Monday, July 22, 2013

Moments of Paralysis Followed by Spurts of Manic Productivity

So. My book is coming out in 50, 49, 48, 47 days (see the handy countdown widget to the left) and I am floundering around in the dog days of summer. My to-do list is out of control. Words to write each day. Books to read. Emails to answer. Calls to make. A book launch party to plan (Sat. Sept. 7 from 2-4 at Cover to Cover Bookstore in Columbus, Ohio. Please mark your calendar).

And those are the work-related things.

There's also life in general. Laundry to wash. Meals to plan. Tomatoes and green beans to pick from the garden. Toilets to clean. (or, not clean)

I used to pride myself on being an organized person. Oh, I was a whirling Tasmanian devil of a multi-tasker. In fact, I thrived on that kind of busy lifestyle. In my hey day I sat on numerous boards and committees. Edited a school newsletter. Taught Sunday school. Carpooled the heck out of my kids--to soccer practices and music lessons and club meetings and play dates. I also worked a couple of days a week as a Gifted/Talented teacher.

And I baked cookies.

In my spare time, I wrote novels and dreamed of the day when one of these would be published.

Now that one of them IS about to be published, I'm trying to resurrect that old multi-tasking self.

The trouble is that she sorta burned out a few years ago. What happened was my husband took job in another state and in one swoop I quit all of those meetings and committees and boards--activities that I once thought were so important--and that I mistakenly believed simply could not function without ME. (Fun fact: they all continue to function to this day without any problem at all.)

I took stock of myself then: New place. New me. A chance to decide what I really wanted to do with my time. Parent my kids. Write.

And this is what I did for the next few years.

I think I got spoiled.

Writing, it turns out, requires time and quiet and reflection. At least for me. I know that there are lots of writers who hold down full-time jobs. One writer I know has two year old twins. I honestly do not know how she does it.

But I am going to have to figure it out, because marketing a book requires time too. Lots.

How did that long-buried/burned out Super Volunteer Carpool Mom DO IT all?

I guess what I am trying to figure out is how to balance all of the things I need to do and want to do. How to spend each day productively. And at the same time how to enjoy my life (my son home from college for only a month; my daughter who is already two steps out the door). How to deal with unforeseen stuff that comes up without flipping out because it threw me off of my self-imposed schedule.

A few things I have stumbled upon that I hope will help:

1. LET STUFF GO THAT IS NOT IMPORTANT. Do I really need to clean the bathrooms? Okay. Maybe I DO need to clean the bathrooms. But I don't necessarily have to dust the whole $*%& house weekly. (People who know me are reading this and thinking: did Jody EVER dust her house weekly? No. No, I did not. But you get my point.)

2. Prioritize. This goes along with number one. Some things simply must be done on a certain day. Other things can wait until tomorrow. Or next week. My big TO-DO over the past weekend was creating an address list for my book launch party. I actually have a deadline for this because the owner of Cover to Cover wants the list by the end of the month.

3. Don't freak when a task takes longer to complete than I planned. Apparently, it takes four hours instead of one to create an address list. Who knew?

4. Look at the big picture. Take one thing at a time. These seem to contradict each other but maybe not. I read somewhere, probably in Oprah, that when you are faced with what seems like a huge task, to keep from being overwhelmed, break it down into teeny tiny pieces. Makes sense. I'll let you know if this works.

5. Let go of some preconceived idea of productivity and perfection. That hey day I was talking about when I was volunteering to run every activity and driving around town and baking cookies--it wasn't such a fun time for my family. I told myself I was doing all that for my kids (solving the problems of education in America by creating PTA meeting agendas) but one night I was tearing out of the house for yet another meeting and I realized that I had something scheduled for every night that week and would not be able to put the kids to bed. Another time my little daughter broke down in tears as I raced her from a piano lesson to a viola lesson.

6. One of my New Year's Resolutions this year is to enjoy this wild ride of a book launch. But this can be a resolution for anything and for life itself. I'm making an address list for a book launch because I have a book coming out! I should be falling on my knees and praising the gods of publishing instead of whining about staring blearily at an excel spreadsheet of addresses for four hours.

In a few weeks many of the people I love and admire most in the world, people who have supported me and cheered me on and believed in me over the years even when I had begun to doubt, will gather for a celebration. Some are coming from far away and taking time off from their own work and families. They'll stand in line and fork out ten bucks for my book.

The least I can do is throw them a cool party.

Also, I think I will bake cookies.


  1. Everyone gets really busy around the time of a first book launch. Some things I learned:

    You don't have to do everything you planned.
    Don't sweat the small stuff.
    Enjoy as much as possible.
    Housework goes to the bottom of the list.
    It's OK to say no.

    1. Thanks, Jenn. I am totally with you on all of these, especially the housework.

  2. I'm excited for your book, too, Jody. I'm betting you'll figure it out like you somehow did to get yourself here. And I love that you gave up the whirlwind.

    A class I took a while back taught me to make two lists for the day/week/month. One list has the bare minimum to do with times I estimate it will take me to complete. If I finish this I am golden.

    The second list includes all of the it-would-be-nice stuff with times to complete attached. If I finish that list I'm a 'super star' (Or whatever name I want. Sometimes I call myself 'goddess-like' if any of those get done).

    In theory I also time how long things actually take me to complete.

    This keeps me grounded in what can actually get done and lets me feel good now and then for what does get done.

    Wishing you all the best in this next month. And cheering from afar even though I won't make Columbus for the cookies.

    1. Thanks, Karrie. I like your two list idea better than my never-ending one big list. I also like the Goddess-like label. I will try that! And thank you for cheering from afar. I hope I can get out to your part of the country one of these days...

  3. Hi, Jody,
    I was in such a whirlwind before the LA Conference that I just now got around to reading this post--and I love it! Ha ha, I used to be you, serving on the PTA committees and spending every afternoon ferrying someone somewhere. You have developed a wonderful attitude about priorities, and you will do what you have to do! Best of luck to you as you wrangle your to-do list in goddess-like style. I really enjoyed meeting you in LA, and I wish I could come to your book launch. I know it will be awesome! Kim Teter

    1. Thanks, Kim! I do not regret that PTA life, but I will say that I do not miss it either! Loved meeting you too, by the way. Hoping to make it down to your neck of the woods soon... Will keep you posted.