Taking stock

I don’t do resolutions for the New Year. The closest I come, my traditional end-of-year commitment to “get in shape”, is a pretty, pretty lie dressed as a resolution.

Instead, with a few free days around this time of year, I usually grab the opportunity to stop, breathe, and take stock. I usually have more things going on than I remember at any given moment. It’s not always easy to keep track of how many pots you have on the boil if you spend all your time peeling potatoes, ordering ingredients and putting out grease fires.

(Sorry, that metaphor got away from me. I might be hungrier than I thought. Or an arsonist).

Impossible to keep track of everything on the boil

Over the course of a year, things come up that can draw me off course, whether it’s an exciting anthology, a potential collaboration or an irresistible contest. Along with such examples of worthwhile side projects, I am prone to *cough* distractions.

(To pick one completely hypothetical example, it would be a very terrible idea for me to try to produce a newsletter every six weeks or so with a complete instalment of a serialised YA adventure in every issue. Ahem.)

Some of what I’ve committed to is useful – a couple of new short stories have come from diving down opportunistic rabbit holes this year. One of my aims is to hone my short story writing skill, so those go in the “Success” column.

On the other hand, some projects are taking much longer than I anticipated. Others have gone nowhere. Still others haven’t left the starting line yet; those ones just sit there, idly speculating whether I might like to think about them constantly instead of doing something useful.

Taking stock means making some hard decisions about where I want to spend my limited time. The obvious first step is to cull some things completely. If I haven’t committed to them by now, then they might not be worth any more of my attention.

Next: prioritise the jobs that survived the cull. I have a couple of stories I’ve been meaning to finish all year – they might only take a few days of concerted work to complete. Do I promote them in the schedule? Bite the bullet and knock them over quickly? Or do I put the novel edits first and save the stories for a post-editing refresh?

Finally, I’ll start thinking about a new schedule. I work better when I have a firm deadline: even if 60% of the work gets done the night before the deadline, that’s 60% more than I’d probably do otherwise. [1] I also seem to have written at a pretty consistent – if slow – rate this year, so I can reasonably estimate how long something will take me [2] to complete.

And at the end? I’ll have a shiny new work plan in place by the first of January.

Right on time for me to ignore it, just like the other resolutions.

Signs of a disorderly mind

[1] I can’t put my hand on my heart and promise you I did the maths. Please issue corrections in the comments. Show your working.

[2] …by making the initial estimate and then adding about 20% more time. Again, I’m not wedded to the maths on this.



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