Guys! Guys! Guess what!
Do you know what that means?
We survived Monday!
[Insert Happy Dance]
I don’t know about you, but Monday was brutal.
I mean, Mondays are always a challenge because it’s the first day back to school after the weekend, which means slapping snooze a minimum of three to six times before hurtling out of bed at the speed of light to jostle the oldest kid out of his bed, throw clothes on him, and cart him off to Kindergarten (I’m horrible, I know).
I should really hit snooze less. Maybe replace it with getting up to make a cup of coffee. But. Sleep. I like it. Maybe a little too much.
Yesterday was crazy, and it all culminated in a conversation with the hubby about how UNPRODUCTIVE I felt.
Yes, folks. You heard it here first. Anita Lovett just called herself unproductive, and in all capitals no less. I think that means I just yelled it? Maybe I should go back and add bold and italics to really drive home the emphasis? Nah! I trust that you get it.
Here it is Tuesday, and while I’m excited to have survived another Monday, I’m thinking about productivity. And as I think about being productive, I’m staring at my 6-week-old and 1.5-year-old sons with an odd mixture of horror, terror, glee, and bewilderment. There’s a little voice in the very back of my head saying, “Thank god the oldest son is in school. Love you mean it, kiddo, but dang…what was I thinking?”
Yes, I am the (somewhat insane) woman who first said no kids, had one, said never ever (EVER) again, had a second one four years later, and then (brace yourself) suddenly wanted with every fiber of her inner and outer being to have just one more. It was such a strong desire and so oddly out of character that I didn’t really expect it to happen. But it did. And here I am. Stay-at-home mom, work-from-home editor, start-up engineer, more content than I’ve ever felt in my 30 years of life, and crazy as…okay, I’m still trying to figure out how to measure my level of crazy, but…yeah…where was I?
Unproductive Needs to Exit Stage Left
So, you’re a writer. Me, too. It’s nice to have things in common, isn’t it?
Do you ever feel unproductive? Ever brew that morning coffee and before your know it, it’s bedtime. You’ve reheated the same cup a zillion times and not had time to drink it, and you’re looking at the day’s accomplishments and wondering what the hell happened!
Was there a time warp that you missed? I mean, there had to of been more accomplished than…that. Oy-vey.
Yeah, that was my Monday. And maybe you can relate to this too…
…getting so down on yourself for not meeting your own expectations that you throw in the towel to do something—anything—else. It’s sort of a pity party, but you find a better set of words to describe it because you can and “pity” just isn’t you. Am I right?
Yeah, I did that yesterday. And I needed it! I needed to sob quietly in the privacy of my sanctuary while blowing things up on my favorite video game with some of my favorite people. And yes, I’m half smirking thinking about it. It was good! And to top it off…
…the awesome Chuck Wendig published a blog that I needed even more. He reminded me that it’s okay to walk the hell away AND (there’s no paraphrasing this, it must be quoted):
“…humans are dumb. Just dumb as a bucket of chimp scat. What I mean is, we are very good at focusing on a little bit of bad and ignoring the massive amount of good.” – Self-Care for Writers: Some Tips!
All of this culminated in my right now, in writing this post about how to be a more productive writer. We could all use some pointers. And who knows? Maybe you’ll need this today as much as I needed (and received) Chuck’s post yesterday.
Let’s direct unproductive right off the stage. Shall we?
#1: Set a (Doable) Schedule
I work in an environment of organized chaos. “Organized” doesn’t apply, but putting it in front of “chaos” gives me warm fuzzies.
I like my warm fuzzies. Don’t mess with my warm fuzzies!
But false hope is still false hope. It has the power to propel us through the thick of things, but it is otherwise useless. Prime example, travel back in time with me to the day before Thanksgiving. It’s 2 o’clock in the morning. I’m grudgingly sitting in a hospital bed because my doctor talked me into an overnight observation. My 36 weeks and 3 days pregnant body is so NOT wanting to be there, and BAM! I go into labor.
Or at least, I thought it was maybe labor. You’d think I’d know after birthing two kids, but this time was totally different.
I’m that idiot who doesn’t want to bug a nurse unless I have to. I don’t like being fussed over. So I wait to see what happens.
At 3 AM, I’m grabbing the sides of the bed, breathing my way through the pain, and telling hubby to call the freaking nurse because, yeah, LABOR! But labor has to be confirmed. So in between the most painful contractions of my life, the nurse is attaching monitors around my belly, and I’m biting my tongue because I don’t care that the kid is just under four weeks early. Get. Him. Out.
3:15 AM, labor confirmed. Yay! Can we get this over with now? Nope. The doctor has to be called for direction. I mean, seriously, what direction are we taking other than straight to labor and delivery?
3:20 AM, I look at hubby and say in pure panic, “I don’t want to do this without drugs! This isn’t supposed to happen today!” I think he said something comforting. In fact, I’m 99.9% sure. But my brain didn’t store it in the “Must Remember” file.
3:25 AM, on the way to labor and delivery! Come on drugs, meet me there.
3:30 AM, I’m in labor and delivery listening to the nurse say I’ve dilated too far for an IV. They can try to get an epidural in, but there’s this entire lactate ringer that has to go into my body first via a vein and since I inhumanly dilated three whole centimeters in five minutes flat, we may not make it through the ringer, let alone get the epidural in. But we’re going to try!
All I heard was, “We’re going to try.” My brain conveniently ignored the rest, latching on to the totally false hope that there would be something to at least curb the pain.
In 26 minutes flat, I fully dilated, broke my own water (because they couldn’t do it since the doctor wasn’t present and I was not going to wait), and birthed my 6lb. 6oz. bundle of oh-my-god-I-had-a-kid-100-percent-natural-with-NO-painkillers while squeezing my husband’s hand into oblivion (so sorry) and repeatedly saying, “This is NOT supposed to happen today!”
That lactate ringer wasn’t even half gone, and the blood typing—or whatever it is they do—wasn’t even finished for the epidural. But the nurses kept saying they were working on it. Just hold on and go with it.
False hope. It gave me warm fuzzies. I made it to the other side!
How does any of this apply to setting a schedule to be more productive? The key is in the word doable.
A schedule, no matter how much it swings, can be an effective means of increasing productivity.
Don’t set unrealistic expectations, but don’t be afraid to push your limits. Give yourself a bit of false hope with a side of warm fuzzies. You might be surprised how hard you’ll push (pun intended) to meet that slightly out of reach goal.
#2: Reward (Even the Little) Successes
The Creative Penn mirrors our first and second tips, and they refer to their creative muse as a child that wants to play. How do you encourage a child to behave or start a good habit? You reward them. Applying the same principle can benefit your productivity as a writer.
Reward yourself when you succeed, no matter how small the success may be. As Chuck said, we so easily focus on the negative that it overtakes all of the positive bits. Defy nature by celebrating even the littlest of successes.
Littleness turns into bigness, even greatness. But it will never grow without nurturing.
#3: Own Your Voice
Actors are some of my favorite people. I simply adore their ability to own a character’s voice, but they all have distinct voices of their own. You can see the difference. You see the level of comfort and ease when they’re in their element being themselves.
What’s your writer’s voice?
Write like you talk. It’s one of the best ways to supercharge your creativity.
As copywriters, we often slide into our client’s voice like an actor putting on a character’s voice. But we don’t have lines. We have to write them. It’s stressful and hard, but it becomes a zillion times easier if we own our voice and allow it to seep in here and there.
How many actors have inflections and facets to their own personalities that reflect the characters they’ve played? Nine times out of ten, those facets and inflections were their before the role and they let their inner selves out to play, just a bit.
Own your voice as a writer. Allow it to infuse your work. Also, take time to straight out write like you talk (like I’m doing right now). It will definitely increase your productivity.
#4: Edit Sober
Stop! I am not accusing writers of writing drunk…
…Most of save the booze for celebrations and coffee breaks in between painstaking, eye searing edits where we’re questioning the validity of our work and often our very existence.
“Write drunk, edit sober,” said Ernest Hemingway.
Believe me or not, you can be a more productive writer simply by letting your written work sit for a bit before reviewing it. Quality assessment is a bear with super sharp claws and venom dripping fangs; it’s like a bear plus viper plus dragon. You cannot face this monster while still drunk in the moment of writing.
Sometimes, you just need to hurl your trusty editor in front of that beast.
Either way, pausing before editing to clear the mind is an excellent way of ramping up productivity. It can make the editing process better while also sparking new ideas ready to be spun into new works.
#5: Consult the Experts
So, there’s our blog, loving dubbed Diablog since it’s an ongoing dialogue in the form of a blog. You can pop in or subscribe to get on point ideas for increasing productivity, defeating writer’s block, and more.
There’s also CopyBlogger. These folks are spot on when it comes to writing advice, and they just happen to have a 9 Tips on Becoming a More Creative and Productive Writer article that you should really check out because it’s unique and goes into more practical suggestions that add to our own.
What do you do when you’re feeling the woes of the unproductive writer?
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