I skipped blogging the last couple weeks while I endured exhaustive literary exploration and journeyed to the far corners of the globe conducting tireless research for my next two novels.
In other words, I was in Kauai visiting my parents, hanging with my brother & his fiancée, and celebrating my gentleman friend's 40th birthday.
For the record, I am working on two books set on the lovely garden isle, and I did spend vacation time exchanging phone calls, emails, and text messages with my agent. Though I can't yet share the reasons for all the urgent correspondence, suffice it to say my plate is quite full at the moment. Not a bad problem for an author to have.
But of course, I'm not just an author. As we made the 3.5 hour drive home from the airport, traveling through a mountain blizzard following an all-night flight from Hawaii, I realized with dread that I had to report to the day job the following morning.
I adore being the Communications and Public Relations Manager for my city's tourism bureau, which frequently involves sipping beer with journalists on the Bend Ale Trail and spending afternoons snowshoeing or kayaking so I can blog about my adventures. I love what I do, both as an author and a part-time day jobber.
But as I sat there the next morning in my office, jet-lagged and exhausted with a sunburn that caused me to scratch myself inappropriately more often than normal, I stared at my overflowing email inbox and tried not to cry. Hundreds of unread messages glowed on the screen, their bold, black font like an evil email sneer. I scrolled down the page, hoping most of them were messages I could ignore about donuts in the break room week-old snow reports.
There were no donuts, stale or otherwise. And I was faced with the daunting task of tackling that overflowing inbox, along with the blinking light on my voicemail and the pile of mail lurking on a corner of my desk and a plethora of meetings on my calendar and my boss hovering in the doorway saying, "When you have a minute...."
The buzzing sensation in my brain was not unlike the one I've experienced as an author faced with an impossible deadline or a daunting set of revisions (though it's a different kind of buzzing than what's generated by the device beside my bed, which is where I seriously wished to be as I stared down my task list and wondered where the hell to start).
One of many lessons I'm forced to learn over and over as an author, a day jobber, and as someone hoping to maintain a home that doesn't appear as though a small nuclear weapon was detonated in my living room is the importance of tackling daunting tasks in small, manageable chunks. It's like that age-old question, "How do you eat an elepahant?"
One bite at a time.
And so, I dug in. Which is the way every success story starts, whether you're writing a book or shoveling dog doo in the backyard. I've learned the hard way that if I allow myself to dwell on the big picture – ohmygod, a WHOLE BOOK?! A task list longer than Ron Jeremy's beef bayonet? – I will expend more energy fretting than I would actually getting shit done.
In the case of the day job, that meant prioritizing the email inbox and tackling the time-sensitive tasks first, tending to media requests for photos and making sure all our social media channels were updated with engaging content. Fortified by that small sense of accomplishment (not to mention three cups of strong black tea) I moved on to the voicemail, then the less urgent email, pausing every now and then to pee and respond to requests from colleagues (occasionally at the same time).
Am I all caught up? I wish I could say yes, just like I wish I could say I spent last night writing the synopsis I promised my agent instead of rolling around naked. OK, that's a lie. I totally don't wish that last one.
Still, I've learned to be patient with myself, and to accept the fact that no sane person (or insane person, for that matter) can accomplish everything at once, regardless of the task. If you know someone who can, send him or her my way and I'll supply all necessary tea and AA batteries.
How do you approach daunting tasks and overflowing inboxes? Please share!
I'll be busy shaking Kauai sand out of my undies.