Posts tagged #time management

The Struggle of Open-Endedness

When I have a production, a workshop, even a meeting to look forward to, I usually find it very easy to focus and get work done. There is a built-in accountability to knowing that others are counting on me delivering something so that further development of a new work/play can begin. However, when I'm in between deadlines, it's a lot harder to find that fire and drive to get the creative wheels turning.

I find myself in such a phase right now. For Inside Out & Back Again, a play which has a definite deadline (it opens in March 2018), the script has been rewritten and brought to a place where the creative teams agrees it's ready for a workshop - which will begin this weekend. All of my other projects don't have deadlines yet. So while I could and should be working on them, it's easy to find myself within a fog of distraction.

To be fair, some of these projects need some time in this amorphous state where they exist primarily in my brain, and are worked and re-worked away from a laptop or notebook. Some of them require research and cogitation before I attempt to create something that even looks like a script. I try to remember this, so I don't feel discouraged by the fact that I might not be "producing" something. Still, structure is good for me. So, I remind myself that there are deadlines on the horizon, even though they may feel far away, or even if I don't see them yet. So, working backwards from those larger deadlines, I try to create mini-deadlines that will help me progress. I have also started to participate in a silent writing group, where I meet with fellow playwrights to stay quiet and just write (or read or research, as the need may be). I find these times to be helpful for focusing because it's harder for the fog of distraction to take hold when I'm out of the house and around others.

I share this because it's so easy to look at the big markers of playwriting and marvel at the world premieres, the workshops, the readings. But, being a playwright is as much about these days/weeks/months of open-endedness, from which they must forge and fashion a pattern and routine that works for themselves - much like the act of writing a play.

Posted on December 4, 2017 and filed under Career, Creative, Research, Thought, Writing.

Re-Thinking My Work Day

This year, I made the decision to devote myself to playwriting (and composing) full-time. Unbeknownst to me at the time, what accompanied this decision was pressure. I told myself that if I'm going to work full-time, then I need to spend 8 hours a day working on my projects. I thought: "Everyone else is slaving away at least that amount of time working at their jobs, so I must do the same."

But the fact was, I never ended up writing or composing or researching 8 hours a day. Most of the time, my brain would reach creative capacity for the day at around 4 hours of work total. I started to feel guilty, thinking that I was lazy, and turning my vocation into an excuse to goof off. So I pushed harder, and the pressure and guilt only increased to the point where I wasn't sleeping well due to anxiety and stress. Something had to change.

I decided to experiment. I would give myself permission to have 4-hour work days. I blocked out two 2-hour chunks of time (before and after lunch) that would be dedicated to my writing projects. If I felt like working longer, I could. But if I fulfilled the 4 hours, then I would allow myself to be done with work that day.

I started this experiment two weeks ago, and the stress and guilt have gone down considerably. I find that the work I accomplish in those 4 hours is quite productive. And usually, I end up working longer, often working up to 6 hours total. Today, I found this article titled "Why you should work 4 hours a day, according to science" which gives a quick profile on renowned scientists who accomplished much in their field, and yet only worked 4 hours a day. It's a nice confirmation that I may be on the right track here. I'm in the company of people like Charles Darwin! OK, maybe not that exactly, but I'm hopeful that this new 4-hour workday can yield great creative results for me. Let's see how it goes!

UPDATE: A couple days later, I found this article titled "Use the Two-Hour Rule to Make Progress on Your Creative Projects" confirming my plan of splitting my work into two-hour chunks!