Productivity, or writing productivity in my case, is these days directly proportional to my cats. I swear, it is! Writing and Cats–the struggle is real.
I have a plan. I have a schedule. I even have a time sheet. Time management software, software to better organize my writing/research/revisions, and even software to turn off the Internet–all of it is installed on my mac, my phone, my PC, and yet…all it takes is one cute kitty to undo it all.
(DiNozzo thinks my Mac is a heating pad)
Most of the time, my daily schedule is a mix of writing, editing, planning, and social media. I spend a good 6 hours on the first two (writing/editing), and then another hour on planning/brainstorming whatever book I will write after I finish writing the current one, which then shifts to the editing block and so on. I only interact with readers and other writing folks (via social media) after I’ve hit my word count for the day or during my lunch break.
But some days, my productivity decreases because cat.
My husband and I have three of them. Little guys are like non-verbal toddlers. They cough up hairballs in the middle of intense plot scenes, or require feeding while I’ve got ideas bursting forth. So how does one get his/her butt in the chair and write, day after day, with distractions? Be them cats, children, spouses, ourselves, or a job?
I’ve found one defining factor in successful writers vs. non-successful writers is discipline. And after that, patience. There’s an entire list somewhere I’m sure, but discipline is crucial.
When I quit teaching to write full time, I won’t lie. I spent a month making excuses for why I wasn’t writing daily. I found other things to fill my time, distractions. Cats. And then it hit me: I was never going to get published if I didn’t write. And edit. And promote. And network.
So how did I do it?
- Give yourself office hours & a time sheet.
I started by giving myself office hours and a time sheet. During office hours, no social media. No phone calls from relatives. During office hours, I was at work. And the people who loved me (friends & family) understood that because writing is my job. The time sheet was my way of holding myself accountable. I clocked hours–specifically, how many hours was I writing? Editing? Planning? Meeting with my critique group? Doing articles like this one for Magnolia Chapter One? And so on. (The time sheet is also handy for proving to the IRS that yes, writing is my job.)
- During office hours, put your butt in the chair and write.
If your brain gets stuck, edit. Or plan. Or go for a walk and brainstorm ideas, recording them with your phone app. Whatever you do, make it writing related. Freewrite if nothing else. Just write! The longer you do this, the easier it gets.
- Use tricks to increase productivity.
I could write a hundred articles on this one, but there are a ton of books out there on the subject. One thing you can do that’s really easy and difficult at the same time is to turn off your internal editor. On the first draft, just write. Don’t stop to backtrack and add commas. Don’t stop to go research something intense. Just write. I often have notes in my first drafts like this: When I go back on my first editing pass, I’ll do a CTRL-F Find for every < in my project in Scrivener. Then I go through one by one and insert whatever is needed.
- Use software to better organize your writing projects.
This will increase productivity by decreasing the time spent hunting for files/research, etc. Scrivener is my recommendation for many reasons. (And I’ll have to do an article on why soon!)
- Accept the inevitable.
Undoubtedly, there will be a distraction you can’t avoid. A kid gets sick and projectile vomits across the hallway. A cat needs emergency surgery. When these events happen, accept that they happen. (This one is hardest for me.) Deal with them as you have to, and then get back in the saddle.
If you want to be more than a hobbyist, it takes hard work and discipline, like any other job. The difference here is that it isn’t “any other job.” It’s writing. It’s creating. It’s everything.
And it’s worth it.
(Image of DiNozzo is Copyright 2015 Raven Oak. Yes, I meme’d my kitty.)