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It’s been a very busy first half to the autumn term and I’m relishing a quiet afternoon at home by myself. There has been precious little time alone lately and the more I struggle to find it, the more important it becomes. My schedule seems to get busier with each passing week and though I thrive on having plenty to do, I have landed myself in hot water more than once before by not making sure there is ample quiet time.

And so, with our computer having taken a nose dive into oblivion (now returned six weeks later resurrected) I decided earlier this month that it was time to revert to my ever faithful pen and paper to establish clear routines and keep track of work and free time. Yes, I’ve got a filofax. Well, four to be precise but we’ll get to that later. I hadn’t realised in the time that I’d been away from the world of planners that there had developed such a fabulous cult around the things. One only has to look on youtube or search for blogs on the topic to see how the simple leather binder has been turned into an outlet for creativity for many people.

I have started then to use the A5 Domino that my ma bought me as an early Christmas present to keep track of my many teaching appointments and church schedule. I also use it to track personal goals, finances, to work on planning projects and keeping contact lists. Having stepped away from using a computer to produce lots of different documents in different places I am now in a position where I feel more in control as everything is in the same place. If I have an idea about a project that involves me making a phone call, I have the number for the person involved at my fingertips. In meetings I am able to make appointments immediately knowing my timetable in advance, rather than having to say I will schedule something later and then forget it.

At the moment, the most revolutionary thing for me is using my planner to keep track of my writing. So often I find myself getting frustrated because I’m ‘not writing enough.’ I had seen in other people’s beautifully decorated planners that they had made use of tapes, stickers and pens to enhance things. I remembered that I use reward stickers with my students to help them keep on track with practice. I also remembered that I have a huge sticker collection that if I were to admit it, is far more about my slight obsession with the things than it is about my students. So, I have started to give myself reward stickers on my planner pages when I complete certain actions. I have a sticker for completing what are essentially Morning Pages as seen in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, but are my own version of them. I have a sticker for working on my current project, another for completing a thousand words of new writing, another for completing the revision of a chapter. I anticipate different stickers as I go through each project.

What this does is help me realise that even though my days are squashed at times, I am getting far more done than I had thought. Things are going ok. I have written at least my morning pages every day this week and a not too shoddy three days out of six I have managed 1k on my book.

I managed to enter the Mslexia competition which is good, though I am fairly philosophical about Jude’s chances of being placed. Part of being a writer though is about completing projects and working to goals and deadlines and I should remind myself that entering this competition was all about that for me, not about winning. I shall try to remember that as I eat Consolation Cake when the winners are announced.

And what about the curate and that lovely colcannon? Well, I found out this week that it is very difficult for me to talk about spiritual or emotional truths face to face with priests. I find it hard to ask questions and hear the answers. It makes me feel out of control or stupid or just too emotional. And so we have come up with a solution. I will email my questions (often long and difficult ones on the nature of God or about the Mass) and she will answer in person over a brew. I hope it works. I have a lot to ask lately. Perhaps I need to find some way of giving myself a reward sticker …

And last but not least, it is NaNoWriMo in less than a week. I am, it has to be said, still in the thick of it with Jude and so I’m not sure that a new project (or even work on The Darkling Wood) is going to be possible. More on that next week as I assess the situation.

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