Armchair Traveling

Jessie: In New Hampshire, wishing the blackflies would practice more social distancing.

The fifth Beryl and Edwina Mystery is due to my editor on June 1. Which is exactly two weeks from today, according to the yearly calendar looming menacingly over my shoulder as I sit at my desk. Naturally, my mind offers a wide variety of distractions from the task at hand. I wish I could say that I always manage to ignore the allure of such sweet suggestions and instead focus with laser-like precision on the revisions I know need to be made before the book could be allowed to be seen by anyone besides myself.

Sadly, this not the case. I have, over the years, gotten to be more and more adept at managing my mind in the face of temptation but I am not entirely immune to suggestions by some nefarious part of my brain that delights in offering up sidetracking enticements. I have, however, learned through a great deal of trial and error that it is possible to bribe that wiley part of my mind with promises of treats if only it will go play quietly elsewhere until my work is done for the day.

And what does it seem to like best, this unruly toddler part of me? Even before the global population was encouraged to remain in their homes, armchair travel always topped the list. For years, a promise to allow myself to wander via books and even websites has been enough to buy myself a few hours each day of focused effort.

Old favorites to re-read, set in distant lands, travel magazines promoting life in tropical locales and online resources like Atlas Obscura and The National Archive can always be counted on to do the trick. Even suggesting a session for dreaming of trips to be taken when travel is once again possible by perusing the cruise schedule for the Cunard Line or looking at the cost of winter rentals on a beach in Brazil is sure to quell the clamor and stay on task long enough to make progress.

The upside of all of my mental gymnastics is that not only should I have a book completed in two weeks, I may have a vacation scheduled for sometime in 2021!

Readers, how do you get yourself to do those things you know you ought? Writers. what makes it possible for you to honor your deadlines?

27 Thoughts

  1. The eleventh book in the Witch City Mysteries is due July 1. I know I will make it,–always do –but have to face those pesky sidetracking temptations. I know how many words a day it will take to do it, and fall short some days while on other its full steam ahead. Somehow near the end I’ll pull a few coffee-fueled all-nighters and get ‘er done.

    1. I’ve pulled a few of those all-nighters too over the years! Fingers crossed that it won’t be necessary for either of us this time round!

  2. I take a day off every Sunday, which refreshes my mind, and on the other days I often turn my exercise walk into a plotting walk, which lets ideas rise up. Good luck with your deadline!

  3. I find that panic is an effective motivator. Once i have gotten past the point where it’s even possible to accomplish the task by the drop-dead date, I’m able to get myself away from the cruise website (for me it’s Holland America Lines) and Microsoft Games, and the other temptations of Satan that plague me, I find I’m able to focus on doing the tasks promised for my clients (and that actually bring me revenue).

    And amazingly, more often than not, lightning is captured in that bottle and I get my work work done in time.

    However, it works my last nerve to do it, and I always vow faithfully that next time, I’ll get my work work done before my play work.

    Hasn’t happened yet, and I’ve had 70 years to master this technique of crisis management.

    And just in case anyone was wondering, I most emphatically do NOT recommend my shameful and emotionally taxing behavior.

    1. I understand how a time crunch can be a tremendous source of focus, Lee! I’ve sometimes done things that way too! And that it can be frazzling! I am hoping I’ve paced myself to avoid the crazy-making this time!

  4. I don’t have deadlines, so if I’m not feeling creative there’s no pressure. That can be good or bad, depending. I didn’t realize how close June was until your post. I’m sure your book will turn out great!

  5. My favorite distraction has to be baking. An example is our homemade cinnamon rolls. They take about 5 hours to make from start to finish, but there’s a lot of down time while waiting to it to rise twice. So I like to get the rolls started and then work on a task while I wait each time. That way when the cinnamon rolls are finished I’ve not only accomplished the tasks I set out to do, but I also get to reward myself with something yummy to eat.

    Since there are only the two of use, I’d be as wide as tall if I baked all the time. So thankfully, we also love photography which also gives us a fun thing for us and when the critters seem to have gone to take a siesta, I can get up and stretch my legs and work on one of my tasks that need to be done.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. I like to bake too, and I like to make cinnamon rolls as well! Actually, anything with a yeast dough gets my attention. Fortunately, I have a bunch of kids to eat what I churn out! Photography sounds like a wonderful balance to baked goods!

  6. Being retired, I don’t have a lot of firm deadlines. My reading mojo is absent so I need the weekly calendar reminders about posting ARC reviews before release dates.

    And despite being stuck at home due to the pandemic since mid-March, I am cannot do some tasks I normally do at this time of year. Spring cleaning and going through closets to pack and donate clothes is on hold since the Goodwill stores and donation bins remain closed. I cannot take books to donate to the library’s bookstore since they are closed until June 30.

    1. Retirement does seem to change the whole deadline situation. And the pandemic changes so much else. I can see how your routine might easily be effected!

      1. The cold spring has also affected my schedule. My photo memories should lush and fully grown herbs and veggies on my balcony. This year, I just planted my herbs on Friday…more than a month behind schedule.

        And it looks like the polar vortex is finally leaving us. With forecasted temperatures in the 70s and 80s for the first time this year, I can swap out my wool, fleece, hat/gloves, thermal pants for t-shirts, capris/shorts and sandals.

  7. I am a crafter, colorist, and I read way to many books. I schedule all I have to do, first thing in the morning, and what I really want to do, given enough time to each. Housework, is a thing I might do. Does it work out? No. Why? I have a husband that wants to go for a walk. Grown daughters in different states that check in with us via facetime every day. Husband who wants to play board games. Grand children who likes to call via facetime to ask grandpa to help with the home work or to just clown around. No time to be by myself to read. Do I like my new schedule? Of course. My family is everything to me. Stay safe

    1. How lovely! Your situation sounds familiar! I plan my weeks and days but I suddenly have a houseful and when they need or want something I tend to be flexible with my own plans to accommodate​ them​.

  8. I can’t wait for more Edwina and Beryl books! When I’m on deadline I do a daily word count which usually gets larger as I near the due date.

    1. Thanks, Sherry! I have a daily scene count most of the time which works out to be an approximate word count since my scenes tend to be similar in length. And like you, sometimes I need to do more each day as a deadline approaches!

  9. Getting myself to do things when I’d rather be imitating Jabba the Hutt and sitting on a couch doing nothing of consequence usually involves me consciously making the decision when I roll out of bed in the morning to (with apologies in advance to Nike) “Just Do It”. If I do it whatever task needs being done after I get cleaned up in the morning, it has a better chance of actually getting done.

    As for honoring my deadlines, I meet my deadlines for the book reviews because I get paid for them when they get used. They won’t get used if I blow the deadline. I find money being a quality inducement to being on time.

    As for my CD and concert reviews, the deadlines aren’t quite as hard and fast so long as I get them done in a timely manner. Some people that write for one of the music sites I am a part of can dash off any old review in five minutes or so. When I’m doing a CD review, I like to listen to an album a few times so that I live with the music and really get a full grasp on what I’m going to write about. A concert review is a little easier to write because I can put the nuts and bolts of a review into more of a narrative piece and give a good story to the review.

    For my series The Cassette Chronicles, the deadline is Wednesdays so I meet that pretty much every week. While the series is weekly, there are built in skip weeks so at times I don’t have an article going up on a given week and that lets me get ahead on occasion. So far this year, because of being off with a lot of time on my hands, I’ve only had one week where I didn’t produce an article and this week’s coming article has been done and submitted since last week.

    It also helps to be able to meet deadlines when you have no one else you have to take care of. I am single with no kids or pets and little in the way of a social life other than a weekly trivia night (which hasn’t been held in 2 months), what else am I going to do?

    1. I have a habit of getting things done first thing in the day too. The less I want to do them the more important that seems to be to getting them accomplished. I always start my writing and revising in the mornings and plan to finish by 3 in the afternoon. Outside deadline pressure, like yours, helps me too, especially with things I find tedious like website overhauls and other technology things that would be a good investment of time.

  10. Being retired, I have to set self-imposed deadlines or I would never get anything done except lying on the sofa and reading.Sometimes I tell myself the completion of the chore is the treat because of how good I will feel when it is done. Sometimes I make myself stop doing my pleasurable activity at a particular time and get on with being an adult. And all too often, as my waistline will attest, food is my treat. Different things work at different times, but I do get a lot of stuff done for an old lady!

  11. It all sounds like determination is the key to everyone getting things done. Deadlines, calendars, and pressure are the main points that I hear in all of you. What is most amazing is that all who have a lot to accomplish always accomplish a lot and more! Keep plugging away!

  12. I give in much more often than I should. My mind doesn’t seem to accept bribes like your does.

  13. Deadlines are great motivators. 🙂

    But I also have success with small bribes. “Do your work now, and you get a treat later.”

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