Monday, April 2, 2012

Managing Life

Life would be so much easier if it would just get in sync with my schedule. I mean all of those petty things which seem to endlessly pop up and need immediate attention seriously interfere with my art.

I could get so much more done if I didn’t have to pay bills, clean cat boxes, wash clothes and make food for the Long Suffering and me.

Then there’s the running around which never ends, the minute I think I have a handle on it something new comes up and I have to stop what I am doing and go off and tend to the new thingy.

I honestly don’t know how painters or sculptors or potters do it. My work is mostly in the computer which has a much better memory than I do and can hold the project perfectly as I left it without any chance some stray incident can come along and ruin it or change it. Sure if I don’t hold up my end and save regularly or if there is a power surge or outage and I haven’t shut the computer down I could get wiped out, but fortunately I have learned my lesson in that respect and have turned on auto-save on all of the programs which have it and save like a miser on all that don’t.

So I can take a break and come back and find my stuff just where I left it, but I hate doing that. I’m just a tad OCD and don’t like leaving anything once started until it is completely finished. Now the Long Suffering has decreed that there will be no all night sessions and this seems reasonable to me, although over the years I have worked through the night and suffered no long-term damage. Course that was before there was a Long Suffering and waking her from a sound sleep is not at all a safe or good idea so the decree will stand.

So here’s the problem, what can you do when Life makes a complete mess out of your schedule and plans?

Rule 1 and you might want to apply this to a lot of other things too, sh*t happens. Yeah I know, crude but to the point. There is never a time after you pass your sixth or seventh birthday when you can control your life. Before that time your folks controlled it so don’t think you got a free ride up until then.

There are always going to be things which come along and interfere with what you want to be doing. You have to accept that and deal with it.

Set short time goals. If your next project involves sending a biblical prophet up a mountain to claim inscribed stone tablets, it’s been done and maybe you should take a look at your ego.

You can work on daily goals as easily as you can plan on carving another face into the side of Mount Rushmore, besides Hef is still alive and he’s the only public figure deserving of a king-sized monument. No, I do not think that sort of thing works outside of Japan.

It’s hard to stop once you get started, but if you do your work in small steps there’s more room for correction. I look at work I did just six months ago and see how it could be improved. And that’s when I don’t yearn to rip it up and start all over which has come out as the best option far too many times to count.

Now as a writer I know that there is no such thing as a completely finished manuscript. Even years after I put it to bed, I can go back and see things which need to be changed. I write tight. That in writer speak means I usually get what I wanted to say on the page the first time. If I could think of any other way to say it I probably would have when I was putting it there in the first place, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find things to correct even in stuff I believe to be printer ready.

With my art I find it is easier to save as I create keeping a copy of the first-time original and then using a copy of that to work on. That way when I hit a wall I have the original, unvarnished idea to look at a second time and start over. Sometimes, I even see two or three or more things which should be done with the original file and if I have a copy of that original I can do them.

It is hard to put the genii back in the bottle. So I keep the original bottle and make all of my work on the copies.

Laptops, tablets, and smart phones have made all of this so much easier. You have been scanning all of your work into digital files so that you can use the computer to do a lot of the hard dirty work for you, right?

First digital files travel better than any other method. You create your portfolio and put it on a disc or thumb drive and you’ve got something you can carry with you no matter what calls you away.

Laptops and tablets let you take your work with you and keep working on it while you sweat out jury selection, the birth of your third cousin, twice-removed, the wedding of your mad sister who just gave up the blue hair and the nose ring or the end of the line for a family member.

It is not morbid. You can’t stop any of these things and they all require immediate if not physical intervention. If you have your work where you can carry it with you then you can work in-between the moments of drama which families seem to generate.

No, I am not asking you to spend yourself into poverty and divert money you badly need for your art into computer purchases. You don’t have to have the newest iPuppy to get your work moving on the move. An old laptop can be made to do almost everything an iPile can do with a lot less money.

Say you want to keep working while you are tending to the emergency of an unnamed relative, a laptop that’s a year or two out of date can be brought up to snuff with a handful of add-ons. Need a bigger hard drive, get a USB portable. They plug in, act like a hard drive and come in sizes so big they’d make King Kong green. Load all of your necessary, but space eating programs on the portable and keep your internal hard drive for the Operating System and you can play with the i’s for less than two hundred dollars.

So when that phone rings or there’s a knock at the door, don’t get all squenchie, get out your travel kit, throw a fresh pair or two of Joe Boxer’s best in a carry on and pack your tooth brush and go slay that dragon.

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