And so, following Stanislavski’s teaching that a set of physical actions aimed toward a goal can create the desired emotions—I put my pursuit of joy aside and took a good, hard luck at my daily work schedule.
It hadn’t been working very efficiently lately.
Mired down in whatever book I was working on, once I reached my office I’d find all kinds of reasons to procrastinate the opening of my book file. First, of course, I had to do devotions. Then e-mails. Then there was always marketing stuff. And I write a blog. When I finally did open my book file, my attention wouldn’t seem to last for very long. I’d write a couple of pages, then need a mind break. So I’d check e-mails again. And maybe one linked to an interesting article on the Web. Which mentioned a specific blog I didn’t know about . . . And before you know it, my “mind break” had stretched to an hour. All of this because I couldn’t get a handle on the story. And I would wish and wish I enjoyed writing more. But how could I enjoy it if I wasn’t feeling productive? Meanwhile the deadline would draw nearer. Now, I’ve always managed to pull off the book in the end, and once it was done, I could actually like the thing. But how about liking it while I’m in the midst of it?
With prayer and an open mind to change, joy, I set my work day as the following:
In the office first thing in the morning—somewhere between 6:00 and 7:00. I no longer think about running first thing, which is a major mind shift. I’ve run 5 miles a day for over 20 years—usually first thing after getting up. (With a day off about once a week.) Now I run later in the day.
In the office (coffee in hand), I immediately sit down to write. I can do nothing else until my page count is done. No opening e-mails! If I mind starts to wander, I pull it back. I focus.
After the pages are done, I turn to devotions. Reading the Bible, praying, praying my daily 10 Psalms.
Then I do email. By this time I’ve sat at my desk long enough that I don’t want to linger. Get the things done, and get on with it.
Some quick blog reading. Check comments on my own blog and skim a few other blogs that I keep an eye on.
By this time it’s about noon. Sometime in the afternoon I run, plus take care of marketing issues (which continue to increase), write my blog. Actual hours in my office can still easily run 9-10 hours, but now they’re productive.
A few things help to keep me on schedule. One—appointments during the day are killers. I’ll keep those to a minimum. When I must have them, they’ll be in the afternoon. Two—this one’s a biggie. My 16-year-old daughter is about to take her driving test. License in hand, she’ll be driving her own car to school. This will be the first time in 23 years I haven’t had to structure my work schedule around a kid’s. Do you realize how huge that is? This week I’ve been making my morning schedule work even though I’m interrupted to take her to school. And I’ve managed to fit in my run and other work in the afternoon, even though I had to structure it around picking her up. Soon I won’t have to do that anymore!
Freedom will be sweet.
These last four days I’ve followed this schedule. I’ve not focused at all on emotion. I’m not praying that God will “make me happy.” Joy in my work is that distant goal. But my focus is on the action, the step-by-step objectives of fulfilling the day’s requirements. That is what I pray God’s help for. And, boy, did I run into problems right away that could have upended my schedule if I'd let it. Back in my California office on Sunday night, I discovered my computer had crashed. Before, I would have chucked the next day's page count in order to pursue getting that computer fixed first thing Monday morning. But I didn't. I got up Monday and did my page count and other tasks first, using my laptop. Then with the time I had left in the afternoon, I dealt with getting the computer in to be fixed. I also had some appointments that I'd made last month. But I worked around them.
Already I feel happier. I’m more productive, and in that productivity, I feel more competent. I’m convinced that tasks achieved, day by day, will one day lead to having the real joy and excitement in my work that I once had.
One of the BGs wrote me an e-mail today. Said while she was praying for me, God told her “in her spirit” that my joy for writing would be restored, and that He would reward me for writing even when it hasn’t been a joyful task. That resonated with me. I felt God’s promise in my soul. I’m claimin’ it.
2006 is gonna be dynamite. Already is.
And that’s the way my year has started. Hey, only took me 4 days to tell the story. Better than four months, which I’ve been known to do.
Besides my new schedule, there’s all kinda cool stuff I have to look forward to this year. I’ll be filling you in on some things soon. Good things happening with books, that unique marketing for the Kanner Lake series that I’ve hinted at, Web of Lies releasing next week, my first foray into Costco, and more.
And speaking of the Web of Lies release—they’re baaaaack. The spiders, I mean. Last night one sat on my bedroom ceiling above my pillow. Just waiting for me to lie down in the dark . . .
See ya Monday. If I’m still alive.