Putting Time and Effort into your Creative Life

Organizing your Creative Life in 13 Weeks, Week Thirteen

When organizing your creative life try not to get to this stage.  It plays havoc with creativity.

When organizing your creative life try not to get to this stage. It plays havoc with creativity.

So, we’re coming to the end of this series.  How did it work out?  Did it organize my creative life?

It was a good start.  I’m not by any means perfect yet at applying Getting Things Done (particularly the part about putting things on paper and out of my head, so they don’t cause stress.)  And sometimes I forget my penguin timer, or deliberately leave him behind, particularly if I’m going to be writing in a room with another person.

Still, these 13 weeks helped me at least start retraining my brain into working for longer stretches of time, after the years of “induced ADHD” brought about by working while watching small children.

I am producing more copy and working better and were it not for having contracted a massive sinus infection which then doubled back and hit both ears and my throat, I’d probably have finished Through Fire, now overdue to Baen Books, who publish my Space Opera series.

Instead, I’ll have to keep applying the methods to finishing the novel as soon as possible, once I’m over this upper respiratory infection thing.

Yes, I know I thought I was getting better last week, but then it doubled down.  In the meantime I had to fly to Texas, where I’m teaching a workshop this weekend at the Bedford Library, and that in turn seems to have caused a serious worsening of my condition.  I spent yesterday sleeping, and today I’m only working at about half power.  Those who know me will know how serious this is, since I need to be very ill indeed to not even try to work.

There is a reason giving birth is so difficult -- okay, mostly it's a pelvis/head/ratio thing, but... -- if it weren't, we'd see a lot more abandoned babies.

There is a reason giving birth is so difficult — okay, mostly it’s a pelvis/head/ratio thing, but… — if it weren’t, we’d see a lot more abandoned babies.

However, I must make sure I’m as well as I can be for this weekend, since teaching this workshop about writing and the professional field at the moment always leaves me exhausted, even when I’m well at the start.

Because I’m teaching this workshop I’m naturally thinking back to the first workshop I took as a student, which was the Oregon Coast Professional Writers Workshop.

At the time I was a young mother, with two children seven and three, and taking two weeks seemed like an awfully long time and an awfully hard imposition.  In addition it cost a lot of money.  I’m not sure how much it was, back then, but once we were done paying for plane, lodging and food, the total outlay came to about $2000.

I resisted taking the workshop because of the money and time outlay, but my husband told me he’d stay home and watch the children for the two weeks. As for the money – and at the time spending $50 a year for a zoo membership was a serious expense that needed to be carefully justified and we only did it because we went to the zoo every other week – he told me that we’d find it.

I went to that workshop and walked away with my first book contract. In the meantime, though, I asked Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, who taught it, why make it so long and charge so much?  Didn’t they want to make it accessible to people like me, a broke mother of two?  Couldn’t they have made it cheaper and shorter?

Their answer taught me a lesson I’ve found true, and which has held up over the years: when people are given something for free, they don’t value it.  If you want people to learn and take the workshop seriously, you have to charge them enough for them to feel the pain, and they have to make an effort to attend.

You can't get to do top -- or do much that's worthwhile -- without effort.  So the question is, how much do you want it?

You can’t get to the top — or do much that’s worthwhile — without effort. So the question is, how much do you want it?

They were absolutely right.  Time and again, I’ve given time and effort to friends who “want to be writers” – but since it’s not their time or their effort, most of them fall down on the follow through.

Again, I learned this lesson with this thirteen week cycle.  If I want my writing to happen, I need to pay for it by scheduling it and making time for it.

And so, here are my three must-dos for creativity:

1.      Value your creative life and make sure that people around you know how important it is to you.

No, not by talking about it constantly, but by showing in application, effort and learning, that it is something you must do. This is particularly difficult before it starts to pay – because you don’t want to impose on other people.  However, valuing it now will increase the chances of its paying later.

2.      Make time for your creative life.

Whether it’s writing or drawing, or any other form of creative work, it’s not going to happen if you just leave it to its luck.  The world is full of people who say “I would write a novel if I had the time.”  What they really should say is “If I wanted to write a novel badly enough, I’d make the time.”

3-      Create a special area for your creative life, and don’t shy away from spending needed money on it.

It might be a little outlay for a penguin timer, or a little more for a book on organizing yourself, or even for a drawing course, or a book on writing techniques.

While your creative life is not a case of “you get what you pay for” it is a case of return on your investment.  You have to put in enough time, attention, focus and, yes, sometimes money, in order to take your creativity to the level you want.

Hopefully you got something from these thirteen weeks, too.  Good luck, and may you manage to schedule in time to develop and create.


Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt followed up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts. Catch up on the installments you have have missed:

Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks

Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists

Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water

Week Two: What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done? 

Week Three: The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters

Week Four: How to Tame Your Subconscious

Week Five: How Separating When and Where You Do Tasks Improves Both Productivity and Quality of Work!

Week Six: Organizing your Life is Like Learning to Juggle Eggs and Chainsaws

Week Seven: 4 Tips So You Don’t Organize Yourself to Death

Week Eight: Organizing your Writing Life When Words Fail You

Week Nine: After an Upset in Your Routine Catching Up Is Hard to Do 

Week Ten: If You’re Trying to Do Two Things at Once, Pick One

Week Eleven: Winding Down And Knowing When You’re Sick

Week Twelve: You Really Should Take it Slow While Recovering


images courtesy shutterstock / Olga Danylenko / MelvinDyson / Iakov Filimonov