Get It Together Blog Hop (aka Managing Choke Points)
Hello everyone! I'm so happy to be posting this as part of the Get It Together Blog Hop. I'm Alexis Anne and I write contemporary and erotic romances like The Storm Inside and Tease! Like many of you, my life is one of barely controlled chaos structured around schedules and lists, fueled by caffeine and determination, and laced with insanity. I'm a mother to two active soccer-playing boys, wife to a busy soccer-playing engineer, and am attempting to launch three new series in three different genres this year. Oh, and I also contribute to the First Draught Writing show and podcast (They put me in charge of podcasts!).
So, just like all of you, I'm busy as f**** and the one thing I do that keeps things somewhat balanced and moving forward is the careful management of my choke points (aka bottlenecks), a family Google Calendar (see Lindsay Emory's post), white boards, and more notebooks than any one person should own.
No seriously. They're everywhere. Including my nightstand and... apparently... my drying rack, stored carefully under my hat?
I like having goals I'm working toward, but on my own time. Writing is such a creative process that I've found things like to do lists, word counts, and tracking to be counterproductive to my life. Instead of focusing on my story, I'm tracking progress. Instead of creating, I'm worrying... and worrying means I'm not working.
So I write everything down. It gets it out of my head and I can reference back to it any time (without the pressure of a to do list staring me down.) As crazy as my stacks of notebooks look, it's actually controlled chaos.
Instead, I spend enormous amounts of time finding creative ways around my choke points and bottlenecks. This often involves looking at the situation from a new angle and figuring out how to get around it.
What is a choke point? Here's the Merriam-Webster definition:
a strategic narrow route providing passage through or to another region
something that slows down a process
Maybe I'm a problem solver by nature, but my mind doesn't go to "what is my process" so much as "how can I make my process more efficient?" I do this by identifying my choke points and eliminating them. Like Michael Cena.
Worry is a major choke point for me, which is why I like to wake up and start writing over coffee. Whether it's a list of scenes that need to appear in the next book in my serial (explain Theo's tattoo, establish Allison's back story, explain Nicki's connection to Higgins, sex scene A, sex scene B, dark moment) or writing a scene that came to me in the morning fog of sleep, that is probably my most creative time of day, so I prioritize it. If I don't get my morning quiet time, I become a basket case and all the dominoes in my house fall down.
So I make sure everyone in my house knows this time is sacred. The kids don't talk to me until my cup is empty (I also wake up extra early so that I have maximum time before they wake up.)
The hubby kisses me goodbye and doesn't take offense if I'm deep in thought instead of gushing over him ;-) And I keep a notebook on my nightstand. I write by hand as often, or more, in this morning time.
Another choke point is spending unnecessary time fretting over scenes and writing order (I'm a plotter BTW.) I usually write in order, but lately I've been writing critical scenes first, then filling in the others second. I prefer to write in Word, but if I need to, I import into Scrivener and use all of it's wonderful tools to break up scenes, rearrange chapters, and keep my pre-plotted story arc in check. There's no shame in using multiple products to get to one finished product and I've found that moving back and forth between the platforms is both easy and effective for producing a good product.
My family is probably my biggest problem. I love them to pieces... and that's exactly my problem. I can't think (which means I can't create) if I know we're two weeks behind on laundry, there is no food in the fridge, and every dish we own is dirty and sitting on the counter waiting for the maid (that we don't have) to come take care of it all.
We had to find a way to be more efficient and effective as a family. That's where minimalism and Amazon come in. We got rid of all the things we didn't need. We realized we had so many things. Things that were dragging us down with extra chores, clutter, and immense feelings of guilt. So we got rid of the extra dishes, clothes, and stuff. This article was a great guide for us.
My other family choke point was the dang groceries. To keep writing we turned to eating out instead of cooking/cleaning (on top of homework and soccer practice.) Eating out is a temporary solution, not a lifestyle. It's expensive, too. So the guilt started to get to me.
Until I realized Amazon and One Pot Meals were the answer to my overworked writer-mom prayers. Between two day Prime shipping and the Prime Pantry Box, my life has been transformed. Laundry detergent arrives by magic. So do craft supplies for the school projects. All my dry goods arrive in the Pantry Box (pasta, chicken stock, canned food, cereal, toilet paper, etc), which frees us up to actually make a run to the grocery store since we now only need to run around the edges for fresh food (bread, produce, dairy, etc.)
You can check out my go-to one pot (or two pot) meals here. They've saved me a ton of time while getting us some decently balanced meals.
All of this makes my creative time as a writer possible. Without it, I was stopping. I was obsessing. I wasn't writing... which is kind of my job. We eliminated the choke points and it freed me up to do my job. I hope this helps you find balance and productivity in your own creative endeavors!
Apps and Websites I use to manage my life:
Canva (creating book covers, teasers, and otherwise visualizing the stuff I see in my head)
Feedly (an RSS feed so I can stay up to date on all my favorite blogs and websites in one place)
Buffer (scheduling my social media)
Check out all the rest of the stops on the Get it Together Blog Hop and enter the Rafflecopter here!