Monday, April 2, 2012
What'cha Doing? Ways to be a More Productive Writer, Part 1
A writer's life is often a busy life, and productivity is high on everyone's wish list. More time, more words, more pages, more books, etc. We'd all love to get more writing done in the little time we have, but that time is frequently the first one sacrificed when things gets tight. Even if we have a lot of time, we still wish we could do more with it. Make better use of it.
There's lots of advice surfing around the web about this, but I've found that no matter how optimistic I am, if you give me a 10 Things to Boost My Productivity type list, I'll pick one or two of the easy ones and never get to the rest of the list. It's just too much to change all at once and disrupts my day. My guess is I'm not alone here.
Change is rough, especially if you're trying to change your routine. So instead of throwing a slew of tips at you, I'm going to hand them out one at a time and let those who wish to try it work it into their regular routines. Then we'll move on to the next.
Big changes can come from small steps.
So, without further ado, the first tip on being a more productive writer is:
Carve out a time and place to write.
Yes, I know, "find time to write" isn't revolutionary or anything, but what I've found is that even when you do carve out time, things still interrupt you. It's still hard to shut the rest of your life and responsibilities away to get any real writing done.
Hence the second part.
Change of location can make a difference. I know it sounds crazy, but a break in routine is exactly what you're trying to do, and if you're in a new location you're free to behave differently. This is where you work and get things done. Your mindset is a powerful tool, so use it to your advantage.
Step One: Find time to write
I'm not an everyday writer and despite what "everyone" says, I don't think you have to write every single day to get anywhere. But you do need to consistently write. Some folks can do an hour a day, others an evening three days a week. If Saturday afternoons are all you have, then write your heart out every Saturday afternoon. Whenever you have regular time to sit down and write, prioritize that time.
Step Two: Find a place to write
This is the part I think really makes step one achievable. Sitting at the desk you do a million other things at and telling yourself "Okay, time to write now" doesn't always work. You get stuck, so you surf the web, check email, make a call. But if you change locations, separate yourself from the things that commonly distract you, and all you have is the writing, you'd be surprised at how much more you'll get done. Go to another room, head outside, find a coffee shop or a library.
If you physically can't move your computer, try writing on paper and see what happens. Maybe flesh out the entire scene, so when you do get back to your computer you can write quickly and get it all down. Try writing at the library, or even at a friend's house. Stay late after work (if the boss doesn't mind) and save everything to a flash drive. Get creative.
Step Two-and-a-Half: Find different places and times to write when needed
I can edit like a fiend at my desk almost any time of day. But to write a first draft, I need to be away from my office and write only in the mornings. That's my writing time and place to be the most productive. You might discover that certain writing tasks can be done at different times or places, which leaves your choice writing time free for the creative writing (or the revision of that's what you need more focus on). If you can outline or brainstorm ideas every night in between other tasks, why not take advantage of it?
Your challenge (should you choose to accept it)
For the next two weeks, carve out a time and a place to write. Pay attention to when and where you're the most productive and if different tasks can be accomplished at different times. Create a writing schedule that works best for you.
Do you have a writing time and place? What do you do to be a more productive writer?
The whole series: finding the right time and place to write, all about preparation, stopping in the middle, not re-reading too much of the previous session, leaving yourself notes, and how to avoid wasting time.