Friday, April 10, 2015

Working Intuitively

Rick's post earlier this week came at a time when I, too, was wondering how I was going to get everything done. I'm still wondering that, but I stumbled on something this week. I could be wrong, so I'm not offering this as a strategy. I'm just saying that I happened to do this and it worked well enough for me to experiment.

I have been focusing for the past week on a project that I need to get done. My co-editor on the project has finished his part and now I need to wrap up mine by next week. So I've been doing nothing else -- other than what is necessary to teach my two classes. I have been keeping up with obligations like guest posts, but other than that I have put my marketing plan for What the Fly Saw on hold until after next week. I've also not finished making some tweaks to my nonfiction book proposal that I intended to do quickly and send back to my agent. I've been focusing and getting work done. But in the back of mind all my undone tasks have been nagging away and stressing me out.

Then something unexpected happened. I was working on the project that I need to finish, and suddenly the solution to the problem I had been having with the nonfiction book proposal popped into my head. Normally, I would have stopped what I was doing and rushed to the proposal to catch the idea before it was gone. But this time, I had established a rhythm for what I was doing. I was "in flow" and I had made a bet with myself that I could finish the section that I was working on before I stopped.

Today I had planned to plunge right into the next section of the project. Except the day didn't go as I had intended. I had an appointment with a consultant about a cooling system for my house. And then I went to pick up prescription cat food from the vet, stopped at the supermarket -- been trying to get there for three days -- filled my nearly empty gas tank, dropped cat food and groceries at home, and went in to work. By the time I'd finishing sending a librarian the handout I needed copied and my power point for an author's talk on Saturday and checked in with a curator about media for a local history talk next week, it was almost three o'clock.

I was feeling guilty about not working on the project all day. But I found myself opening the file for my book proposal. I started writing and it was effortless. I zipped through several pages of the proposal, revising based on the idea that I thought was only half-formed. I even started revising one of the sample chapters. I was on a major roll. I stopped when I began to slow down. It was getting late anyway.

I drove home, put a frozen lasagna into the oven (takes 50 minutes that way but leaves more writing time than a microwave) and pulled out my project. But my head still wasn't there yet. So, with all the work I had to do, I watched today's episode of "The Young and the Restless". And then I played "bird" with my cat because he needed the exercise. Finally, at around 9:30, I settled down with the project again.

Technically, I had lost most of the day's work on the project. But I'm not feeling as stressed out as I would expect. In fact, I think that I might do better if I work intuitively. That would mean going with what is flowing at the moment. That would mean not allowing myself to be drawn away to something else because I've had an idea. Instead, give that idea time to germinate, assume that I need a break away from that (whatever it is) and that my subconscious will be working away until I get back to it.

Whether this is true or not, I'm going to let myself believe it for the next week. At least, I'll go to bed and get some sleep. I know that five hours or less of sleep a night is not making me more efficient. So to bed, to sleep, and wake up tomorrow and see if I zip through the next section of my big project.

Anyone else tried working intuitively? I'll report back on my own experiment. And I think I'll pick up this book. According to the blurb, the author has some thoughts about intuition and creativity.


Rick Blechta said...

Great post, Frankie! You've given me a good idea to try. Thank you.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Hope it works, Rick -- for both of us!

Rick Blechta said...

I've been using this since early this morning (like really early -- like 5:00 a.m. early) and it appears to be working...

Eileen Goudge said...

Great post, Frankie. For me, mixing it up equals increased productivity. The key is alternating creative work with tasks that don't involve too much brain power. When I need a break from writing, I bake bread.