Friday, January 14, 2011

Productivity Tip #1 - Open the Document

I can't really consider what I did today on Old Paint as "progress."

I broke all the rules of getting things done. First, since I published the new novella last night, I was too wound up to go to bed on time, and I had to get up early, so I missed out on sleep. Okay, so that was my first mistake, but what are you going to do? Publishing a book, even a novella, is fun and exciting. (And it's problem fraught with issues, so your brain is wide awake and engaged when you do it.)

So then up early and to work. This is the week before the semester. Running around madly making sure the classrooms are ready. And this is the day of the union meeting.

Union meetings are not necessarily good things for a writer to attend. We are working without a contract at the moment. The administration is, um, well, let's just say they aren't used to working with a union. They're making some really stupid assumptions about the rank and file, and as a result they're getting the populace good and fired up all on their lonesome. Today the usual union firebrands were saying, "we're not ready for action yet but--" and they were being interrupted by the milquetoasts, who were screaming "STRIKE! NOW!" (If you're counting on the indifference of part-timers who make up 90 percent of your workforce, you should probably avoid doing things which utterly enrage them. Just sayin'....)

So I didn't get enough sleep, and I was really distracted with work, I was even MORE distracted after work, and let's face it, when you publish something new, it's really easy to spend the day checking your stats and status reports. (For instance the new book has got a lot of sample downloads today on Smashwords, but... pause to check ... as of this moment it's still not quite ready on Kindle. The book page is there, but the "buy" button isn't yet. Rats!)

Plus, you know, I need to replace the banners in my Kindleboards signature... at least I will when the buy button is there. And I should tweet about it. And update the webpage. And....

...What do you do when EVERYTHING is on your mind except writing?

You open the document.

Seriously. That's what you've got to do. Your mind is racing fast. You are thinking ahead. When you actually pause to think about the book, your mind will race right past what you need to do now, and you'll start thinking about stuff you can't do yet at all. And after a moment of paralysis, when you can't figure out how to get to what you're thinking about... your mind will say "squirrel!" and like an eager puppy, you'll go galumphing after some other hot topic again.

So you make this a mantra: "Open the document." Say it aloud right now. Don't worry if it startles the cat.

Open the document.

It doesn't matter how many lovely squirrels run under your nose, and how many times you go chasing after them. The first chance you get you remind yourself to .... OPEN THE DOCUMENT.

Of course, behind that simple command is a deeper reminder -- to take baby steps, especially when your attention span is short. So after you open the document, you look at the document. Hey, you need to correct that typo. (Squirrel! Chase chase chase... oh yeah... open the document. Right.) And that paragraph should be adjusted. (Squirrel! Chase! Open the document.) Okay, add one new word. Just one... (Squirrel! No, back to the document...) Add another word. A sentence maybe.

It's nearly impossible to fight the squirrel chasing all at once. You are just too distracted and you can't take it on. If you keep doing this one little thing - you just come back to the document and do something, anything, between squirrels - you will find the squirrels let up, and the little sessions become bigger ones.

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