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On Process

 When Things Go Wrong

I wrote this essay for my Patreon supporters back in March, but it felt as if others might find it useful.

What is my process lately?

It’s been a bit strange, to be honest. I’m in that time of year between focusing a bit more on running my publishing business and focusing on writing. I’m itching to get back into full writing flow, peppered with business tasks, rather than the other way around.

You see, I both write and do business all year long, but have found that my more generative writing months coincide with early morning light. So, here my brain was, tooling along, as the morning light grew earlier and earlier and bam, the pesky and ridiculous thing called Daylight Savings Time shifted the clock back toward darkness.

Plus, a few business systems I’d put in place to help me in the past year failed spectacularly, increasing my workload by at least double. Surprise! And then I got a weird eye injury. Specifically, detached vitreous fluid. I thought it was a detached retina at first—same symptoms—so, while I’m relieved it is not, it’s still slowing me down.

And here’s where we get to my overall process: 

How do I remain creative and keep working when life, or health, or random things seemingly conspire to get in the way? I rely on the stability of my inner practice. I listen to my body, energy levels, and notice whether my brain is too tired to work. I meditate. I rest. I read. I go for walks. I work for one hour. I work for five hours.

In other words, I pace myself. Luckily, I’ve always been a person who uses sprints to run a marathon. I can get through five things on a to-do list in the course of a few hours. If my brain and body are both in decent condition.

I recently broke out my Pomodoro clock for business tasks again. I do twenty-minute writing sprints all the time, but have grown lax about using a timer for business work. Timing my business tasks was a suggestion from an occupational therapist back during the worst phase of my brain injury. She got me working and writing in ten-minute sprints only. I slowly worked up to twenty-minute sprints over time. Then I felt well enough overall to forget about timing my business tasks, only stopping when my eyes started to feel cross eyed, or I felt the pressure in my forehead that signals brain fatigue.

I’m back to needing a timer, and that’s okay.

The main thing to know about my process though? I don’t give up. If what I have in me is thirty minutes, that’s what I have in me, and I use that time. Other days, all I need is a break for an hour or two, before getting back to work. With my current eye weirdness, that’s a nope right now, so I’m working all morning and then taking long afternoon breaks when my eye and brain have decided that’s enough. Except for two days ago, when I couldn’t work at all. Those days happen. Some non-self-employed people even call those something… oh, right. A day off!

Days off are good.

All of this is okay. While I would prefer to not have this eye trouble, I’ve got a good start on a short story. I’ve written an essay or two. A couple of novel projects are ticking away in the back of my head, waiting until it’s time to concentrate the bulk of my efforts on writing again. I’ve not done much research because that requires too much focus. I’m looking at my plans for the rest of the year.

This same process served me well when my health tanked eight years ago. Instead of throwing in the towel, I figured out what work I could do, and when. As a result, I’m now a prolific author with umpteen titles to my name.

Other writers I know have a different process or haven’t figured out a process. Some of them slow way down and others give up. Still others pivot where their creative flow goes. Maybe they’ve picked up crochet or gardening as a creative outlet until life settles down.

Regardless of what our life goals are, knowing—or setting—our process helps us in the long run. Do you have trouble with follow through on things you say you want or desire? You may need to figure out your process. Not the process that works for other people. Your process.

If you’ve figured out a process that works with your life, I’d love to read about it. And if you struggle with your process, I’d like to read about that, too.

Thanks for being here.


As I mentioned, this post was written with the support of my Patreon people who get advance copies of stories, podcasts, essays, and more, along with generally supporting my work in the world.

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2 comentários

Have you thought about using a dictation program that will translate your words to print? Sounds much easier on the eyes, might make a difference in stamina.

T. Thorn Coyle
T. Thorn Coyle
12 de mai.
Respondendo a

MaryAnne, I've used dictation in the past, but the cleanup is a pain.

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