Trimming the Fat

The way my life has been these past few weeks, I could either turn this into a revision-centered post or a life advice post. Also because of the way my life has been these past few weeks, I think I’m going to talk about both.

I have this terrible habit of constantly biting off more than I can chew. In school, I was that kid who participated in two or three extra-curricular activities, had a 4.0, tried to maintain a social life, and didn’t sleep or relax very much as a result. I assumed that I’d have all this free time once I finally graduated college, and instead I keep cramming all these meaningless, unimportant tasks into my schedule because I convince myself that they’re necessary.

As far as the writing goes, replace tasks with subplots. Or side characters. Or scenes that don’t really need to be in the story, but that I like. Or scenes that could serve a much more important purpose if I just combined them with other scenes.

You get the picture. Either way, my personal life and my writing life wind up a mess. I’m unable to properly utilize my time, or I’m stressed all the time. I know that wanting to write professionally is more or less like having homework for the rest of your life, but that doesn’t mean I have to be doing extra credit every single day.

When I received my feedback on this most recent draft of Facing the Music, one of my CPs said something really wise. She mentioned that I don’t necessarily over-write more than the average person, especially not for an initial draft. I just try and do too much.

I am not even slightly exaggerating when I tell you how life-changing that was. Doing too much sums up all of my teenager years, and so far my twenties aren’t looking much better. I’m all for staying busy and having a lot of hobbies, but I’m finally starting to realize that I either have to draw the line or trim the fat.

What does that mean for my life and my revisions? In terms of my writing, it means constantly evaluating to make sure that the story stays centered around my MC. It means searching for scenes that I can cut, or combine, or just simplify. It means making sure that I don’t blindly wander off into the side character swamps, or get mired down in my own subplots. It means tightening the big picture stuff first and trimming the prose itself last.

The life changes, as always, are going to be a little bit harder to make. Because I only have so much time to work with and only so many activities I can remove, I’m going to have to manage my time more wisely if I’m going to accomplish some of the goals I have in mind. I’ve been working with timers, and sticking to one specific task for a predetermined amount of time, or until it’s done. My boyfriend and I have decided on days when we do our gym time, and I need to be more consistent about showing up on those days.

Mostly, I’m going to have to prioritize. There are always little housekeeping-type chores I could do–from tidying our constantly messy kitchen to clearing out my online bookmarks to updating my journal. And honestly, I think that the biggest changes to my routine are going to come from asking myself: At the end of the day, which is going to make me happier? Fiddling with a couple unimportant tasks, or tackling projects I’m genuinely excited about?

My time management skills are always a work in progress, but I’m hoping to make a lot more progress with them here in the next couple months.

How do you manage your busy schedule? What tips or tricks would you recommend?

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