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Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks

If the centipede can't remember which foot to move first, it becomes hopelessly entangled.  Sometimes we're all centipedes. If the centipede can't remember which foot to move first, it becomes hopelessly entangled. Sometimes we're all centipedes.

When Charlie Martin and I were talking about his thirteen weeks concept a few months ago, I told him that it sounded like a really good way to “project manage” what you do when you’re not at work.  As such, too, I thought it would be really good because I think that contracting is the way of the future, for all but a very few professions.

Changes not just in the law (which will make us all nominal part-timers or contractors, at least) but also in technology make it easy to work from home, and to be part of a group project while being an independent contractor.

This means that more and more professionals, coming home to work as contractors, are going to meet the problems of writers who come home to work full time at writing.  This problem is usually getting less accomplished than you got done when you had a full-time job in addition to the freelancing.

The reason for the problem is that you lose focus, and you don’t have a well-defined timetable.

My attempt to do it with a novel fell somewhat short, mostly because I was trying to learn to work with the site and work around their scheduling and editorial needs.  It was also a spectacular failure from the point of view of getting a novel written in thirteen weeks, which was the whole intent.

This failure was all the more galling since I have in the past written a novel in less than thirteen days.

You’ll say that it’s understandable.  After all, a lot of creative work is like that: you can’t force it and you can’t push it.

Against that I have two comments: professionals routinely force it and push it, so they can meet deadlines.  While it might not produce our best work – that’s debatable.  Sometimes it does, but it might be the exception – it can be done.  Also, see what I said above.  When first released from the confines of a “traditional” office life, writers tend to have problems producing anything.

Now, I’ve been free lancing for well over ten years – since I had my last “honest job” teaching English comp in college – but there are factors that have made these last two years particularly difficult and very much “a new thing all over again” for me and other professionals.

While some people on coming home to work look at the things they can do that day, with no particular drive to do them and go “I’ll do something else for a few hours” most people who come home to work are motivated and ready to do their best.  The problem comes in another form, which is what I’ve been encountering.

When you come home to work, you suddenly find yourself confronted with too many tasks and too many things to do, so you’re overwhelmed before you start, and you don’t actually finish any task.  In fact, you suffer from the classical definition of Workaholic – always working and with nothing accomplished.  Even friends who work at home a few days a week will complain they work more hours and accomplish less.

If this is to be conquered – and it must be since tech seems to be moving us that way – we need to figure out what to do and new ways of working.  I think the thirteen week format imposes an ideal time frame for it.  So this is "13 weeks to figure out a better way to be a freelancer."