Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Keeping Your Butt in the Chair

This is, à mon avis, the most difficult part about writing, folks. I've been having some trouble with it lately myself, so I thought I'd dedicate a post to the subject.

Make a list of your usual distractions. It's helpful to recognize your weaknesses before they become an issue. Do you obsessively check e-mail? Go out for a coffee? Play Farmville? Whatever it is, write it down. Being aware of it will help you stop doing it (see below).

Block out time to write. Scheduling is half the battle, mes auteurs. Pick a time that works well for you and do your best to stick to it. If you're a morning person, 6:00 am is great; if not, maybe not so much. Be as regular in your commitment to writing as you can, even (especially) if you're not writing every day.

Get any distractions out of your system before you sit down to write. Trying to quit all your distractions cold turkey will probably result in your caving and going back to them to blow off steam, potentially during time you'd otherwise spend writing. Play your games, check your e-mail, tweet, update Facebook. Then write. And write when you're supposed to, not just in between rounds of StarCraft.

Take steps to prevent distractions while writing. If you can't stop checking Twitter, turn off your Internet connection. If you keep getting up to see whether the guy next door is still trimming his hedges into the shapes of Jersey Shore cast members, close your blinds. &c, &c.

Schedule regular breaks. You're not a machine; it's just as important to know when to stop writing as it is to set a time to start. I usually take ten minutes off for every hour I set aside. If you try to write through your break and you're not seriously on a roll, you'll probably end up more prone to your usual distractions anyway.

Reward yourself for sticking to your schedule. After you finish your hour of writing, go get that coffee. After a week of sticking to your schedule, buy yourself a new book. The more you reward yourself for a job well done, the more you'll start looking forward to that scheduled writing time you've set aside. Pavlov! He was perhaps on to something.

That's all I've got for you today, meine Autoren. How do you keep your butts in your chairs each day?

28 comments:

  1. I'm big on using a kitchen timer. I set it for however long I want to work (anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour) and then I use it to time my breaks, that way I don't forget to go back to work, lol.

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  2. If you're a morning person with a day job, I highly recommend 4am.

    For me, getting distractions out of the way first turns to a permanent distraction. Using them as "rewards" works better.

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  3. I've recently got back into the swing of writing and the reward system is really helping - yesterday I wasn't allowed chocolate until I'd reached my word count for the day ... I reached it pretty fast.

    I like the idea of a new book (or something similar) after a week of successful writing

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  4. Excellent advice. I just need to follow it... Maybe once I get back to the haven of my dorm and away from the chaos of my parents' house, I'll be able to come up with a proper schedule! I know I'm super guilty of "just checking my e-mail" and then spending three hours doing everything but writing.

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  5. yes, yes...early morning before the sun is up and everyone else works for me.

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  6. This is a great post.

    Thanks for the ideas!

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  7. I take my laptop to McDonalds, switch off the wireless and spend an hour or two working. I can work at home if necessary, but it's so easy to get distracted.

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  8. I allow myself a routine of doing other things first at the beginning of the day. But most likely, as I do them, I am mentally preparing for writing, thinking what I want to write, feeling the emotion of the next scene, and so on. And I set reasonable expectations for how long the butt is in the chair before I need to get up and move. For me, taking time for a short may be more productive than sitting in the chair when the words are stopped up. And once I know I'm past my peak productivity hours, I move on to other tasks.

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  9. Such good resolutions. I have them every morning. Something happens to them between breakfast and lunch, will try harder tomorrow . . .

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  10. I had to turn the wi-fi off last night. There was just too much awesome stuff going on (my friend's book hit the top 100 Kindle paid list!!) and Twitter kept sucking me in. Once I flipped the switch, I was able to spend 90 minutes or so editing, finishing off two chapters.

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  11. I definitely reward myself. Usually with doing laundry or getting a coffee or eating some cheese. Sometimes chocolate.

    Sarah Joy, an associate agent-in-training

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  12. Deadlines do the trick. Right now I am on a schedule of 2,000 words a day for the next five weeks or so. I use the same ten minute break for every hour scheduled ploy as Eric, and then just grit it out with lavish use of chocolate and tea. My dog really hates it but he gets extra rawhide chews.

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  13. All good suggestions. I've had luck with the Pomodoro Technique, which is a riff on some of the ideas in the comments.

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  14. Eric,

    Your suggestions are excellent ----- it's called discipline. Be in charge of your desires and not allow your desires to control you. This is what I do and have found it rewarding. Thank you for your good posts.

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  15. I switch fictional styles.

    I had recently dusted off a trunk novel after 1 1/2 years to work on after the previous novel screeched to a halt due to lack of enthusiasm. However, I'm having such a lack of enthusiasm for this one that I decided to dip into my treasure trove of ideas that I generate while walking around town and write a trilogy of short stories.

    It has seemed to do the trick as the creative juices and the enthusiam is flowing again.

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  16. I'm a big fan of positive reinforcement. Nice post - a good reminder for us all.

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  17. Pavlov was classical conditioning, not operant conditioning. :P

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  18. Every suggestion is excellent. For me its the blocking out the time and then sticking to it that works.

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  19. AH! In the battle against (working through) distractions, I have forgotten to schedule in regular breaks. Natural breaks are few and far between and occur... whenever I am distracted. I like the idea of 50 mins on/10 mins off.

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  20. I love to set word-count goals and write my progress down on paper, as well as set time goals. It's fabulously motivational to see how much progress I've made.

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  21. I stink at word count goals. I now shoot for scene conclusions, section rewrites, situation clarifications... That sort of thing. It keeps me productive and feeling successful.

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  22. This is great advice. I hadn't thought to list my distractions so I know what they are. I bet that will help a lot.

    Thanks.

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  23. Excellent suggestions. I LOL'd at the "not in between rounds of Starcraft" line as someone that sometimes finds herself writing during commerical breaks instead of just not watching tv.

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  24. Good stuff. Gotta come back to this once I start writing.

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  25. Dishes in sink, laundry piled on floor, deep dust, dog hair tumbleweeds wafting across floor, husband on couch watching Judge Judy, (again), dog sleeping on MY couch, checked email, replied to email, read writing blogs, posted on their blogs, posted on MY blog, Spider Solitaire, pee'd, Judge Judy over, spend time with husband watching him doze on couch, wake him up to go to bed, ah, it’s time to write.

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  26. Awesome suggestions. I think if I can squeeze in at least one hour out of the day to writing...I'd get more done. And i need to stop checking Facebook so often!

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