There are many in the writing community that crank out thousands of words an hour, edit a book in a week, and publish a book every month or two. That is not my production model, and that’s okay. Maybe one day I’ll hit that stride, but for now, all I can do is improve my current process.
I may never publish ten books a year, but can I work faster?
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that my productivity ebbs and flows with what’s going on in life. One thing I am proud of is that I do write pretty consistently. I’ve worked on various methods to improve my productivity, but everything fizzles after a while. I get lax with guarding my writing time. I choose leisure over work. I don’t bother turning off my wifi before a session.
TIP: Always turn off your wifi. The internet is a siren bent on wrecking your productivity.
This is why it’s important to commit every day. Obviously, I’m talking about writing, but this works for anything, whether it’s eating better or exercising. If you don’t commit every day, that habit you’ve been developing will start to fade. I find that if I skip a day of writing, it often expands into two or three days, sometimes more. So, if you’re in a rut right now, restart today! Don’t even wait until tomorrow. Write down a plan, then follow through. I regularly lose my drive and have to recommit. Sometimes it’s just getting back to the habit, but other times, it feels like I need to craft a new approach.
After reading Chris Fox’s 5,000 Words Per Hour and Plot Gardening, I’m going to be putting his techniques to work for the next month or two and see how it goes. Unlike most writing books I’ve read, he has actual exercises to practice. His advice is easily actionable, so I feel pretty excited to give it a try. It’s going to be a little messy to start, but I I figure it’s better to start imperfectly than wait another week or two. I’ll probably write a post at some point detailing how it went, but for now, here are the main aspects of my approach.
1. Wake up earlier.
Summer has shifted my wake-up time to 6:30AM, but I’m going to aim for 5AM. This is even earlier than my old wake-up time, but I’m getting a little more sleep than I was at the beginning of the year now that my son is older.
By the time I get my coffee and breakfast, I imagine I’ll be butt-in-chair around 5:15AM. I plan to document this via instagram stories (@ericarue) to keep me honest because I know that 5AM is going to be tough at first. I’m probably going to ease into it by waking at 5:30/6AM to start.
2. Track time and output.
I’ll be working in 30 minute sprints for writing and editing. If I’m still in the zone, I might go past this time, but after 30 minutes, I’ll get up and stretch my legs, maybe even complete a small household task. If I wake up at 5AM, I should be able to get 2-4 sprints in before my son wakes up. I should also be able to get another sprint or two in during his nap times.
Editing is going to be a little harder for me to quantify, but I’ll do my best to work something out.
3. Even in the editing phase, write or plot every day.
I plan to coax myself into the writing chair with a 10-15 minute brainstorming or writing sprint. Even if my main goal of the day is editing, I think I’ll be happier doing that work if I’ve had the chance to be creative. Progress is easier to see and track when writing (versus editing), so I think this will also help me feel like I’m doing something. Editing is, of course, “doing something,” but it just doesn’t feel productive in the same way as writing.
This morning I did I trial run. While the results are far from where I want to be, it was an okay start. This morning I got up at 6:13AM and was in my chair by 6:23AM. I did a 10 minute brainstorming/plotting sprint (162 words), then took a 7 minute break. At 6:40, I sat down for a 35 minute writing sprint, but at 24 minutes in, the baby needed my attention, so I cut it short, netting only 345 words. Surprisingly, I found it taxing to stay focused for 24 consecutive minutes, but hopefully I’ll be able to train that focus like a muscle.
Per the recommendation Chris Fox gives in his books, I’ll be keeping better records of my time spent writing and my output in order to track progress, look for patterns, and make sure I’m using my time wisely.
Nothing fills me with hope and purpose like a project and a plan, so I’m really looking forward to mastering writing sprints. When that alarm goes off at 5AM, I’m going to need to remind myself to commit every day, because even the best plan is useless if you fail to commit to it.