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Hard Realities, Happy Accidents

My grand plan of blogging my brains loose through this time has been knocked on the head by cold hard reality.

The single biggest realisation I’ve had since this time away from work started is the sanctity of time. Before it, I was a little loose on time. I was a big one for saying yes to a myriad of things before this. Volunteering for projects, offering help, committing myself. In my mind, whenever I said yes, the work I was committing to doing would get done easily and magically in some halcyon place called the future where all things happen by themselves easily and with minimal energy depletion.

Then when delivering on said commitment came up, I’d be up for hours on end, shunting the work of dad onto my wife, getting grumpy and handing in work that I knew could have been better if I had planned ahead better.

With Arts Council funded time away from my day job, I’ve been so dialled in to time I’m becoming a little obsessed. Each Sunday, I spend part of the evening planning the week. What do I need to do? What do I want to achieve? I’ve found it incredibly useful. I’ve got a good view of what needs to happen in every hour of the day. That’s everything from the work I need to do for this graphic novel, to the weekly Sprout strip for Waterstones, to who is doing the school run for Sprout and on which day.

It’s helped me to be much more purposeful in how I commit my time. There have been a couple of cool projects that have come my way that previously I’d have said yes to. Now, knowing just how little time there is in each hour of the day and exactly how I plan to spend it, I can see where I can and can’t commit time. It’s pretty liberating and make me wonder how I got anything done previously.

The tough part is what I call the Mike Tyson part. A colleague I work with likes to quote him when we get deep into planning. “Everybody’s got a plan,” Iron Mike famously said, “until they get hit.”

The last three weeks, I’ve had great plans and goals going into the week… and then I’ve got hit. The little one has a rough night and my 6 am wake up gets broadsided by the 3 am falling asleep. Lyndsay needs to get work done for her clients and the 16 hours of day care a week is not enough, so I step in to help. My brain doesn’t just erupt with the writing and creative work I need it to do at a given time.

This past week, for example, I’d planned on writing 2000 words a day on the script for the next graphic novel. I’d also planned sketching development time, software tutorials to update my workflow and a streamlined Sprout strip delivery plan. That all kind got thrown out the window with some day to day family needs.

The irony with all of that, however, is that this week may also have been the best for helping me to crack the code of what I want the final book to “be about.” That’s a funny way of saying it, but it reminds me of a great quote I heard at a writer’s conference. I think it was EL Doctorow who said that “writers write in order to find out what they meant in writing in the first place.” I know the story that needs to be told. This past week has helped me refine how it wants to be told. A conversation with Lyndsay over lunch and doing the dishes both ended up being Eureka moments that were more important than the 10000 words I didn’t get all the way through writing or the tutorials I didn’t get the chance to get to.

The immortal Bob Ross said that there are no such things as mistakes. Only happy accidents. I’m sticking with that. Because if I’d been able to stick to my plans for the last couple of weeks, particularly last week, I’d not be able to achieve my big goals: telling a story that moves me and that I would want to read.

PS. Since we all dig pictures, here are a couple of pictures from life drawing and pub drawing I’ve done the last few weeks.

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