New Way to View my To-Do List

There's a trojan on your computer

Figured out a new, simple way to organize my to-do list, and I thought I’d share it with you this afternoon. Instead of writing down a bunch of tasks or setting up categories based on area of my life and whatnot, I focus on my motivation for the things I have to do by basing it on what it means to me.

Mind: Work

Skull Emblem The category of the mind is related to The Day JobTM and bills. These are the tasks that I need to do in order to earn a living and maintain my current (and future) lifestyle. It doesn’t matter what the nature of that work is, whether it’s computer-related or not, because here I’m assigning a value to it.

Why didn’t I turn this into a dollar sign? For a few reasons. First, not everything I do for work has a financial value. There are some tasks, like reading or learning a new tool, etc. that help me expand my skillset, but they don’t earn a profit. The second reason why I’m not attaching a dollar sign to these tasks, is because I’m trying to train myself to focus on other forms of value as opposed to relying on dollars and cents. There’s a saying I hear repeated often, and that is: “Americans live to work, and the rest of the world works to live.” I’d much rather integrate what I do into my lifestyle to find the joy in it now, than burn myself out because I’m “supposed to” do the job for a life I may not even want.

Heart: Desire

lovemeheart
What’s in my heart? This is where I put all the things I want to do for myself, that aren’t necessarily attached to a financial value. The heart is all about desire. What I want to write, as opposed to what I have to write. What I want to do, even if it’s a small thing, instead of focusing on my obligations.

The reason why the type of tasks (or kind of work) doesn’t matter, is because the things I want to do may overlap with The Day JobTM. For example, I write, revise, and develop books and games for a living, seeing many games and supplements through to publication. This is what I get paid to do. Even though I enjoy my job, writing for myself is sometimes hard to justify because it’s on spec. That means, even if I finish the work and devote that time to it, I don’t see the value because I haven’t trained myself to see it. When I do have time, I may continue poking at a manuscript but, like a lot of writers I know, it becomes a challenge to figure out what to work on next that’ll benefit me the most. By attaching something as simple as a heart to my daily to-do list, I’m telling myself: “No, you really want this. Let’s break this up into smaller goals, so you’re still working towards The End without losing sight of the bigger picture.”

Last but not least…

Body: Health

handprintThis should be a no-brainer, but for someone like me who’s required to use her brain a lot… Well, it’s surprising how easy it is to forget about health-related matters. Like the things I want to do, they have to be done. But, unlike a necklace I design or a song I play, the benefits aren’t always immediate. By putting it on my to-do list, I’m reminding myself to do it today, not tomorrow.

Mind, Heart, Body. Sounds simple enough, right? What I need to do for work (Mind), what I want to do for myself (Heart), and what I have to do to be healthy (Body). Breaking up my task list into these three spheres helps me avoid spending too much time in one category or the other. I’ve found, too, it allows me to simplify what I need to accomplish. Love it or hate it, emotions are part and parcel of being human, and attaching value beyond the almighty dollar, calorie, or word count is my way of being realistic and… Well? More human.

    Mood: Mah brainpan is sizzling!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Oh well. That’s a fight I gave up.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Wrote a lot, but managed to go for a short walk. Should repeat that today!
    In My Ears: Echoes by Digitalism
    Game Last Played: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
    Book Last Read: Currently reading Undertow by Elizabeth Bear.
    Movie Last Viewed: The Avengers
    Latest Artistic Project: Beading!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing.
    Latest Game Release: Things Don’t Go Smooth
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, and novels.


When You Can’t Get No Satisfaction

spyvsspy

John Adamus wrote a post today about The Writer and Fairness, in which he mentions how a lot of writers aren’t content because they’re not treated fairly, and why that shouldn’t be an issue.

I agree for the most part but, in my experiences, the issue of being treated fairly is often made complicated whenever finances or marketing of oneself, others, or a product (e.g. books) is involved. Additionally, it is absolutely true that sexism, racism, and all those other -isms exist. Sometimes, an author gets slighted (or receives unjust praise) not because the work is (or is not of) superior quality, but because the publishing industry, self-published or not, is run by people. Not robots, not hamsters on a wheel, or cultists — but mercurial human beings with all manner of beliefs and personalities.

Though it will increase your chances, I do not believe your success solely relies on writing the best story possible. Success is not achievable unless you define what “success” means. I feel you absolutely need to determine its parameters in order to be truly happy, manage expectations, and achieve your goals. Not everyone wants the same things. Again, this is another reason why people get extraordinarily nutty on occasion — peer at your creative works through the eyes of anyone else, and you will see a distorted image. We do this (I’ve done it once or twice) because honest feedback is rare even in an internet age. Occasionally, we seek guidance to know we’re headed in the right direction, even when you’re the only person who understands where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.

When you hear something positive about the work you’re doing, it can be very encouraging. But when it’s not? Or when it’s fake or what have you? I think you know what happens when negativity hurts, because you’ve seen the result of that. You’ve seen “author bad behavior” where they go off on fans. You’ve heard about writers attacking other writers. This has happened before and it will happen again. Either way, positive or negative, those comments shouldn’t stop you from the act of creation. That, my readers, all circles back to you. This is where I feel the test of a truly contented artist lies: that you will go on, in spite of all the bullshit, because you are an artist, painter, sculptor, writer, etc. and you will not let anyone or anything get between you and your creative works.

Whenever I’m dealing with major dissatisfaction, I ask myself a few questions to hone in on the real problem. For smaller annoyances, I either rant or make a sarcastic comment or play a game or dive into a new project or whatever — and then I move forward as quickly as possible. Sometimes, I get stuck and I have to work through a tough decision about cutting personnel or severing ties with a publisher, etc. Other times, I require focus. e.g. Not be online. In the end, the work has to come first for me – which is where these queries come from.

1) What did I expect to get out of the situation in the first place? – If the answer is: I did this as a favor, took a lower rate, or let a lot of mistreatment go without saying anything, etc. etc. etc. Then, clearly, I should not expect to be treated well in return, because I did not put my own considerations first in a reasonable and healthy way. By taking too many shortcuts and one too many niceties, I’m basically sending out an unconscious message that I’m too accommodating or that I don’t care about myself or my work. Ergo: I’m supporting an illusion that I’m a doormat. Instead, the solution here is to remind myself of two things: one) I am self-employed and two) I have every right to take my career seriously. Because if I don’t — no one else will, either. That L’Oreal advertising phrase “I’m worth it!” from years back? Applies.

2) Is the company/person professional? – There are a lot of different types of authors out there. There are, also, a variety of publishers. Some run a business, full-time, and earn their income off what they do. Others? Well, you’ve seen market listings 4theluv. Some publishers don’t expect to make any money. Toss finances aside, for a second, and focus on the word “professional.” Size of publisher matters not. Volume and quality of publications matters not. People, on the other hand, are everything and it’s quite possible that no, they aren’t going to be professional. I’ve found that most don’t care where you’ve been or what direction you’re heading for; they deal with you as you are now according to their own objectives. Unprofessionalism explains a lot of industry-related treatment; while inexcusable from my perspective, even bullies get book deals. Knowing that, there’s really only one thing I have every right to be worried about: the words on my screen. Sometimes, though, certain comments and remarks are taken out of context and that can cause hurt feelings on both sides. Publishing is a people business. And people don’t always say or do the right thing. The majority of times, I believe mistakes are unintentional; sometimes, though, they are.

3) Has this sort of thing happened before? – In my experiences, problems can either be endemic or specific. When they are endemic, the answer is “YES!” But you don’t know that unless you talk to people or have loads of experience. When they’re specific, well, there’s still a bunch of factors that could have borked the situation. It’s fundamentally true that you will not get along with everyone; sometimes, you have to find the people that you DO get along with, but that requires social skills and/or copious amounts of alcohol. (I jest on that last. And not joking about the social skills.) This industry is pretty small and, if you’ve been around long enough, you’ll probably make a few friends, enemies, and (though I loathe to use this word) frenemies. You’ll hear rumors, conjecture, gossip. You’ll find opportunities, get recommendations, and exchange favors. And, eventually, you’ll start to navigate the industry the same way you do your day job (if you have one) or your social life. Having a support network, whether they’re in the industry or not, really helps ground me.

4) Am I happy with the quality of my work? My ability to produce words? Upcoming projects/contracts? Financial solubility? Where I’m at with my career? – These yes or no questions sum up the crux of any dissatisfaction issue for me. In order, right now, as if 1/21/2013: yes/yes/yes/no/no. Ah! So I’ve just confessed I’m happy with my work, but I’m not satisfied with my overall career.

This little reality check nails what I need to focus on and identifies the possible source — the real epicenter — of my distress. No room for “maybes.” If I say “maybe” for any one of those questions, I count that answer as a “no.” The more yes’s I have, the more content I usually am. Win win, I say. More words on the screen cures all ills.

Or, as they quip here in double digit freezing temperatures… Time for chocolate mint cookies.

    Mood: cold
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Not enough
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Blargh. Housework.
    In My Ears: Nothing.
    Game Last Played: Bears!
    Movie Last Viewed: Lorax
    Latest Artistic Project: Holiday gifts
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

The Idea of Limited Words

I have a few mentors that I touch base with from time to time. One of them recently said to me that I was smart to balance my workload based on free vs. paid and original vs. tie-in, because we only have so many words we will write.

The idea that a writer has a limited amount of words they’ll write in their lifetime is, quite frankly, horrifying to me. What happens on the days that I didn’t write? Should I feel guilty that I neglected to pour myself into a story?

Even though the idea of limited words has implications, I think those are worth exploring because writing on “borrowed time” raises several questions like:

  • Am I writing what I want to write? Or what others want me to write?
  • Have I gotten paid for what I’m worth?
  • Am I satisfied with the submission choices I’ve made?
  • Do I know what markets are a good fit for my work?
  • Am I stretching and experimenting with my limits?
  • How am I measuring progress? By my own publications or someone else’s?
  • Where do I want to be as a writer in five years? Ten?
  • What form of writing do I enjoy the most? Least?
  • If I died tomorrow, would I be satisfied with my work?

The other thing that I feel this concept does, is help you shape how you spend your time. While you’ll never know when you reach your limit of words, I suspect that the fear one day you’ll run out of them may help shape not only what you write, but where you submit and how much you get paid for it.

Monday’s Manic Musings of Magnificence

After staying up into the wee hours of the night re-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I was a little groggy this morning. So? Down, down, down I went, down the road of hyper-caffeinated.

And now I’m flying. WHOO-HOOO! The end result being these magnificently manic musings that shall now assault your senses for Monday’s post. While listening to Muse. You’ve been warned…

We’re in the process of moving website servers, so it looks like all the traffic-related issues are going to disappear shortly. I’m pretty excited about that, because it’s been a pain dealing with load times. I’m going to be writing a new monthly column and plan on celebrating that with an appropriate theme week. Plus, we’ve got a great promotion coming up in July for FlamesRising.com and I suspect our traffic will spike.

When I started going back to conventions this year, I got the chance to sit down and talk shop with people I’ve gotten to know. I had a really good conversation with Monte Cook and Matt Forbeck over dinner, and it’s still sticking with me. One of the things Matt pointed out was that I’m probably hypersensitive to rampant self-promoters because of my background in online marketing.

Yeah, this is true. However, I think there’s something to be said for the brave souls who are trying to navigate through the upheaval in the industry. It does take a lot of gumption/cajones/audacity to put yourself out there and say “buy my book.” (Or books, as the case may be.) I’m not comfortable with super-aggressive tactics because that’s not my personality. When I walk into a store, for example, I hate being hounded by salespeople. I want the time to browse and decide for myself what I need/want to get.

My style of sales is to build relationships with people. I want to get to know my readers, because I feel they’re my clients. I’m not going to make every reader happy, but hearing from them is so, so important because books are the end result of a symbiotic relationship between writers and readers. Without readers, I wouldn’t exist.

Sales and marketing techniques are definitely author’s choice, because different things work for different people. It’s the same thing like developing a writing career. Some authors are happy publishing one book; others are in it for the long haul.

The biggest trick, I feel, is finding that balance of what you’re happy with. The more I learn about my work as an author, the more I learn about myself. I think that’s pretty tricky for most authors to figure out, but for me? I didn’t “choose” to be a writer. This vocation chose me. (Or more like, demanded that I do this or else.)

Like many authors, a lot of things got in the way of that vocation. Job. Life. Etc. No, there’s never supposed to be an excuse, but no matter what I’m doing — I always come back to it. I can’t quit my word addiction, because when/if I do, I no longer feel whole.

Right now, I don’t feel whole persay, because my writing has been touch-and-go due to a bout of Eeyore-itis. But now? I’m energized and ready to rock my keyboard. Ready. To. ROCK.

Of course, it helps that I know exactly what I want to write. 🙂 BOO-YAH!

Day 74 of 100: Reinforcing Silence

Today’s post will point you to an article on the SFWA.org blog that I feel is extraordinarily relevant to being creative. The author, Leo Babauta, spoke to several writers, actors, musicians, etc. on the value of solitude and what it can do for you. Then, he goes on to explain how participation is also crucial. You can’t have one without the other and, if this social media sabbatical has taught me anything, I am finding that to be the case in my own life.

Here’s a quote from the article:

I’ve reflected on my own creative habits, but decided I’d look at the habits that others consider important to their creativity. I picked a handful of creatives, almost at random — there are so many that picking the best would be impossible, so I just picked some that I admire, who came to mind when I thought of the word “creative”.

This was going to be a list of their creative habits … but in reviewing their lists, and my own habits, I found one that stood out. And it stands out if you review the habits and quotes from great creative people in history. — SOURCE: The Number One Habit of Creative People

There’s several great quotes in the article and it does offer quite a few tips. The Number One Habit of Creative People is definitely worth a read if you have your time.

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