Friday, May 13, 2022

Going Somewhere Slow

 She's back!  It's me (Frankie), and after missing at least three or four alternate Fridays, I'm getting back to posting. I blame my neglect on a week when I was under the weather. By the time I had been taken to the emergency room because I was dizzy and feared I was going to pass out and then spent two nights being tested (with nothing conclusive), I needed to have some down time. And then came the end of semester. 

I'm still reading the research papers I required of the students in each of my classes. But yesterday a colleague in another academic unit observed that we seem to have a similar process. When we are working on something important and need a break from the monotony and/or boredom, we tend to take a break and work a little on the next important thing on our list. That keeps us going in spite of ourselves, and we manage to be productive.

My problem, as it has been through most of 2022, is that my list of important things to do has tasks that need to be done. I need to clean up -- or out -- my home office so that I can find what I need for my various writing projects. I have boxes of research stashed in the closet for the nonfiction book on gangsters and the 1939 historical thriller and my 6th Lizzie Stuart novel and for the first book in what I hope will be a new series set in the 1940s and 50s. But -- even though I should know better -- I haven't been as methodical as I should have about sorting and filing so that I know what I have to draw on. That means when I want to break and work on the next important thing, the most important thing seems to be to get the office prepared -- books in order and shelves and desk dusted, deleted messages and junk/spam off my computer, paper in printer, closet boxes sorted and ready to pull out as needed.  Lovely flowers in a vase on my desk like in those glossy magazines. 

Of course, it will take me a week to do all this. More if I pick up and sort the books and papers that have found their way from the bookcases in the dining room and the bookcase/room divider that separates dining room from living room. Not that those divisions matter in my small house. Every room except the two bathrooms has books and papers that need organizing. So, when I look at the next thing on my list, it's always to "get organized". No matter which organizing system I'm looking at -- including the one for "creative people," it seems easier to toss everything and start over with a system that works in mind. And, of course, having a system I would need to use it. 

I've made many a fault start. But with the end of semester this weekend, once I have my grades in, I will try once more. In between sorting, tossing, and donating, I hope I'll use my breaks to get in some exercise. And my exercise -- particular walking -- as time to mentally sort out my plots. I'm an outliner and I can't -- even when I try -- plunge in with no direction in mind. Over the past few months, this has brought me to a standstill as I debate a prologue or a frame story and who among my characters has the opening scene in the historical thriller. 

I also need to do some exciting -- fingers crossed -- tasks related to the trip I hope I will be able to make to England for the Agatha Christie Festival in September. The question is should I purchase the plane ticket now or wait to see if fares stay high. I'm counting on my travel agent to have some thoughts about that. Getting ready, preparing my presentation, I have a lot of books to re-read or read for the first time. 

The most logical approach is to make a list and work from it. I enjoy checking off mundane tasks. But the last time I make a to-be-done list, I had almost 50 items. I would love to have an assistant who could handle the cleaning and sorting and organizing. I can find someone to clean, but the sorting and organizing is another matter. To do it in a way that would be really useful, I would need someone who could read my mind. Someone who would understand how one writing project related to another and why an article or research info was in one box instead of the other. 

Maybe I can figure out how to convey that while I'm cooking. I tried meal delivery services (e.g., Hello Fresh and Daily Harvest). They're useful because the bag for each meal comes with all the ingredients, including the little packets of spices, garlic butter, and sour cream. The only problem was that the boxes for the next week kept arriving before I finished the one before. However, a trip to the supermarket this morning sent me home with sticker shock. So now I really am serious about gardening -- and thinking while I dig and plant about how I'm doing that important thing while taking a break from the organizing that was a break from the research that was a break from the writing. 

Or maybe I'll just take a week or two off to think about getting ready for summer and my sabbatical.


Anna said...

Fellow sufferer here, Frankie. Notes for my writing projects are scattered through three rooms, mixed in with notes for recipes, getting more exercise, finances, treasured greeting cards....and what am I doing about it? Postponing this week's trip to the dump. Making a list. Putting a binder clip on a stack of aging lists that are possibly obsolete but might still contain important items.

Your strategy of taking a break from a project to move ahead on another project sounds good and practical. I often do something similar but will be more conscious about it. Thanks.

Too many moving parts and overlapping parts on the project list? Ouch. Please don't save it all up for your sabbatical. Good luck! Onward!

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Onward, Anna! If I can finish grading my students research papers before Monday -- when I have to report for jury duty -- after that I will be able to finish a summary that I need to write for a committee. And then I can focus on my stuff.

Good luck with the sorting.

Charlotte Hinger said...

I made a heroic attempt to get my basement in such shape that a guest could find the futon. I felt so good, I'm hoping the impulse will carry over into other rooms.