How to be productive

As every writer knows, there is a ton of bad writing advice out there. Ten things you should NEVER do. Ten things you should ALWAYS do. Writers, particularly unpublished ones, are susceptible to self-doubt, and therefore are vulnerable to the kind of “help” based on telling them they are idiots.

Relying on the advice of someone who thinks you are an idiot (but who can remedy your stupidity if you give them enough money) is about as surefire a recipe for failure as I can imagine.

There used to be vanity presses. Now there are businesses to assist people who want to self-publish. Never mind that everything you need to know about self-publishing is available for free or at low cost on the Internet.

Follow This Advice (for Free)

Know where you are going

Before you start work, sketch out your goals for the scene you are writing. Jot them on the back of envelope or an old bill if you want, but write them down. The three or four minutes you spend writing them down will be repaid many times over.

This is especially good advice if you, like me, are the sort of  person who writes to figure out what you are thinking.  The work goes much better if you have some idea what you are thinking before you start writing. Trust me.

Once you know where you are going, just write.

Kate Laity blogged about this at the Knife and Quill. Her message is short and to the point:

Shut up and write.

Once you start the journey, finish it. Do not second guess (not yet). Keep going. Practice is how you improve. Nothing else.

Stay focused

People have different ways of doing this. Some lock their computers off from the Internet; I’ve found this impractical.

Try Tomato Timer. This free program tracks work and break time according to the Pomodoro Technique, a proven time management strategy. You can read more about at Making Time Productive. 

The strategy is simple:

1. Work on a task for 25 minutes.

2. Take a 5-minute break.

3. Work for another 25 minutes.

4. After 3 or 4 work sessions, take a longer break (15-30 minutes).

It Is About the Journey

This advice, none of which is original to me, has advantages. No grandiose goals, no self-punishment, no money spent. And real progress.

The Artist’s Way Week 8: Becalmed

This is my fifth  blog about The Artist’s Way course. The first four are Do Fury Honor, Everything Is Connected, Fasten Your Seat Belts. and Reading Deprivation.

It’s been a quiet and focused week: “filling the form” time.

Filling the form means work. Right now, work  means getting up at 6:30 every day; setting aside time at the top of the day for my writing; and then comes the rest of it. The effect has been an amazingly productive week.

The sequel to Cel & Anna is very close now—very close. I did something I’d been saying I was going to do since New Year’s Day: sent the first twelve chapters to my favorite readers, who happen to be my nieces (they will steer me in right direction). I finalized plans for a trip on which I had been waffling. I made two paying work deadlines and will make a third this afternoon. I did odd jobs related to de-cluttering.

I connected with friends. I DID stuff. Not thinking about it, just doing it.

The spilling-over energy of last week found a channel. Now, the thing is to deepen the channel so that it becomes a habit. There is nothing more useful than a good habit, for it carries you forward when you want to hang back. I am not saying I have solved all my problems. :)

Something that made me smile: when I decided to start my work week at 6:30 am rather than when I had been starting it (which was rather later than 6:30), I expected trouble. I expected resistance.

What I did not expect was to start waking up before the alarm, starting one day after I made the decision. This has happened every day, without a fight. My inner sleep goddess has decided to cooperate with the plan. This too happened quietly and calmly.

This morning I put an armload of sheets and towels in the wash, I did the morning pages, I am sitting here typing. Someday soon I am going to do an update on what is one of the most popular blogs I ever wrote, called Shopping at Ruthfred (Where?). There is an old shopping center not far from here called Ruthfred. Really.

I am happy to report, as a preliminary, that Ruthfred is still thriving.

The music of the morning is a peaceful little piano tune called “A Lullaby” by Nathan H. Taylor. It floated by on Pandora one day. iTunes let me buy it for 99 cents. (Thanks, iTunes. Thanks, Nathan H. Taylor. Thanks, Pandora.) I would post a YouTube link, but as it happens “A Lullaby” is the only piece of music in the world not available at YouTube, so you are on your own.