Lesson in Writing Productivity
This is my (I think) 8th year of doing and finishing NaNoWriMo. I ended with just over 62,000 words, plus I also wrote a proposal and sample chapters that didn’t get counted in this number. Some of my friends get freaked out over those numbers. I will say that this has been my most productive word count writing month ever- I probably wrote somewhere around 90K.
I’m not saying this to brag on how well I did. Honestly, I think a lot of it comes from knowing myself, my process, and accepting it. I wanted to share some of what I learned because I hope it will help some others figure out their process as well. The key, in my opinion, is accepting and following your own process. We all work differently. So take a look at what worked for me and see if you can apply it to your own process.
I do work full-time. I’ve been telling myself it’s part time, but I finally accepted the writing on my timesheet, and so I am admitting my full-time status. So how do I write that much AND work full time?
1. I recognize and respond to my productive hours. If I sit down to write at 9 a.m., I’ll have maybe 1K done by noon. If I sit down to write at 9 p.m., I’ll have 1K by 9:30. Therefore, I only write during my productive hours. This does mean, with a full time job and a family, that I went to bed later than I wanted to and I have been really tired this month. But with an active family and a husband who worked 60 hour weeks in November, plus a major work event, I didn’t have a choice to put off other responsibilities to write. I wrote when I could, and I made it as productive as possible.
2. I recognize and respond to other productivity cues. I can’t work with any background noise or the TV. I mean, I can, but if I have the TV on to catch up on my favorite show while I’m writing, I’m lucky to get a page written. With the TV off, I can write 1K in the time it takes to watch a show. So I made a choice to let the DVR record my shows, and when I have time, I catch up on them. I also recognized what an easy distraction the Internet is. Even though I told myself, “I’ll look this up real quick,” it ended up sucking a lot of my time for writing. So… I found times and places to write with no Internet access. My best writing days were in a coffee shop with no Internet access and in a car as a passenger on our Thanksgiving trip.
3. I accept my choices. It’s easy for all of us to say, “I have no time.” But when you look at ways you waste time, then you can examine what you could be doing instead. So when I felt like reading a book instead of writing, I was conscious of that being my choice and reminding myself that I DID have time to write, but I was choosing something else. I didn’t do a lot of things I wanted to do this month, but I accepted it as MY CHOICE. By owning my choices, I felt a lot better about writing and taking the time to do the things I needed to do and also taking the time to do things I wanted to do. I did make choices to spend time not writing, but I accepted that as my choice, and I didn’t feel guilty. Personally, I think there is a lot less guilt whether you write or don’t write, when you accept the choices you make in that direction.
4. I accepted it as a fun “want to” instead of a “have to.” I never go into NaNoWriMo with a lot of pressure. This year, I had a plan to write a book that is completely not in my genre and I haven’t even decided if I’m going to try to get it published. I broke a ton of rules and had a lot of fun. I chose to see this book as a “play” book, to experiment and explore. Yes, I kind of had that luxury because all of my writing deadlines have been met. But I think sometimes we approach our writing with a lot of pressure and an idea of the rules and a list of everything we have to accomplish and I think that stifles our creativity. Every once and a while, I think it’s good for our brains to have a break from that pressure and just let it go crazy. My book is kind of crazy. But I’m really pleased with it, and I’m proud of what I did.
5. I nurtured my creative spirit. Remember that accepting my choices bit? Well, this month, I did a lot of art journaling. I really did not plan my time well at the start of this month. I joined three art challenges, a fitness challenge, NaNoWriMo, and had my usually busy life. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I did not fully complete my fitness or art challenges.) Some days, I ignored my art challenges to write. Some days, I ignored writing to do art. Some days, I did both. I remember from my time doing The Artist’s Way that Julia Cameron suggests having artist dates with yourself. One day, when I was struggling with the writing, I closed my computer and went to the art museum. I came home to free flowing words and felt capable of handling what was a tough scene. I am learning that when I take time to nurture my creative spirit by playing with stuff in my art journal or going to the museum, or doing something creative OTHER than writing, my writing flows faster and better. If I art journaled and wrote in the same day, I averaged about 2k in an hour. If I only wrote that day, I averaged 1K an hour. To me, those numbers are significant, and it tells me that allowing myself creative freedom in another arena makes me more creative in general.
So that’s how I got it done. It wasn’t pretty at times, and please don’t come to my house anytime soon or you will see the things I chose not to do so I could write, but if I could go back and choose how I spent my time differently, I wouldn’t. I think I learned a lot this month and I’m excited to apply it to future months.
How did your writing go? Do you have any productivity tips that make your writing go faster?