Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Epiphanies

Aside from getting through a couple of disastrous months, I've been working on refining my writing process. My primary motivation for messing with my methods was to boost my productivity, but I've also clung to some old-school habits that really belong in the bottom of a tar pit, such as sticking strictly to paper for everything but composition.

It's tough to let go of putting everything on paper, and I have seventy-one books' worth of rough draft/edited/final manuscripts, novel notebooks and research materials in my closets to prove it. I love every towering pile of my paper stuff, too, and I will keep some of it for posterity, if only to amuse future generations. But even a dinosaur like me has to admit that keeping electronic files instead of printing out everything is faster, cheaper and more efficient. When I learned a good friend has gone entirely electronic, I decided to do the same. Much, much easier.

Going all-digital led to another epiphany. Since nearly losing eight years of my writing in a computer disaster I've been religious about backing up everything I write to multiple hard drives, CDs, memory sticks and anywhere else I could put it -- daily, and sometimes hourly. Backing up is great at first. Then you begin to accumulate backed up stuff. I now have a lovely collection of about 684 memory sticks, a million CDs, and countless obsolete towers that I'm afraid to erase because I haven't had time to look through every file to assure I did back up all of those. After twenty years as a pro my back-ups are mountainous, and last year Irma really had me worried about what would happen to them if we did lose the house to some disaster.

The solution was pretty easy: backing up the entirety to a secure offsite file storage service. For about a hundred bucks a year everything I've ever written now remains backed up in secured storage, away from my house, and accessible only by those I trust. I've also made one master copy that I keep in another place that shall remain nameless. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, the writing will survive me in my books. But now if my house burns down or gets leveled by a hurricane, I won't lose twenty years of backups.

Another major change I've made to my process is changing when and how I work. Over time I've gradually migrated from being a night writer to an early morning writer. I'd do other things in the morning, too, which sometimes ate into my writing time or distracted me. Now the first thing I do after I wake up and soak my head in a vat of tea is write my daily scheduled quota. I use the Pomodoro Timer to remind me to get up and stretch regularly, and to have breakfast and lunch breaks, but other than that I don't stop writing until I hit quota. The big bonus is that when I am done writing, I have the rest of the day to do whatever I want.

Being an empty nester now it's easier for me to devote mornings and early afternoons to the work. There was also an immediate benefit I didn't count on: without the distractions and multi-tasking I started writing faster and cleaner. Because I'm no longer scattering my household tasks in with my writing I get my chores done quicker and better, too.

Finally (and mainly because my guy retired last month) I made one new, not-to-be-broken rule about my work time. If my home office door is open, anyone can interrupt me at any time. If it's closed, anyone can interrupt me only if there's a major emergency. Major as in the house is about to burn down, there's a burglar on the premises, an asteroid is close to hitting the planet, etc. I leave my door open most of the time, but if I'm in the middle of something that needs all my attention, then I close it for an hour or two. So far my guy has been great about respecting this one rule, too. As I'm now our sole source of unfixed income, and he's home to actually see everything I do all day, he understands my busy schedule better. I think he's realized at last that I do have a real job, and I need to have the time/space/focus to do it well.

Have you had any epiphanies lately that have improved what you do at home or work? Let us know in comments.

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