shall pass.

  2. I understand your feeling vaguely angry. I have been trying to define what I’m feeling as well. We are newly retired, paid off our mortgage last fall, and really don’t have anything to complain about. I haven’t seen my parents since January, but we talk on the phone for a couple hours every week. And I still have both of them (86 & 93). They are relatively healthy and still in their own home. Our three kids and their spouses are all employed through this mess. And yet I’m stressed, and know my blood pressure is up. I started this isolation doing lots of baking & meal making, until the scale started to climb. Then I switched to housework, which I hate. But I can’t stay focused on a book of any sort. I’ve tried multiple genres. I keep reading the news, three times a day, and I think I need to stop that. I won’t be uninformed. I just won’t be agitated by all that’s going on. It’s 6 months since I first documented the virus in my calendar, and when & where I was out of the house. I still try to document the days I’m out, but I’m less stringent about it. I’ve only gone to be tested for the virus once. I keep hoping we’ll turn a corner and say, “There, that’s behind us now.” But it hasn’t happened yet, and it may not happen for years. That’s the scary part. Anyway, stay safe, keep writing (both fiction and non) and know your audience isn’t going anywhere.

  3. There was a funny tweet a few weeks back, in which a British bookstore noted that a man had bought a 2021 calendar and they complimented him on his optimism. I think I need to do that myself.

    It’s mostly hot here in north Texas, with the added bonus of thick, pollen-laden air (my blue car was practically green before I got it washed).
    I have two questions about living in Las Vegas.
    1. Is there a pollen season where allergies are aggravated?
    2. I’d heard stories about water rationing. Is that a concern for now or the future?
    I ask because I’m only a few years from retiring from my day job and I’m thinking about places to live in retirement. At the moment, climate/pollen and water-access are the two concerns.
    Although if you and Dean are still doing in-person classes then, being in Vegas would have that as a bonus.

    1. I loooooooooove living here. Yes, there are allergies, because the desert blooms. Right now, we’re getting smoke from the CA wildfires, combined with seasonal (!) ozone. I’m not that affected by any of it, but Dean is. I get nailed by the Scotch broom in the spring, which nailed me in Oregon too.

      There is water rationing–if you’re dumb enough to try to make your landscape look like something up north. If you get desert landscape or astroturf (yes people do) then water rationing has very little impact on you. If you own a house, that is. If you don’t (and we don’t. We’re in a condo) then there is no rationing. 33% of all water used is recycled in the city. The city/state is working on capturing more of the rainwater (which they didn’t used to do). All of the Strip casinos are working toward 85% water recycling in 5 years. Everyone is very environmentally conscious here, because we’re in a harsh landscape. Much of our power is solar as well, with more on the horizon.

      So…this is a great place to retire. I’d suggest a condo over a house (for upkeep’s sake). Other than that, you’re used to heat, which is the other concern (and dealable as well). I was/am very shocked at how livable the desert is. It’s truly wonderful, particularly from mid-September to mid-May. (I’d like the heat to end right now.)

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