That was the first thought I had this morning as I stretched, yawned, and rolled myself out of my bed. I shuffled to the bathroom. Need to clean it. UGH. Shuffled to the kitchen. Dishes in the sink. UGH. Shuffled to my bed, looked at my clock. 12:30 PM… only a half an hour before I had to go lead a writer’s workshop that was about 30 mins away from where I live. And I hadn’t showered, eaten, nor had I even BOOKED the darned room in which we were supposed to have the workshop. UGH!!
Look at my email box and found it crammed with “CIN”s (Colby, I need) and “CUP”s (Can you, please…?).
I’ve always prided myself on being able to run multiple things at once: grad school coursework, teaching, trying to grow a business, writing a novel series, PUBLISHING my first novel myself, being Co-Director of this, Director of that, producing a play, trying (in vain) to keep up with my friends and fam, traveling back and forth to see my fam in NY, writing two scripts, helping people edit and write their own stuff-
-and then all of that came to a screeching halt when my body told me NO this morning. NO, NO, NO. “NO, Colby,” it said. “Or you will die!”
Okay, lol! Let’s rewind. All of these projects I’m on, while they’re fun and wonderful learning experiences, were also working against me. They ate into my time, my energy, and sometimes, even wore down my emotional and intellectual fortitude. I was unable to fit everything into my schedule, and as a result, it’s been affecting my writing and my general peace of mind. I got overwhelmed, stressed out, and now I– and my apartment– look like a nuclear ground zero. And I’m getting very little writing done! So let me offer you some tips of advice that’ll help you to stay out of my situation!
1. Organize your creative projects on a timeline.
Creatives kick ass. We are passionate about what we do even when we know our passions might guide us right into a cardboard box eating ramen noodles. “Creating” is the love of our lives, and in order to live, breathe, and function, we need to be in our craft all day, every day. 🙂
This is especially true if you’re a creative with high ambitions and a strong work ethic; you probably have a hundred ideas and projects swimming around in your mind. You may be tempted to tackle them all at once too! But DON’T. Instead, first make a master list of all your creative projects (and leave plenty of space for some new ones). Then, assign all your projects to a creative timeline. Do NOT tackle all your projects at once, or you’ll go crazy! Here’s a brief excerpt of my (newly-created) creative timeline:
- By April 29th: finish author rewrites for “Ghosts of Koa”. Put manuscript down, and don’t look at it again until May 8th.
- By May 6th: finish beat sheet for pilot script and spec script, even if they suck. Give to someone you trust to critique and don’t pick up again until May 13th.
- By May 15th: finish final round of line edits for “Ghosts of Koa” and send to graphic designer
- By May 31st: publish Ghosts of Koa
Etcetera. Doing this will help you to get all your projects in line and tackle them one-by-one. It’ll get your writing done in a timely fashion without burning you out too!
2. “No” is a powerful word.
Heading organizations and initiating programs is a great opportunity to learn the most about your craft, the field in general, yourself, and about other people who are on the creative journey with you. People who lead tend to be the ones who not only come up with ideas but also execute them, which takes a lot of time and effort. If you do something (or a series of things) really well, people will put more and more responsibility on you or go to you first for assistance and guidance. This is a wonderful thing, and it not only helps to build great friendships, but it also hones many of your interpersonal and leadership skills. But sometimes, this can get extremely overwhelming and exhausting.
You’ve GOT to learn how to say “NO”. This is probably one of the most powerful words in the English language. It’s monosyllabic, clear, forceful, and honestly just shuts things DOWN in an instant, without need for further explanation. Don’t be a jerk, obviously, but know when to decline a project. Know when you should cancel a meeting to get some shut-eye. Know when a friend would be better served by doing a project on his own rather than having you to come in and help. It’ll take pressure off of you, allow you to show your vulnerability (because we aren’t superhuman, after all), and it’ll also get you some well-needed writing time.
Be honest and kind, though. Don’t be a jerk (like the dude above!). People are coming to you for help because they like and trust you, so don’t just brush them off with an attitude. Here’s some nice ways to say NO:
- Hey, I’d love to, but I’m swamped right now… (this is my life’s motto right now)
- My schedule won’t allow me to do this at the moment, but here are some resources that can help you…
- I can’t at the moment, but I’ll be free as of (insert date here)… (Only use this line if you really are willing to help the person as of that date.)
Try these out, and see how they work for you. And smile too. Smiling always helps you to drop the NO nuke with grace, kindness, and style. 🙂
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
I have such a hard time with this. I’m sort of a perfectionist + eldest of three kids + LOVE to work on things I’m passionate about. What’s on the other half of the equal sign? Being a Type-A in-charge energetic workaholic, who loves things to go her way (with her own personal projects, at least), who is just NOT used to asking folks for help. It’s partially a pride thing, partially a “I like it done this way” thing, but mostly a “I feel really badly for depending on others” thing. Yeah, issues. I’m working on it! 🙂
If you’re anything like me, you gotta get over yourself and ASK FOR HELP! Yes, I know it’s hard. I’m still working on getting over MYself, for goodness sakes, so I know it’s a challenge. This doesn’t mean that you give half of your business responsibilities to a stranger or anything, but you can ask people to help you with little things. Especially if you’re running a group or workshop that is beneficial to everyone involved. So start small. Here are some ways to start asking folks for help:
- Give other people in your camp mini-tasks that might include getting supplies, sending emails, wrangling up folks, drafting letters or memos, taking meeting notes, etc. This will make them a part of your team, allow them to hone their leadership skills and establish a good rapport, while also taking things off of your plate.
- Ask people for advice and put them in the “expert chair”. People who are sought out for their wisdom feel more empowered to take on slightly bigger tasks in the future… like being a second pair of eyes on a project you’re working on or fielding other project problems.
- On a personal note, if you can afford it, hire a housekeeper or an assistant. Um, YEAH I said it. No shame in my game. I work 16 hours a day, and while I have lots of growth and very little money to show for it, it doesn’t mean that I don’t need a clean lovely apt like the next crazy workaholic. This is a form of “asking for help” that people sometimes look down upon, especially if you’re a woman. But don’t worry about that. You’re the only person who has to live in your apt and pay your bills (unless you’ve got roommates or a spouse, and even then, hrm… ::side eye::). SO, just do what I do, tell the haters to kick rocks, and call your local cleaning service! Hire a personal assistant (if it’s in your budget, that is) to run your smaller errands like taking the cat to the vet or scheduling appointments. It’ll make you feel worlds better, take a load off of your to-do list, and you’d be helping someone else keep a roof over their heads by paying them for their services!
So what about you? What are your life and writing hacks that help you to be a little less crazy? 🙂 Share them here, and in the meantime… yep, you already know… 😉
Rock on, write on,