is the writer who writes. I know, I know. You’re thinking: DUH. But there’s a lot that goes into writing, and putting your butt to the chair and clicking away at your keyboard doesn’t necessarily mean you’re productively writing.
I caught Ann Aguirre’s blog over at Writer Unboxed the other day, and dang, she’s right (or write, as the case may be).
She offered 5 productivity tips. I’ll paraphrase here:
1) Don’t multitask
2) Know your next scene
3) Writer’s block could indicate a problem
4) Set goals, be accountable
5) Turn off the interwebs
What does it all mean? Come with me, Grasshopper…
What that means, friends, is the best thing you can do for yourself is:
1) Set aside a physical space that you use for writing and writing only. That is your sacred writing space. Even if it’s a corner of a room somewhere. For whatever amount of time a day (or whatever), that becomes WRITING ONLY space.
2) Set a schedule and stick to it. That is your sacred writing time. Hang a calendar up in your sacred writing space and mark off your time spent there or write your word count in each day on the calendar. Post a reminder as to your goals for the month/week: “5000 words by such-and-such date” or whatever you decide. And stick to that. Reward yourself when you attain your goal by, maybe, buying a book you’ve had your eye on or going out for coffee or something with a friend. Or maybe taking yourself to a movie.
3) WRITING ONLY means NO INTERWEBS. I cannot stress that enough. Now, I’ll use some caveats here, because I do use the interwebs as a reference tool when I’m working through a scene or on a character. It’s a research tool. But when I’ve got the info I need, I minimize that window and forget about it so I can focus on the writing. What I recommend here is you shut off Facebook and Twitter and whatever other social networking sites you’re on during your sacred writing time. I used to tell my students that they need to “go Amish,” to a certain extent. No phones, no TVs, no interwebs. Streaming music is fine, if that’s part of your sacred writing ritual.
I also want to address Aguirre’s point about writer’s block. I think she’s right about that, too. If you’re blocking, then that’s usually an indication that something’s not going right in the plot. Best thing to do for that is to take some time away from the project and work on something else. Time off provides perspective. Go easy on yourself. You don’t suck because you’re blocking. Don’t force it. Step away from the project, Grasshopper. Then go back a few days later and do what author Nicola Griffith recommended: Read through the project from the beginning. At the point where you start to feel uncomfortable, that’s probably where the problem started. Writing, I’ve found, is a gut process, too. Trust your instincts. Trust The Force.
And the other point Aguirre makes, about knowing your next scene? What she recommends there is that you have your idea for your next scene in mind before you knock off your session. That way, you’ll be able to sit down and start at that next scene. It’ll minimize your “what the hell am I going to write I guess I’ll just stare at my screen for a while or go goof off on the interwebs for a while” reaction to not being ready to get to it.
Good advice. I plan to heed it.
Happy writing, happy reading!
Oh, and so you know, you can find bestselling spec fic and YA author Ann Aguirre here.