As writers, we fill our toolbox with things that help us in our craft. I’ve been experimenting with a few new things of late, trying to boost my productivity. Two of them in particular are making a difference.
I haven’t been involved in many word wars — timed writing sessions with one or more other writers. Set a short time limit, say 15 or 30 minutes, and write until it’s over. I started doing that last week, with my online writers group, and had one of my most productive days. These sprints are like a mini-deadline and it’s easier at times to shut out distraction in small increments. To that end, I’m taking carving out small small blocks of time throughout the day to write, especially on days when I might not be able to dedicate an hour or two contiguously. I’m going to get an egg timer to give me an external countdown to the process as well.
I ordered a cute egg timer from the states, but it was broken and I discovered the hard way how expensive custom and duty fees can be when something is shipped via UPS cross-border. I may just find a decent kitchen timer that can do double-duty.
The second trick is an organizational one. I’ve seen it referred to as the DASH method — Direction, Acceleration, Strength, and Health.
Direction is knowing what I’m going to write before I start. I make short lists of every chapter, broken down by scene, of what that writing needs to accomplish, usually no more than four or five bullet points. That mini-outline forces me to think through every chapter before I put down a single word. When I do sit down to write, I know what my end goal is.
Acceleration is getting started and finishing things. I’ve been pretty slow, plodding along and being frustrated with my progress. I would take so long, writing and rewriting, that I made almost no progress. Now, almost as a mantra, I remind myself that the point of a first draft is getting the ideas down on the page. Making the grammar fluid and pretty can wait for revision.
Strength refers to bolstering your mental clarify and physical strength through a better working environment. I am all about that. It’s been a slow process to make my office a comfortable space but we’re almost there. We have our bookshelves up and my cork board, filled with quotes that inspire, hands next to my desk. When I do need a change of pace, I switch to the coffee shop up the road.
Health is a reminder to take care of myself. Figuring out what doesn’t work (and drives up anxiety) and fix it. Get enough sleep. Realize that if I’m stuck on something, I probably just need to work it through to figure out what I’m missing — brainstorming, doodling, talking it through with someone else.
Last week wasn’t the most productive, with a funeral, doctors visit, and other distractions, but I had two great days.
Project: Black Mirror
New words written since last week: 1,980
Average words/day: 248
I’m working through some existing scenes that need at least some work vs. writing new words. It’s slowed me down a little but it needs doing. I’m printing off each chapter as it’s finished and putting it into a binder. When I do finish, I’ll take that binder and a red pen and go sit somewhere for an afternoon and begin the revision process. Until then, the printed manuscript goes and is another reminder of what I’ve finished so far.
[Crossposted from Adam Israel. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]