I’ve been frustrated with myself these past few weeks.
You see, my dream is to write full time, and, temporarily, I have the opportunity to live that dream. I’m currently back in the states while my husband is finishing up his teaching certification. Unless things get really tight, we’ve agreed that I’ll use these few months to write, write, write.
So, I should be super productive. I should be blowing away my prior word counts. But, sadly, that has not been the case. I’ve slowed down—some days I get nothing written at all. On others, I labor for hours and produce a measly fifteen-hundred words.
So I decided to sit down and figure out why my writing is suffering in the hopes of finding a solution.
I used to have this sort of problem long ago, but once I began writing Division it went away. I was able to develop a routine while I was teaching in Korea. I’d go to a cafe in the morning and write for about four hours before work. At work, when I had down time, I would pound out a few paragraphs, or brain storm, or do some editing.
It’s odd, but leaving Korea has thrown my whole world off kilter. I have a hard to time writing at cafes because—and this is going to sound strange, but none the less—I find all of the English speakers distracting. I’m so used to the chatter around me being in a different language, one I don’t understand—which renders it the equivalent of white noise. The fact that I don’t have to go to work in the late afternoon means I’m more likely to squander the morning and afternoon, which I’m quickly discovering is my most productive part of the day. It’s not helping either that my sleep schedule has been a mess and I’m perpetually tired…which may be jet lag or the couch I’m sleeping on. :/
Another factor is that I didn’t do much by way of social media when I was in the first draft stage of Division. Now, I have author facebook groups, goodreads, and twitter to distract me, as well as general research and worry about the marketing, sales, and generating reviews for book one.
Once I diagnosed my issues I realized that many of them were solvable.
So here is what I’ve done:
1.) Self Control (http://selfcontrolapp.com/) :
This program has been a life saver. I believe there is also a chrome-specific application that does something similar, but knowing me I’d probably pop open Safari just to cheat.
Self Control is a wonderful tool that sets either white lists (websites you can visit) or black lists (websites you can’t) for a customizable amount of time. This does two things for me: it means that I can block my usual time wasters, but it also sets up a time table for writing. So, by setting self control to block off the social-media world for a certain number of hours, I’m also saying to myself: “These next three hours are for writing. This is writing time.” Which gives me more the feeling of ‘going to work,’ and makes me less willy-nilly about how long I intend to write.
2.) Write Track http://writetrack.davidsgale.com :
I’ve created a write track account to set word goals and to help measure my progress. I wish I could find an offline app that did such a thing, but in the mean time this one will do. It gives me a visual representation of my progress and and allows me to set “weighted” goals. So on days when I can’t write at all, I set my weight to 0 and on days where I’ve got loads of time I can increase my percentage to 150% or so. 100% is the number of words I need to write in order to finish my novel by the date I’ve set. Of course, the word count is a total guess and the date I set was random, but none the less it gives me something of a meter to go by.
I’ve decided to pay more attention to my productivity in conjunction to my writing hours and location. It’s odd, because I was definitely most productive in cafes in Korea, but thus far in America I’ve found working in the backyard on the patio to be the better option. (Seriously, why can’t I focus when people are speaking English around me? So weird!) Also, the wifi at Panera has been super shoddy, and I work much better with streaming radio. When I’m listening to music on my hard drive I tend to get picky and start looking around for certain songs, which is a needless distraction.
4.) Switch it up.
Part of my problem is that I was working on a story that, for a lot of reasons, wasn’t coming together. When I finally switched back to Elevation I instantly became more productive because I haven’t (yet) come upon any blocks. Thus far, I know where I’m going and the story is keeping even my reader-brain entertained. I’ll hop back to my short story after it and I have had some time apart.
5.) Get Excited.
I need to think about the scene I’m going to write before sitting down to write it. Either while I’m walking to my writing destination, or in the shower, or over breakfast, I need to start playing it through in my head. I need to start getting into my POV character’s shoes. I need to think of snippets of dialogue I’m eager to write, or visual bits of scenery I want to describe, or some heart wrenching reference I want to make. I need to get pumped, so when I sit down I approach that scene with fist-pumpy, guitar-solo-engendering enthusiasm. If I spend my pre-writing time thinking about other things, I sit down and greet that white screen with a certain “oh boy, here we go” mentality that is not terribly fist-pumpy or productivity inducing.
No further description required.
So far, I have seen improvements since I’ve implemented these 6 measures. I’m not exactly where I want to be yet word-count-wise, but I’m getting closer. Once I get into a more consistent routine and adjust to my location, I imagine I will see even more results. Though, I’d be interested to read what other authors do when they struggle to get words on the page. I’m always open to new suggestions!Carl Heyerdahl