Friday, April 20, 2018

Working from Strength

Something occurred to me last night as I was trying to work on several projects at the same time with one eye on my calendar and a to-do-list scribbled on a piece of paper. What I realized -- and should have long ago -- is that I do need that calendar that I had once thought of putting up on my office wall. I need an "at-a-glance" way of planning.

That brings me to the title of this post. My strength is visualizing. If I can "see" it, it falls into place. If I can see it, I can get it done. The tasks I get done on time and with minimal stress happen because I'm so concerned that they will go right that I sweat every step, consider every scenario, and take proactive and preventive action. I think of this as "worrying"and usually save it for only the "too big to fail" projects. But what didn't occur to me until last night is that what I was actually doing was making mind pictures. My strength is "creative visualization" (with a nod to how that phrase is usually used).

This means that I need to get the biggest 2018 calendar I can find and put it up on my wall. Then I need to overlay that calendar with my important dates, using colored pens and appropriate images. A calendar version of a "vision board" that I can see at a glance. Then I will put together my own notebook organizing system that allows me to step into each task and walk my way through the steps -- "mind mapping" as I go and get the steps down on paper.

This sounds like a lot of work. A distraction from getting things done. But when I thought about it, I realized that on the days that go really well, this is what I do. The night before or that morning, I think about what I need to get done and map each "stop" during the day and what I'll need to move from place to place and accomplish what I should. Using this method, I remember the check I'm going to need when I get to the bank and the recipe I should look at before going to the grocery store because I see myself in each place. I've also used this method to remember books I want to look for in the library. And I sail through that day, much more efficiently than when I start out with a to-do-list that I haven't rehearsed.

I also realized I need to walk my way through each writing project I'm working on. This is an improvement on my usual outlining process and much more fun. Rather than saving this step for the revising process, I need to do it now. Play through the character's bios, imagining each character going through his life up to that moment, and then watch the entire movie. When I've done that, I'll be ready to go back and outline. In fact, I suspect this will also work with the non-fiction book. I've been bogged down because I had so much material to weave into a discussion of 400 years of dress and appearance in American crime and justice. Get those images up on my wall and write about them.

This morning something else occurred to me. I'm writing this sitting at the desk in my office at my desktop computer. I've been using my laptop a lot because it's mobile. But I need to be at this computer. When I imagine myself as a writer, I don't see myself working on my laptop. I see myself at my desk -- hands free to move over a keyboard that doesn't distract me because I need to think about it.  Sitting at my desk, I can "see" myself in the long line of writers at their desks.

I'm on my way to the office store to buy my giant wall calendar and my big notebook for organizing. I'm going to pick up anything else that might help me to visualize my way through the rest of the year. I've got a lot to get done -- finish a non-fiction book, finish a historical thriller, write two short stories that I promised to do for anthologies, teach a four-week writing class in June and take part in library events related to an award I'm receiving, conferences to attend -- and a lot of life upkeep and home improvements things that need to be done. But I'm feeling calm. I may be stressed out again tomorrow, but I'm pretty sure stopping to see my day and "walk through it" and then mapping out the tasks I need to get done will help.

Does anyone else use visualization to sweat the small stuff?

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