Recently, I had an interesting conversation with another author about productivity. She mentioned she was concerned because she was having some issues with meeting her word count goals. She told me she was disappointed in her lack of productivity. Her words got me thinking because I think a lot of the time we see ourselves as failing in our efficiency when we don’t meet the goals we set ourselves.
What was the base of the issue? As we spoke at length she mentioned she’d not been idle. In fact she’d spent hours brainstorming ideas, making notes, reviewing what she’d written… and it struck me. From what I heard, she was being successful in completing writing tasks. Though perhaps not the ones she wanted to.
As I thought about it, I realized, there are more than one way to be productive in our writing. Having realistic goals is very important. The quickest way to feel we aren’t being prolific is to set ourselves an impossible goal. Setting goals for ourselves is a whole topic in of itself, and one I will discuss at length in a later blog post, but for the sake of this article, it is something to touch on. When I’m writing, I often put a sticky up and say, okay you have one hour to get ‘x’ number of words down. That’s it. Nothing fancy, don’t go back and edit, don’t focus on anything but getting those words down on the page. Is it a realistic goal? I can be if I don’t set the number too high. Can it affect how successful and fruitful the session is? You bet it can. If I set an unrealistic goal I have trouble meeting, it often leaves me feeling disjointed and angry with myself for not meeting it. This affects how productive I am.
Understanding productivity as a whole is the first step is seeing beyond the singular end goal of a word count. As an author, there is a lot of things which go into writing. Raise your hand if you do research for your book, or build the world, and get to know your characters! Now, how often do you feel that’s part of getting the book written when you sit down to work on the next scene, the next chapter?
I hear a few mutters out there. And yes, at one point I was one of those who scoffed at the idea any of those points was part of my getting my book written. Until I realized, without the steps taken to build the world I’m writing in, or fleshing out the characters, all the words in the world would not make something I could market. It took my editor at the time pointing out – if you’re working on your book in any capacity, you should consider yourself efficient in the process. An hour spent researching is still an hour spent on your book.
We as authors, need to understand and accept we are not lazy or ‘stuck’ if we don’t get a certain number of words, or pages, or chapters written in a sitting. Having the understanding each thread of work going into the book is productive, is the first step in getting away from the negativity and self-depreciation we often feel when we don’t get as far as we think we should be. Reward the hours spent making notes, brainstorming, world building, getting to know the characters…as much as meeting the word count goals you set yourself. I firmly believe doing so will help your writing, and your sense of success in the process.