Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Productivity - How Much Can You Write?

This is the second part of the "Outrunning the Corgis of Time" series - which is about Productivity.

Before you can set a reasonable goal that challenges you but does not defeat you, you must find out how much you can do.

Most of us don't know how fast we write. We might have tested ourselves in a marathon effort like NaNoWriMo, but very often that involves a special effort to make more time - skipping sleep, canceling appointments and other things for the duration of the effort.

But that doesn't tell you what you can really do on an ordinary day in an ordinary amount of time -- time you might have available on any day -- like a half-hour.

There is something magical about a half-hour.

Because it's so short, you can fit it in almost anywhere. You can throw yourself into it, with no fear of wearing out. You also don't ahve to worry about accomplishing anything major, because it's only a half-hour. It's a very pure unit of time. You can resist playing Angry Birds or checking your email for that amount of time. (Yes, you can. Set a timer if you must, but you CAN resist for a half-hour.) You can actually concentrate on one thing without fearing you will neglect anything else.

There is also something magical about how much you can accomplish in a half-hour.

Because, you know, it's easy. Anybody can do something for a half-hour.

It's such a productive unit of time, that many writers use it as the basis for their schedules. Set a timer, write for a half-hour, take a ten minute break, and set the timer again, write another half-hour. Others use a half-hour sprint as a kind of warm up for a longer session -- it gets you focused and then you just take off after that.

I find it can be a great way to start off the day when I'm on a serious dare. When I do a half-hour's writing in the morning (even though I'm not a morning person) I have this feeling all day that I'm ahead of the game. I have a nice solid bit of writing to start off my real writing session in the evening.

So, yesterday's challenge, with the brainstorming and the freewriting and all that, was to charge your batteries for today's challenge:

Today I want you to pick an idea from your brainstorming session, or a scene you need to work on for your work-in-progress. Then I want you to get yourself energized with some phyiscal activity, then sit yourself down and just write for a half-hour.

The goal here is not to be brilliant (that comes with practice, remember?) but to measure what you can do. How fast do you write, when you give yourself a chance to really fully concentrate on it?

Do this half-hour sprint exercise several times. It can be during one longer writing session, or spread out over several days. Some sessions will be more productive than others, but you will be able to figure out what you can do on average -- and also what conditions make it easier or harder to do well.

We'll come back to this later, when we put it together with your dreams and reality, and figure out how to get there from here.

Tomorrow we're going to talk about winning the lottery...well, not the real lottery. The writing lottery -- what would you do if you had all the success you wanted?

1 comment:

The World of the Blue Bells Trilogy said...

You are so right about that magical half hour. I find when I have large chunks of time, I justify checking my e-mail. When I have half an hour, I use every minute for writing.