Tag Archives: time management

4 writerly rules for managing the ebb and flow of life

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Assalam alaikum wa rahmatullahi wabarakatahu. God’s blessings, peace and mercy be on you, fellow traveler.

So I’ve been trying to practice Scott Myer’s mantra for two weeks now: 1, 2, 7, 14.

Read one screenplay a week.

Watch 2 movies a week.

Write 7 pages i.e. a page a day.

Do 14 hours of prep i.e. 2 hours of prep a day.

It’s been a challenge. But it’s been rewarding. I’ve invested more in my screenwriting ambitions in the last 2 weeks than I have in my entire life. That kind of rigor has forced me to think about what I am willing to give up and where I’m willing to go. I don’t just mean sleep and free time. I mean heart-ache, anxiety, despair, depression or my personal favorite, failure.

My husband would say I’m being too dramatic. Let’s just say I’ve decided I’ll brave the Uncertainty and the lack of Certainty that comes with filmmaking and screenwriting.

But I have failed a fair amount. I’ve missed pages, prepped reduced hours, been utterly paralysed by the blank page.

In the process, I’ve discovered that the probability of success is linked to my energy. My creative energy cycles with my body.

It is foolish to push your body to achieve more and more and more when we are designed to need replenishment. This is where the animal kingdom has the jump on us humans. Lions rest an entire day after a hunt. Bears take the whole winter off.

But we work day and night, ignoring God’s blessing of the night-time and rest.

He splits the sky at dawn, and appoints the night as a time of stillness and the Sun and Moon as a means of reckoning. (Qur’an, 6:96)

(Go here for a brief explanation of the above verse)

While society favors the Type-A “harder, faster, stronger” personality, something tells me that I’m made of cream cheese and I can only manage that for a little while before I have a meltdown.

I’ve discovered a few basic ground rules so I can work with my energy cycles rather than against them.

1. Work as early as possible

I’ve blocked out times that my family is least likely to interrupt me – between 10 – 12:30 in the morning. Or between 2:30 and 6:30 in the evening. Sigh. An embarrassment of riches.

But still things come up. Family calls from overseas. Errands need to be run. Life does not respect my ambitions.

I haven’t managed to wake up uber-early and do my prep. Yet. But I’m aspiring to it.

I am far more likely to be tired in the evening and so writing or prepping closer to night-time should be avoided if it can be helped. Hubby comes home too and spending 2 hours staring at a laptop while he’s around is hardly likely to work wonders for our relationship. Though being the sweetheart that he is, he totally understands. But he deserves better than that. And so do I

2. Schedule the hard stuff for earlier in the week

Earlier in the week, when I’m primed and ready to go, I get a whole lot more done a lot more efficiently in prep time. And the pages just zip out.

Later in the week, I get a little exhausted. Come Friday, I just feel like playing which is a great time for an ‘artist date’. Though I’ve not really been too successful at having one of those yet.

It’s also a great time to kick back and pay attention to a movie or a screenplay.

3. Get a routine

A routine makes my hours that much easier.

  1. I start with 15 minutes of concept brainstorming. This is a great way to massage my brain before getting into the nitty-gritty. Plus it’s a great way to generate story concepts, a good 95% of which are invariably duds.
  2. 1.5 hours of prep.
  3. Another 15 minutes of looking over the above concepts with a critical eye. Not just, “Is this good?” But also “What can I do to make this better?” “Why is this so bad?” “Why do I want to write about ice-cream so much?”

4. Reward yourself with some fire-gazing time

I find I get cabin fever if I stay inside too much. I like taking a walk or just sitting with my father-in-law. He’s always watching Animal Planet so metaphorically at least, we’re being spirited away to different lands.

What works for you in terms of maintaining consistency with your routine?

Wassalam and Fee Amanillah. Peace and God’s protection, peeps.

The Happy Muslimah.

Ramadan reflections: On Time

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

From http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Assalam alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatahu, brothers and sisters.

Ramadan Mubarak!

My sincere apologies for letting this blog lapse. My wedding was a whirlwind and thereafter, I was too blissed out to even look at my laptop. I kid you not – I survived without Internet for DAYS.

Which segues quite nicely into what should be on all our minds and hearts (and not in our stomachs) these past 3 weeks.

Where I am in Colombo, it’s the 18th day of Ramadan, the Month of Mercy.

The last ten days are coming up very quickly. In one of their nights is hidden Allah’s Mercy, the Night of Power. That night, if spent in worship, are equal to a thousand months of worship. That’s 83.3 years. A life-time. Almost.

Our life-times seem to be getting longer due to modern medicine. Though frankly, I’m not sure we are any healthier in mind, body or spirit.

I know that I am considered young and that my life stretches ahead of me. That apparently, I have ‘lots’ of time. Yet my most frequent complaint is that I don’t have enough time.

I have been meaning to put away my nafs and study hijaab and stand-up comedy. Really figure out whether I am doing the right thing in those two areas.

But I have not had the time.

What has stolen my time?

Unexpected blessings

Until a couple of days ago, my sister-in-law (my husband’s sister) and her three children were also living with us. Little kids can be REALLY energetic and playful. The fact that they aren’t fasting and I am widened the energy gulf between us. Somehow the two youngest took a shine to me – maybe because my slight frame and round face make me look like a child that by some miracle has adult privileges. A worth ally indeed. So some of my day was spent playing and talking and listening to them.

Truth be told, I didn’t realize what a blessing they were until they were gone. It’s amazing how honest and imaginative and unconditionally loving children can be.

I have also decided to try taking my freelance writing career online. Man, that’s exciting work. I never was very good at closing a sale in person but online, somehow there’s a fire lit in me.  I am chasing and vetting clients and working out pricing strategies like I’ve been doing it all my life.

That entire process has brought up another frightening truth. Money. The possibility of making, losing or spending money drives me crazy.

I am not going to try and justify it by saying I’ve inherited emotional baggage from my parents who had poor childhoods. The fact of the matter is, money has a very strong emotional charge for me.

That needs to change. Yeah, we need money, but making it our ‘ilah’ (God) will alienate our friends and family and give us a hernia. And buy us a one-way ticket to hell.

Unexpected trials

Our maid has left for a week to attend a family gathering, so here we are, saddled with cooking and housework in the Month of Mercy.

Still it’s a good opportunity for me to learn to make the kanji, rolls and patties that everyone loves here and that my husband is so homesick for when he is out of Sri Lanka.

I’ve never been a fan of Sri Lankan cuisine. But I’m growing to quite like it now, oddly enough.

Being away from my mother has been an unexpected trial too. Unlike before, when I was living with her, I have no real-time update on her condition. I have to call and ask her, and like all good mothers, her reports are often only half-truths.

I visit her often but not often enough. I hate being in the dark, but I need to relinquish control and trust that Allah (subhaana wa ta’aala) is taking care of her.

Good old-fashioned distraction

My husband and I watched 3 episodes of Dexter last night.

I just Googled Galadriel for no good reason. Well, actually, the trailer for the new Hobbit movie seems to insinuate that she and Gandalf were having it off. Wanted to check if there was any precedent for that in the books.

There isn’t, in case you were wondering.

Still not really the most urgent matter in the world. Sigh.

There are still 12 more days. I can turn this around insha Allah.

Hope your Ramadans are fruitful and blessed insha Allah. Will see you after Eid.
Wassalam and Fee Amanillah,

The Happy (and fasting) Muslimah.