Friday, March 4, 2011

Productivity Trick

It was inevitable. I knew the honeymoon would end. Or at least pause. The initial infatuation with my new novel is gone, replaced with the knowledge of what a long cold slog it is to the finish line. Forget about finishing. Right now I'd settle for some forward momentum, some semblance of a plot.

I forgot that I once felt this way about the first novel--uncertain of where it was going, of what my protagonist's problem was, if there was even a story worth telling. Luckily I have this blog and friends with good memories to remind me it was like that for the first one too. This is part of the process--fumbling toward a plot, putting words on the page, not knowing if they will add up to anything worthwhile. Man, this part is hard.

In hope that structure and deadlines would help me--they usually do--I signed up for an online writing workshop. For the class, I can submit up to 50 pages over ten weeks, which in and of itself, has scared me into working harder.

The class has already paid for itself with this advice from my teacher: "Make a small and manageable writing goal, and meet it every day." I've heard this before, in various forms, but this time it struck me. That's exactly what I needed to do.

So last Friday I made a tiny daily goal for myself: write x number of words every day, no matter what. I made it so small that I can accomplish it in 15 minutes if pressed. And guess what? It works. The goal is so minute that even mornings when I'm rushed, or tired or resistant in any way, I know I can still meet it.

I'm happy to report I've met my goal, every day except Sunday, (which is after all, the day of rest.) The great thing is on mornings when that's all I can manage, I still get a great sense of accomplishment, from meeting a goal. Other mornings, I find myself on a roll, happily typing, well beyond my limit. I believe that's what we call a win-win.

Sure, my inner critic still shouts--More! We need to be writing MORE! But I can see that momentum is building. Forward progress is happening. Maybe best of all, because I'm thinking about the book every day, my subconscious is starting to work on it. The characters are starting to live in my head. First sentences appear seemingly from nowhere. Magic is afoot.

Set a small, manageable goal, and meet it. Genius. Who knew?

1 comment:

Mr. Ackerman said...

That's the same methodology I use for running a marathon. If I can run one mile, maybe I can run two, three, and before I know it, a lovely day jogging around Philly results in a mile.