This is the newsletter sent out to my mailing list at the start of September 2020. If any of these topics interest you and you'd like me to go more in-depth, let me know!
Why I Need a System
Today's world is faster, busier, and more demanding than ever before; to the point where even Neurotypical people are feeling the strain. (Add in the global pandemic and we've now reached unprecedented levels of stress worldwide.) But as an Autistic person who struggles significantly with Executive Functioning Skills, without adequate structure I simply grind to a complete halt.
It's taken me years of constant struggle to realize that I need roadmaps, processes, and systems, not just to "get things done," but to live my life and engage with the things I enjoy. Building a scaffolding around my goals, my time, and the information I gather is a huge investment, but thanks to that I no longer fear forgetting things, getting lost, or abandoning projects.
Not everyone needs this, but surely anyone could benefit from additional support. And for thoes of us who do need it, finally being able to act instead of just dream is more than worth the effort.
Structure Must be Flexible
In creating structure for ourselves, we must give it the flexibility to withstand change and adapt, or else we'll find ourselves rebuilding it from the ground up every few months.
Structure must be...
- Shock Resistant: able to absorb sudden blows that would otherwise throw us off. (Examples: create buffers around your time and your budgets, or create a "troubleshooting guide"/recovery plan for when you're having off days.)
- Adaptive: able to transform and accomodate temporary or permanent changes to your work and lifestyle. (Example: define your support systems at different levels of specificity to allow for alternate implementations depending on the situation.)
- Future Facing: able to handle day to day tasks while paving the way toward the future we want. (Examples: it must be able to handle present demands while helping you analyze how it all fits together and builds the future you want.)
The Notes ARE the Work
Writing down, or otherwise expressing and recording your thoughts is work. It's the act of compressing an intangible thought into something that can be manipulated and communicated to others, or to your future self. From there, you can add to it, transform it, connect it to other ideas, and create something new.
Why Routines are Important for ND People
Conversations about the Neurodivergent "need for routine" rarely seems to hit on why it's so essential. It's most often considered a lack of flexibility or emotional control, but I believe it's actually a combination of a weakness in planning skills, decision fatigue, and stress.
Decision-making is one of the most intellectually and enegy demanding activities we do on a daily basis. It involves calling up several pieces of information, evaluating that information, projecting forward in time to several possible outcomes, and then deciding on a path to take.
Routines eliminate the need to make decisions before getting to work. All decisions about what, where, and when have been done ahead of time. The path has been laid out and all we need to do is follow it. Less energy spent making decisions leaves more energy for the work at hand. The Need for Routine is a matter of Energy Management.
Building Fiction Writing into my System
Essentialism by Greg McKeown talks about ‘enshrining the essential’ or building routines around the things most essential to what we want to accomplish. Routines or habits take the decision-making out of the equation which makes starting those tasks effortless — and starting is usually half the battle.
I’m looking forward to reading Atomic Habits in the coming months to build on that idea and find a way to really center writing in my life.
But in the meantime, I’m using time blocking to assign time to write, and working on getting my writing into as few places as possible so it’s easy and quick to access.
Stories are Systems
While editing a story a few weeks ago, I was amazed to find how easily I could identify genre conventions for a genre I don’t consider myself to be very familiar with. As I pondered the intuition I was able to call upon during that editing session, I came to the conclusion that ‘stories are just systems’. Stories are complex structures of genre, setting, plot, character, and language. There’s something wonderfully demystifying and exciting about realizing that the more I consume stories, the more I understand these aspects of story, the better I can plan, write, or fix them.