Painfree Productivity

Charlotte Black and Jordyn Kross

Recently our LERA member, Darynda Jones, was featured on the RWA University podcast talking about productivity. We highly recommend members check it out here:

There were several good notes on being productive, but overall the message was acceptance and finding ways to embrace your creative productivity style. But how do you discover what your productivity style is? And how do you adapt when the holidays, health, family, or the day job interrupt your process—that is, other than self-flagellation, which we writers are notoriously good at.

How do you stay on track?

Here are 11 tips for you to consider as you establish or re-establish your creative production:

  1. Set a schedule – Be honest about the amount of time you want to write and the amount of time you have available to write. Do you work 8 hours outside of the home? Do you have to commute? What is your natural sleep schedule? If you’re a night owl, planning an early morning writing routine might be a recipe for failure.
  2. Defend your time – Once you’ve set your schedule, make sure others—family, friends, etc.—know it’s important to you. They wouldn’t interrupt you if you were on an important work conference call, or dealing with the credit card company, or researching colleges, right? Your writing career is just as important. Own it. Lock the door, silence your phone, have the kids fend for themselves, tell your partner they’re in charge of homework/dinner/bedtime. Unless there’s a fire, arterial bleeding, or Chris Evans is at the front door, of course. But the point is, make sure they know that this is your time to achieve your goals.
  3. Set lower time/word targets – If you’ve been struggling to hit 2K words a day, or 5K a week, or 10 hours of hands-on-the-keyboard writing time, drop your targets. Build a feeling of success. Recognize that not all writing occurs at the keyboard. Sir Terry Pratchett famously had a writing goal of 400 words per day, and he had a very full writing career.
  4. Don’t write everyday – If writing every day creates a feeling of dread, stop. Lots of writers do write every day, or five days a week. And lots of writers don’t. Some writers write every day when they’re facing a deadline or when the story is flowing and then pause when the deadline is met or the flow slows. Find your own rhythm.
  5. Stop in the middle – Some writers find it easier to kick off the next session if they stop in the middle of a scene or even a sentence. Others review the last couple of scenes or what they wrote the day before to get back into the story. Some leave themselves notes in the document about what should come next. Find the thing that triggers you to get quickly back into your story when your next writing session starts.
  6. Take mental breaks – Pause your writing session after a powerful scene if you’re feeling emotionally stripped. Recognize the feeling and walk away for tea, etc. Then come back and finish your target.
  7. Be flexible in your methods – Maybe you need to outline, maybe you need to research, maybe you need to visit the backstory, maybe you need to participate in an online sprint, maybe you need to put the current project down for a bit and work on another until you feel refreshed. Maybe you need to shut the door and let the creative juices flow because you’re on a roll. Try different things until you find the one that works.
  8. Be kind to yourself – Make time for exercise, good diet, family needs, self-care. Bleed on the page when you’re writing, push yourself, and then rest and recover during your breaks.
  9. You can always exceed your targets – If the words are flowing, enjoy the process.
  10. Reevaluate your goals and processes on a regular basis – Consider if your targets are meeting your needs, progressing your career, helping you hit deadlines. If they aren’t, do you want to change your goals or your process? Only you can answer that question.
  11. Find support people – Get a person or people who you can bounce ideas off, explore concepts, celebrate accomplishments, hold each other accountable, and grow together. It may take several tries to find the right fit. This might include joining an RWA chapter (perhaps a genre-specific online chapter like Passionate Ink or Kiss of Death) or participating in NaNoWriMo – going to the local events. Consider hiring people to do tasks that are taking your time if possible. A cleaning service, grocery delivery, or a virtual/personal assistant to handle your “not-writing” tasks might make the difference for you. Time and money are the two variables in project management.

Bonus Tip: Be proud of your achievements – blow your horn! Throw that parade! Share your successes—even if it’s “only” making your writing goal—with your friends, family, fellow writers, and social media following. Sometimes, we just need someone to be a cheerleader.

What’s something you do to stay productive?

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