What it takes

One of my favorite classes to give at conferences is Time Management for Creative People. It’s usually packed because I speak at high school journalism conferences and those kids tend to be a lot like me. My desk is crazy to the non-creative thinker, but to me it’s perfect. Stacks coordinated by class, by importance, by the need to get to something quickly. I know where everything is, and amazingly, most of my editors do too. But Lord help if I have to be absent.
I start my time management class by telling my students all about priorities and how important it is that we have them. That we can build an entire time management system around priorities.
For years I’ve gotten thank you’s from kids and fellow teachers who wanted me to know I was right.
So how come I’ve been neglecting my own list of priorities?
It’s nothing new really.
When I first started writing, I threw myself into the idea of being published. For two years my family gave me all the space I needed and I took it. I forgot all about being mom and wife and me. I was focused on being “Published by Harlequin in Whatever Line Would Take Me.”
Two years later I was multi-rejected by Harlequin in all lines except the ones in London. Not quite, but almost. I also had five complete manuscripts and one incomplete. All revised and revised and revised again before getting the big R.
I took a year off after that. I didn’t really mean to, but I did. One day I was chasing the dream, the next I’d forgotten the dream and settled back in to the Pretend to be Writer by sending out previously rejected material. My family was thankful and I read a bunch of good books of fiction and a few thousand How to Get Published books. I learned all about Scene and Sequel and GMC and Beginnnings, Middles and Ends. I glommed SEP and discovered Deborah Smith and I rolled in the floor as I read Jennifer Crusie’s Tell Me Lies. And every day I called myself a writer even though I wasn’t writing anything.
That year I toyed with not renewing my RWA membership. DH called it an expensive club. That’s when I realized somehow I’d quit. I can’t stand quitting. I don’t know why. But I opened my documents folder and realized I hadn’t written anything new in a year and decided I’d had enough of that. I went to my first National conference that summer. I spent the next three years writing all over the place. I finished several manuscripts, reacquainted myself with the rejection-revision-rejection-request-rejection merry-go-round. I discovered I had voice, and I liked it. The books I wrote were fun or turbulent. I had fun. I thought I’d discovered the road to publication. I was sure I’d find an editor who would love my work and then I’d know the secret.
Then this year hit. Dallas National was great. I was sure I’d sell the suspense action adventure I’d written. I started a new suspense. I had the kick butt heroine down and I loved her and she loved me and we were going to find the success I wanted together.
Only we didn’t.
Once again rejection came knocking.
About the same time the school year from heck kicked my butt.
It wasn’t a great combination for dream chasing, and I found myself back on the old road to pretend writing, resending things already rejected.
For months I played at writing. My critique group practically shriveled up and died. Somehow we stayed together, but only one of us really worked.
And then a few weeks ago a new idea came knocking. I pushed it away at first because it was different from anything I’d written before. But it didn’t go away.
Now I know I’m going to write that book. It scares me because it’s different, but it’s a challenge too.
Just sitting down in front of my computer and writing is going to be a challenge. I have a list of priorities for this summer. At the top of the list is writing. But that’s nothing new.
It’s been at the top of my list for almost eight years.
The key to time management is taking that list and working it, step by step, minute by minute, day by day.
If I don’t work it, it’s just a list and nothing’s going to happen simply by making lists.
I’ve got work to do.

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