The History of the Renaissance World went to my editor a month ago. I’m not finished with it; I am finishing maps and timelines (which depend on the final draft) and waiting for edits, I’ll have to check proofreader marks and copy edits. But right now, everything I still need to do with the book is waiting on someone else’s action.

Today, I de-spidered my office. As you probably know, my office is a restored chicken-shed, so a natural home for all sorts of uninvited visitors. I don’t mind spiders, but webs under my desk do not make me productive and comfortable.

I’d been meaning to de-spider since early spring, but I realized today that de-spidering is actually one of my post-deadline rituals. I don’t tend to haul the vacuum cleaner down, plug it in, and go to the trouble unless I’m in transition.

And then, thinking it through, I realize I have at least five post-project rituals.

1) Vacuum.

A clean office is an office ready for the next project.

2) Return books to the university library. I had around four hundred out at the height of this project; I can’t return them all until my book actually goes to the printer, because up through the last stage of proofreading I find myself needing to check facts and citations. But about half of them are now migrating eastward to Williamsburg.

3) Throw away clutter.

Lack of clutter = space for thought.

I got three big garbage bags out, including two pieces of defunct computer equipment. Felt great.

4) Choose a new notebook to start keeping thoughts for the next project.

This one was a present from my oldest son a couple of years ago. I’ve been saving it. Now I’m tasking it for the next big book I’ve been contemplating.

5) Invent a new task-chart.

I’m a list-maker. A linear-thinking, type-A, left-brain list-maker. When I do something that isn’t on my list, I write it on my list. It makes me feel good. (So there.)

When I’m restarting, I re-list. Think of a new way to keep track of my goals. Figure out a different method for charting my time. I use colored pencils, because they make me feel free and creative.

My new task-chart has places to write down the sub-goals I have for different types of projects, and columns for exercise and for the work I do with the horses.

It’s worked well for the last month. It’ll work well until it starts making me feel guilty; and then I’ll ditch it and make another one with different colors.

Post-project, pre-project. It’s an inevitably temporary, but remarkably fun place to be.

Showing 4 comments
  • Sandra

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who writes things down on my list that weren’t originally there just so I can have the pleasure of crossing them off. Actually I know I’m not the only one because both my daughters do the same thing. If only I could convince the males in the household of the benefits of list making .

  • Amanda Gray

    I do that too!
    Pssst…sometimes at the end of the day, I make a new list and exclude everything I didn’t get done just so that it looks like I did everything. I’m just ripe with strange compulsions…

  • David Middleton

    Thank you so much.
    I’ve been trying to keep learning and make use of my drive time and I just listened to your History of the Medieval World. I’m looking forward to your Renaissance but I can go back to your Ancient World. Real mastery and scope.

  • Les McB

    That? Is an epic notebook. Says the ink-and-paper addict. 😉

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