Tuesday, April 5, 2016

On Being Productive

Before we get started, let me just say this: “productivity” isn’t my natural state of being. My natural state of being would probably involve me in my bedroom at 10:00 am with the shades pulled down, binge watching Netflix and stuffing my face. Or rereading my favorite books and moping because I’ll never be as good a writer as S.E. Hinton (DUH). Loving other people’s stories is a whole lot easier than writing your own.

Because, honestly, writing can get tedious. No matter how much I love doing it, it’s hard to stare at the computer for an hour and come away with (if I’m lucky) one or two pages. Then get up at next day and do it all over again. Rinse, wash, repeat.  I’m not a finish-a-book-in-a-month type of writer, and I don’t think I ever will be.

My solution for that is working on more than one project. Focusing on just one story at a time has never ended well for me; I get perfectionistic and claustrophobic and just want to backspace all the way to page one. Spreading myself around stops me from obsessing too long over any one story.

I also play certain songs over and over again until they fade into a nice background track--right now I’m listening to “Roses” by The Chainsmokers. “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” by U2 and (weirdly) “Life on Mars” by David Bowie are two of my favorite motivational songs. Plus there’s always “Try” by P!nk. I’m a visual thinker, which means half the time I’ll be tearing my hair out because I know exactly how everyone in a scene should look and move, but it’s not playing out right on paper. Having a soundtracks helps.

 So does journaling. Since college my entries have been few and far between, but I do try to keep track of what I’m writing (or why I’m not writing). Reading books about writers inspires me--I just finished The Art of Neil Gaiman, which is a beautiful book (fair warning: it includes a bunch of examples of his earlier work, some of which is pretty disturbing). I can’t see an empty notebook without wanting to fill it up with something.

And when all of that fails, I write. Right now I’m working on three different projects--a short story I need to polish, another one I’m drafting, and the very start of what I hope will be a much longer project. They all have bits of things that I love in them--ghosts and magic and horror and family--and so far they’ve all been flowing, which is wonderful. I’m not bouncing-of-the-walls giddy with joy, but I am satisfied, and that’s the most wonderful feeling.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that the right ideas will stick with you, and they’re worth slogging through on the hard days. You can be unsentimental with them and just write, because they’re the ones that you need to finish, no matter what.

How do you guys stay productive?

Picture credit: X


  1. The struggle to stay productive is real- when it comes to being productive in the right things... Staying busy- that's easy. I keep my hands and mind going from project to project, but the hard part is getting myself to work on That Project. I'm sure you know the one I'm talking about. It's The One that terrifies me. A Project that has little growth in readable text, but has stretched into a full tree, tangled branches in my brain, roots deep in my heart. Oh, That Project... I want to bring it out, plant it, let it have space to bloom on the page.
    But fear has been a big thing. Fear of droughts. Of failed transplantings. Of lack of water or harsh winds... So my fingers twitch with peeking leaves ("Let me out in the sun.") and I balk. Procrastinate...

    But I have been trying, working at That Project a little at a time. Trying not to scare the shy thing away... Sounds like you've been doing the same?
    We'll both make progress yet. ^^

    1. That Project...I'm sure we all have at least one, and it is so hard and so scary because you're not sure if it'll ever come out right. It's the one that seems so perfect in your head, but you can never quite get it right on paper.
      A little at a time is the key...also trying to relax and trust the process, which sounds all peaceful and zen-like but is the HARDEST to actually do. Here's to hoping that both of our projects will see the sun eventually. :)

  2. Ah, productivity. My sworn enemy. *sigh* Most of the time I find myself setting little goals, or just turning off the internet for a while, stuff like that.

    1. The day after I posted this I had a pretty terrible writing day--I did write a few pages, but most of them weren't salvageable. So I spent the rest of the day browsing the internet. It's definitely a process, and I think setting smaller, more manageable goals really helps.

  3. Agreed on continuously looping music! It's seriously the best way to get into the necessary frame of mind. Personally, I can only have one active WIP at a time, although I do rotate between two now and then. I do see the logic in having several to pick from at a time, though. I also like to imagine alternate scenarios or missing scenes in the WIP :D

    Thanks for dropping by The Devil Orders Takeout!

    1. Most of my WIPs tend to be pretty short, so far now switching between them has worked--I don't know how my process might change if they were all novel-length. Imagining missing scenes sounds like a lot of fun--have you ever imagined an alternate scene that you actually decided to include in your book?

  4. Oh, I know exactly what you mean. For me, it is like, impossible to think of my work as ever being as good as anyone else's. I can only wish. :P I totally get what you're talking about here, but I also like what you have to say about the stuff that keeps you inspired, like music and journaling, even if it is hard. I guess in these situations we just have to keep writing, no matter how tedius.

    1. Keeping on writing is really the only way to get through, but it can be so hard. I think it's important to remember that even the projects your honestly love can drive you crazy--and that's okay.
      No matter how hard I work on my stories, I'll always find somebody to compare myself unrealistically too. But I can also be inspired by other authors, so it works both ways.
      Thanks so much for commenting!