Time and relative dimensions in fiction

Woman juggling clock faces

I didn’t update on fiction last month, in part because not very much had gone on and in part because I was neck-deep in edits and back matter for my novella collection, Sodom and Gomorrah on a Saturday Night. Because I do most of my fiction work in the early morning, I had limited time in which to turn my work around.

Simultaneously, I was hearing back from my illustrator, Christian Barratt, on his work with Raccoon Retreat. His work continues to impress me, not just in terms of the artwork itself, but also for the amount of thought he puts into it — the way he works to put my words in pictorial form.

Between the two, I began to worry that I was shortchanging them both.

How marketing your own work can be your biggest challenge

Writers aren’t the best at marketing our own work. Sometimes it’s impostor syndrome, but a lot of times, we’d simply rather be writing. The more introverted among us don’t like to interact with a lot of people; even online, it can be tough to jump into a sea of conversation and stand out from all the other fish, yet in a way that allows you to avoid the sharks.

On top of this, for me, is the fact that my interests are so diverse. I’m not just marketing two very different genres; I also have to throw in my techie journalism. Add personal interests like hiking or cooking into the mix, and it’s a recipe for an unfocused, inconsistent social media presence.

No matter how much I might like to brand myself as “consistently inconsistent,” I’d like to find a better way. I’m not a fan of either separate accounts or one social network per interest. Neither feels quite right to me; it’s as if you’d be getting pieces, but not an integrated whole, not the full representation of me as a writer.

There’s also the notion that a common theme across all my stories, fiction and nonfiction, is an effort to rebuild a sense of connection or community to other living beings, whether as professionals or humans or simply living. That’s what I want my presence to reflect, so I’m exploring other solutions.

Playing around with time

At some point I realized I’d been too rigid in my definition of time: fiction in the mornings, client work and journalism during regular working hours, personal pursuits in the evenings and weekends. I use a bullet journal to plan out my monthly goals and weekly tasks — I don’t plan down to the day, too much can go sideways — but while it’s great at helping me stay on track, it’s not so great for helping me figure out what track to get on to start with.

Needless to say, this hasn’t been a good way to get things done. Leaving blogging until weekends, for example, can leave me feeling stressed; sometimes it can compete with things like monthly account reconciliation and sales tax payments, and often, business development — finding new clients, writing pitches — can completely fall by the wayside if I’m sufficiently blocked on them. Never mind writing new Living Wild books or lesson plans.

I can’t do everything during a given day or week. So, as I start to plan for 2020, I’m rethinking time in terms of the Pareto principle: how to spend a given 80 percent of my time, versus a given 20 percent.

  • During a given day, the 20 percent of time might be one hour on social media, one hour on email.
  • During a week, I might spend one day on business pursuits like blogging or finances, and the other four on client work.
  • During a month, while I don’t think it’s realistic to spend an entire week on personal versus client work, I might choose to devote the 80 percent to marketing fiction, versus 20 percent on clients.

Another thing I’m toying with is the notion of more deliberately switching gears each month, focusing on one form of fiction each month. Devoting attention to writing the next in the Living Wild series, for instance, or the lesson plans for each book, would help me get more accomplished in both areas, rather than vaguely leaving it up to a desire to do a little bit of everything during a given month.

This all sounds like it should be reasonable, and yet, I’m nervous about being able to pull it off. There are those pesky executive functioning issues that make it difficult to switch mental gears from one thing to another, and my hyperfocus makes it easy to get caught up in a given project and exclude others. I also have a poor time sense, as these meme reflects:

What I want is for the time discipline to help me figure out what I can reasonably accomplish. In lieu of any other ideas, it seems like it’s worth the try. I’ll try to report back next year on how it goes.

How do you plan your time and adjust for multiple interests?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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