It’s been a revelation this week, with my wife being gone. This is her second away trip for the year, and even though it’s not two weeks like the one she took this summer, somehow this time it’s having a bigger impact on me personally, because I’ve been trying to build and maintain a professional writing output level since getting back from Writers of the Future in August. One thing I will say, about these trips — and the additional workload being shifted to my shoulders — they always makes me wonder how single Moms do it for years on end. I have just the one daughter, and she’s an easy, smart little cookie. I can’t imagine multiple kids, much less multiple kids with issues or behavior problems. I think I’d go crazy. So, to all single Moms, my hat is off. You are all working miracles.
Anyway, the week has been a total disaster, and a total blessing, at the same time. A disaster because I’ve not been able to get done even half the stuff I wanted to get done — writing or otherwise — but also a blessing because it’s made me realize acutely how and where I need to reorganize my life and effect some serious changes in how I track, sort, and prioritize all the small and big things I’ve got going on — stuff that needs attending, lest I fall short or wind up causing problems not just for myself, but the family as a whole.
Yesterday I officially began work on a writing-related project that should start bringing in regular money come December of this year. Not much. About what I get from the Army Reserve every month. But it’s writing-related so I get to include it as writing income, and that’s a very big step for me, to have a regular lump of writing money showing up in the mail. But it also means a further commitment that requires proper and diligent attention. Just like my 7 year old needs proper and diligent attention, and my day job, and my army job, and the writing of new fiction. Which is just a very wordy way of saying I’m Bilbo: spread thin, like butter scraped across too much bread.
To that end I’ve been re-reading David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done.” It was a complimentary gift as part of a day job sponsored time management class I did in late January, and I am returning to it again because I am really, really needing some fresh, practical ideas and motivation to focus hard and restructure my daily flow.
One of the huge things David hits on is having a reliable “catchment” system that can keep things from falling through the cracks. All the bazillion little and big items, actions, requirements, reminders, etc, all go into the system. If the system is trustworthy, it will not let you forget or overlook things, so that they get done on time and without much mental grief.
And mental grief is something I’ve had too much of in the last six months. Mostly because I have become so overwhelmed by everything I have to do, between all my commitments, that I often wake up in the morning and immediately experience a crushing sense of groaning, dull obligation. Ugh. And I know it’s because I don’t have a properly organized and prioritized system. I carry all of it around in my head, and trying to carry it all around in my head drives me nuts because I wind up worrying about all of it all the time, and I am forever stuck in Covey’s “important urgent” box, or in the “not important, not urgent” escapist time wasting box.
Theoretically, it should be possible to get to the “important, not urgent” box — where everything is handled before it’s a crisis, and there is little or no time-wasting on bullshit because there’s no emotional or mental desire to flee the entire mess because it’s just too overwhelming and difficult to try and grapple with at any one moment. Yes, occasional fires are inevitable, and they have to be put out when they have to be put out. But life shouldn’t feel like a fire, all the time, every day, and that’s what my life has felt like lately: one fire after another, and I’m rather tired of it.
So, much as I’d have loved to drop everything and write a ton as I’d planned, I’ve actually been forced to spend my time — what time I can find in between everything, including being a Dad — trying to figure out and develop my system. And the first step in that process, is identifying any and all possible action items, items requiring attention, reminder items, etc, in my life right now. And this list has grown depressingly long — almost to the point that I want to put my head back under the pillow and hide from it all. Only, I can’t. It’ll only get worse if I do that, and I am all out of energy and patience for ‘worse’ in all its forms.
So, that’s my update on this end.
Oh, and I am abandoning Microsoft Windows 7. Have had it on the new writing computer in the basement since August, and am fed up with it. Done. D-O-N-E. Windows XP did everything I needed my operating system to do, and it did it in a familiar, efficient manner. Windows 7 seems like an artfully decorated box of crap. Nothing works the way it used to. I have to keep scrounging in all kinds of annoying ways just to figure out how to do simple shit I used to be able to do without thinking. The interface doesn’t work for me at all. I used to think it would just take a little time to get used to, like when I went from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. But unlike when I went to Windows 95, which rapidly proved itself superior to 3.1 within a couple of days, Windows 7 has been nothing but frustration.
So I am simply not going to put up with it anymore. Before I left the house this morning I put my Windows XP disc — been with me almost 10 years now — into the DVD-R/W drive, booted from the disc, told it to reformat the entire partition and re-load the OS, and walked out the door. I’ll have to dicker with XP to get it to load the correct drivers for the new hardware, but at this point it’s a small price to pay to get my computing sanity back at home.
Oh, and I am ditching Office 2007 on that machine as well. I still have my Office XP disc. It too did everything I needed, and it did it well. Office 2007 with its chaotic ribbon system is just not worth my time anymore. Both Windows 7 and Office 2007 seems like idiotic steps in the wrong direction. For me anyway. If Microsoft doesn’t pull its collective head out of its ass on the next versions of these, I am liable to go away from Microsoft products altogether for the first time since I adopted the PC in 1992.
Somehow, I suspect, I am not alone.