Why, with all my good intentions, enthusiasm and motivation, do I fail to be as productive with my writing as I’d like?
Why do I start exciting new writing projects and often find they peter out after a couple of weeks? I’ve read enough NaNoWriMo blogs to know I’m not alone in this.
Someone suggested the unfinished ones were probably mediocre ideas, and while some of them were, I knew others had strong legs.
I’ve tried aiming towards a deadline and that worked. For a while.
I tried bum glue on my chair. I’m now proficient in Photoshop.
What I learned surprised me.
Yes, Jurgen Wolf talked about time-management techniques. Practices for better productivity. But it wasn’t the ‘how to’ stuff that helped me – I’d seen much of it before. What changed the way I work was a simple exercise that revealed my ingrained patterns of behaviour.
Here’s the exercise.
The next time you go through a pattern, map it as you go. Take notes on the process that causes you to change your mind.
My plan for this year was that when the Christmas holidays were over I would write every morning, starting Monday 12th January.
Monday produced a hot Australian morning. One of those where the light is so brilliantly clear everything has a distinct outline and is illuminated in vibrant colours.
I noticed the laundry had piled up and put a load in the washing machine. After breakfast I hung it out before I went to write. Except the sun was so hot I decided to go down to the beach for a quick swim. I messaged my neighbour who I often swim with and she came too.
The beach was closed. A 5 metre white pointer shark was hanging around and there was a chatty excited buzz. My friend and I swam in an area protected by rocks. The sun was hot, the water cool, so beautiful we had two long swims.
Then we decided to shark-watch on the kiosk terrace. The cappuccinos were smooth and creamy. Mindful of my pact to write, I ordered an egg and bacon roll for lunch so I could go straight to work when I got home.
The first thing I did at home was hang out the next load of washing. The newspaper lay on the coffee table and I flicked through the pages looking for articles about sharks. I lay on the lounge to read one. I felt a little sleepy and decided to have a short nap so I’d be brighter when I started writing…
Needless to say, I didn’t write that Monday. Or Tuesday. So I decided to start the next Monday.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Maybe not the same events, but the similar pattern of life getting in the way of writing?
Jurgen suggests mapping your patterns of behaviour as you go through them. This will help you identify your patterns. The added benefit is that the act of writing it down can be enough of a pattern interruption that you go back to doing what you had originally planned.
I assigned this morning for writing this blog post. I noticed the washing again. Funny I only notice washing when I’m going to write?! I’m familiar with this pattern of behaviour now.
I’ve never had trouble make definite plans with myself about writing time. I recognise now that the difficulty lies in keeping them. So if something is about to change those plans or insert itself into those plans, now I ask myself, as I did this morning, “do you chose to do the laundry over writing?”
And here I am, writing.
The laundry will get done, just not in my writing time. I will have that coffee and swim with my friend, just not in my writing time. The way I work has become more productive because I’m more aware of my patterns of behaviour.
What I also had to learn was that I kept repeating those past negative patterns because I got something out of them. In two weeks’ time I’d like to explore that further on my blog.
Meanwhile I’d be very interested in hearing about the patterns of behaviour you discover.