Author Archives: Flight Control

writing frustrations

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This is the chapter word count of the Apples of Eden, and the source of great frustration on my part. (1) Because everything that is green and well over the 5000 word mark is essentially fluff. And with that I mean that the happenings there push the relationship between my characters forward, but not the story. I argue with myself that the romance plot in a romantic story is equally important as the rest, but I can’t deny that I spent way, way, waaaaaay too much time tinkering and adjusting and rewriting those few scenes over and over again, instead of advancing the rest of the book. NOT helping.

So. Right now I’m very unhappy with myself and my discipline. So unhappy that I want to dump the whole thing and start afresh. I started with the parking lot of redundant scenes, to see what my netto word count actually is – I deleted almost 10.000 words… *sigh* But now I know where I truly stand. (2) As slashing and burning and stomping around like Godzilla isn’t helping any more than adding more fluff, I’m assigning myself back to the drawing board. Work out those other chapters. Develop the rest of the cast into fully fleshed out characters with their own story. Build a solid foundation. Only write fluff into the notebook. Train the writing muscle with writing that adorable short story about two scientists sitting on a deserted rock on an alien planet. I’m essentially forbidding myself to even look at the Apples file. Let’s see how this is going to work out, but sometimes you need distance from your work to see the bigger picture. Onwards and upwards… *hides the hedge cutters and the gasoline*

(1) I’m using Storyist to write, which is a wonderful piece of software, available for Mac OSX and iOS. The view you see here is the outline view, with colours assigned by me.

(2) At the edge of reason, ready to dive into the abyss of insanity, that’s where I stand… hahahahaha!

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(Self-)Organization for Creative People: A Month with a Bullet Journal

self-organization

I tried bullet journaling over the course of February, because I wanted to know if it would work for me and my all over the place brain. I’m happy to report back: It does. It actually works so well, that I nearly ditched my other self-made planner.

After seeing all the pretty pictures on Pinterest, I was tempted to make it pretty, of course, but those attempts naturally fell to the wayside as “real life” took over. I also used one of my many pharma merchandise notebooks to not be tempted to make it too beautiful, but to play around and try different things and formats. Tricking my inner perfectionist into not getting into the way – that worked by the way. I absolutely love the possibility to adapt as you go, because I can add things I need from day to day, and drop others. The index thing is also a glorious idea. The biggest benefit is of course not feeling like a headless chicken anymore. The other is, that I began taking little notes how the day was, what I did and how I was feeling – like a bullet pointed diary. I used to write a real, proper diary (not a blog) when I was a teenager, and filled pages and pages with overly emotional dribble… I still have them, and they’re hilarious to read. And I always felt sad that this habit dropped out of my life, but of course – life isn’t as confusing, unbearable and dramatic as it feels like for a 15 years old. And digital just doesn’t cut it. It’s nice to be able to flip through pages and see – ah yeah, I did this and this then. So I’m happy that I found a way to incorporate that into my life again.

For March I got myself a “pretty” notebook, as I decided to stick with this method and I want to see where I can take it. I also learned a very important thing about myself: If I don’t put a checkbox in front of it and monitor its progress, it’s not going to happen. That goes for basic things like drinking enough and eating proper meals (oh yes!) as well as bigger projects, like writing or home improvement tasks. It’s bonkers, but apparently that’s how I tick. *sigh*

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i’m the worst kind of author

Or maybe I should just not announce and schedule things, because I’m a fiddly person. Thing is, I tried really hard to write “Ambushed”, but it just doesn’t work. This story is like a wet bar of soap that fell down in the shower, very slippery and very hard to grasp. I also came to the conclusion, that I might even do the Apples harm if I give too much away. Buuuuut – I still want to write a short story and publish it in March, even with the Meeting of Doom preparations being in full swing by then. Writing in the morning is way easier though if you don’t have to deal with gut-churning violence, so I’m confident it will happen.

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on flexibility

A few weeks ago a colleague published a link to a study that suggested that spending the most of your time not moving kills you faster – and it only made a small difference if you were doing sports. Since then I looked deeper into the matter, and lo’ and behold, working at a desk is actually a surefire way to mess your body up. Staring down at smartphones isn’t helping either. The more research I did, the more I found that being static or repetitive is the problem, not so much the sitting. People who stand all day aren’t healthier, they just fight with other injuries.

Humans are creatures of habit, and we tend to do things in our preferred way. Change scares us first and few embrace it whole-heartedly. We like our routines. We like stuff being predictable.

I’m sure you ask what the one thing has to do with the other. My little brainwheels kept on churning, and right now I’m pondering if being static in your body and your mind is not your greatest enemy. I decided to rely less on routine, shake things up a bit, and especially get my body moving and my brain right with it.

I got off my beloved couch and started to do some yoga – especially this practice here, which is awesome for the neck and shoulders – because I believe in prevention and not treating symptoms when it’s too late. And I know my body doesn’t like sitting all day, my shoulder hurt, my neck hurt, I narrowly escaped getting a mouse finger (1) and I just realised: If I don’t start moving NOW, I’ll end up like so many of my colleagues, who suffer from chronic pain. As I can’t escape the sitting for 8 hours a day, I busted out my trusty wobbly cushion to keep my core muscles engaged, and I’m at a point when I notice that I’m hunching over and straighten back up. I still have to find a way to walk around more during the day. Because I love gadgets, I ordered one of those nifty little activity trackers, in the hope of being even more motivated. Let’s see how this goes…

(1) Since then I switch my mouse hand every so often, and it sure keeps your synapses working, I tell you.

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(Self-)Organization for creative people – Sticking with long-term projects

self-organization

Last week I spoke about the basics of self-organization, namely: Getting a planner and chosing a system that works for you. Today I want to address another topic that people who suffer from “Distracted by the Shiny”-Syndrome struggle with: Long-term projects.

I’m not going to lie, breaking down a complex thing into manageable tasks, and then sticking with it, is absolutely not my forte. Not when there are a gazillion other things vying for my attention that look like so much more fun! I also like instant gratification, that’s also something that long-term projects are frustratingly scarce with. So. How to do it?

Make a plan!

Ha, that’s what planners are there for, aren’t they? Take your nifty little brain dump thingy and pencil in when you want to do what. Maybe you need deadlines to get you going, maybe you’re on a tight schedule because of other commitments… do what works, and if it doesn’t – try something else. I learned that at any given time, I won’t be able to do more than one big thing of every main block (Book, House, Life) during the week. So if I want to write a 1000 words a week, I probably won’t work on anything else in the Book-Section that requires a lot of brain activity. I still scribble down three things every week.

Tiny steps!

Problem with being a creative perfectionist: You want to do it right, and that means in one go. Long-term projects have it in the name that they aren’t done in one go. It took me a very long time to learn that tiny steps lead to the finish line too. Sometimes as little as 10 minutes per day. But it works, and it doesn’t exhaust you and you can feel accomplished because you worked on the project.

Be flexible

No matter how intently you plan, life likes to throw you a curveball. Maybe your dayjob sucked and you have no energy left. You got sick. The dog puked on the carpet. That is okay. Things like this happen. Take your planner and see where you can re-schedule things. Just don’t get frustrated because things didn’t work out the way you planned them. Sometimes you just need a creative break.

Celebrate the milestones

Every 10.000 words or so I do a little celebratory dance. Squee on Twitter. Get myself a drink. Because I’m 10.000 words closer to the finish line. You should too. Admire your progress. You’ve come so far, that’s amazing! Be proud of yourself.

And with that I go back to my own long-term project. Happy trucking along!

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(Self-) Organization for creative people – The Basics

self-organization

After my last post about dealing with my perfectionism I was asked to write about how I make my plans. So this is it. And lots more. Because organizing yourself is a highly individual thing, and where non-creative people maybe would just use a run-off the mill planner you can buy in the store, creative brains rarely work with prefabricated grids and patterns. Still, life can be overwhelming and having some sort of support-system helping with that, can take a lot of anxiety out of pretending to be a grown-up, responsible adult. This post is by no means exhaustive, so if you have further questions, please ask!

What I plan to talk about:

  • Choosing the right system
  • Where to begin
  • The Benefits of Colour Coding
  • Sticky Notes
  • How I do it

What I’m not going to talk about:
Apps and other computer-based means of self-organization, there are just to freakin’ many. And they don’t work with me at. all.

Choosing the right system

So. The creative brain. I often visualize mine as a mirror labyrinth filled with balloons, confetti and sparkle, unicorns, streamers and a billion of interesting knick-knacks. There’s a whole other universe hiding in there. Naturally, this makes it very hard to focus on this universe, and its demands and tasks. If I don’t (and I’ve slipped often enough to know this by heart now) put my ideas and tasks to paper, they vanish in this labyrinth to be never seen again. The tricky thing is to find a system that works for your brain and your days. I spent the most part of my day in an office, I don’t have a lot of other appointments I need to keep track of, and I have a complex long-term project running in the background. You might be a freelancer with deadlines and clients, you might need a place to doodle ideas for illustrations, etc, etc… Are you a highly visual person? Do you thrive with tick-off boxes? Do you need to monitor progress? There’s a lot of stuff to be taken into consideration.

There are lots and lots and lots of ready-made personal planners to chose from, if your brain needs prefabricated grids and slots and your days demand a calendar for dates and appointments. They run the gamut from the customizable and very expensive Filofax-System, the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, the Hobonichi Techo and the Passion Planner to all the less sophisticated, but cheap solutions your local stationary shop offers you.

If your brain needs a more flexible thing, there’s an equally staggering amount of solutions to chose from. DIY planners like the Hipster PDA or the Bullet Journal, or sophisticated project management workflows like Kanban boards or Scrum (nicked from software development). Or you come up with a system yourself.

If stuff on paper is not your thing, I gently direct you to the app store of your preferred flavour to choose from one the many, many, many To-do-List apps that can be found there. They come with all the bells and whistles, and build in reminders, which can be useful.

orga1

What works for me: I never seem to be able to find a planner that suits all my needs, although I love the neatness of the stuff you can buy. I’m a perfectionist after all. So I took a sturdy notebook, and build one myself, which I’m going to introduce further down. My very few appointments and other time-sensible stuff lives in iCal and pings me if needed, and I also have all my contacts on my iPhone and Mac, because that’s where I need them.

Somehow this blogpost got out of hand and really long, so I put the rest of it under the cut. Continue reading

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