Schedules work well – until they don’t anymore.
The problem is that schedules, like good habits, take a long time to become second nature and are very easily broken. The fallout from a broken schedule can be numbing.
A schedule that is working well is wonderful. It provides structure and focus. The issues arise when life interferes and throws the schedule out-of-whack. An interrupted schedule can lead to self-reproach. Self-reproach can lead to inactivity. Inactivity leads to more self-reproach. This cycle of inactivity and self-reproach is a slippery slope, one that is hard to recover from.
This is what I am struggling with right now. I had a great schedule, a schedule that was working and working well. It accommodated all the priorities I needed it to – writing, business, even working out. It wasn’t an easy schedule to figure out, it took lots of trial and error and a good helping of angst. When I transitioned to running my own business after working full-time for nearly three decades; I found that I was too used to spending eight to ten hours per day on other people’s priorities. I had to unlearn those habits and learn to focus on my own priorities. It’s still ongoing, but I had reached a point where I had a working schedule.
It was wonderful. I spent time with my writing every day. The edits on my novel were chugging along. I was working on the next installment in the series. I was working on the list of agents I plan to query. The group blog was up and running. I was even gathering new ideas and working on a short story.
Then we moved. Aargh. What can I say?
I am sitting amidst the piles of half unpacked boxes and struggling to resist the urge to beat myself up because I just can’t seem to get back into my writing schedule. I still can’t find my external hard drive (which I know contained a really awesome post for the blog). I’ve already missed two blog posts. I haven’t even looked at my work-in-progress for FOUR weeks.
My wonderful schedule is probably still packed in a box somewhere.
But I’m not going to feel guilty about it any longer. I just finished reading a section of one of my favorite books on writing – Telling Lies for Fun & Profit by Lawrence Block. The whole book is fantastic (pick it up when you can) but this time around Part Two (Fiction as a Discipline) spoke to me the loudest. In Chapter 16 Mr. Block discusses dry spells and the words that I needed to hear were these “I can always devise a schedule for myself that I am incapable of carrying out.” Just the mere fact that such a prolific and esteemed writer experiences problems with expectations and life interrupting a set schedule – but still continues to write – gives me hope.
And hope is what I need right now. Hope that this time around I’ll realize that the only worthwhile schedule is one that allows for life’s interruptions without breaking.