"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: Hold Yourself Accountable for Your Writing Time

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hold Yourself Accountable for Your Writing Time

Dear Fellow Writer,

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Keep writing!


Hold Yourself Accountable For
Your Writing Time
Hold Yourself Accountable for Your Writing Time

Back in my dark days of corporate employment, co-workers would often say to me they couldn't imagine being at home all day and being able to get any work done. 

They were convinced that without the guidance of a boss, they wouldn't feel any compulsion to do anything but drink coffee, tidy up the house, read magazines, watch daytime TV or take endless trips to the shops or spend time with friends.

How do you motivate yourself? And stay motivated when all you've got is yourself?

It's largely an issue of personal accountability.

And having worthwhile goals that inspire you.

Okay, I admit that when you first start writing full time from home it's about having to pay the bills - especially when you've committed to never going back to work - no way, no how!

Seriously, lots of people ask us, what makes us get up and just write every day?

I would say it’s a habit you develop over time. 

Robyn has a theory that you can 'trick' your brain - and therefore your body - into doing things, even if you think you don't feel like doing them.

It works like this:

First you need five 'Things To Do Today' which you should compile when you sit down to work each morning. Look through your in-tray (you have one of those, right?) and make a list of the things that need doing in the next few hours. 

Ignore everything that's not urgent. Pick two. Add these items to your main writing goals schedule. Now you'll have a short list of things you absolutely must do today.

Don't fill up your list with trivial short term goals. Always include three activities that contribute toward your long term goals too.

List your 'Things To Do Today' in order of importance, so that if you don't make it past number three, for instance, you can move the last two 'things' onto tomorrow's list.

Aside: don't be afraid to make the most fun sounding activity (like novel writing) your number one TTDT. At least you'll get to work on that if nothing else. Putting hard and unpleasant jobs at the top of your list is counter-productive, and just makes you dread starting.

Now, once you have your list of the day's activities, you may still feel unmotivated or perhaps apprehensive. You may even feel what's the point? or maybe tomorrow. Don't worry, these are common feelings, even to the most prolific career writers.

It's how you deal with these feelings that matters.

Robyn's tactic is to start working on her number one activity regardless of how she feels. Ignore any emotions and just get on with it. 

When you do this you'll find that after ten minutes your mind has switched to activity mode  and you should be pleasantly engaged in whatever you started doing.

The more you do this, the more you override resistance. 

Habits set up grooves in our brains: synaptic pathways that literally do get deeper, stronger and wider the more we practice them. Science has proved this mind over matter concept, at least in the brain, to be very real.

Use this phenomenon to your advantage.

Short Term Targets

In any writing activity, the easiest way to measure your progress is simply through word count. Nothing else comes close. Thinking is not writing. Research is not writing. Even making notes or planning and constructing templates is not productive writing. 

The only true measure of writing are finished, usable words on a page.

Whenever you engage in one of your writing projects to need to set a daily target. Your target is entirely personal. But it must be achievable and failure is not an option.

You may need a week or two to gauge your typical daily output. Setting too high a target is not going to help you. Many writers start out challenging themselves to write around 2000 words a day on a novel. Fine while you're excited or motivated. But if this figure cannot be maintained in the long term, you'll find it dispiriting to have to reach it every day.

The long time popular novelist, Wilbur Smith, has a target of just 500 words per day. His reasoning is that 500 words is about a page in a paperback and that there are around 300 working days in a year. As a consequence he can write a hefty 300 page book every year. Smart thinking. Clearly, thirty plus novels later, it's working for him.

You need to be able to fit your target into your schedule. So it's not just word count. It's the time it takes you to write the words that counts too.

For example, if you're committed to writing your novel for two to three hours a day, you need a target you can reasonably achieve within that time.

When you’re a professional writer you're on a schedule that demands you work on different things during the day, so you can't afford to obsess on just your novel target if that means you get nothing else done, like the bills paid, housework or time spent on your personal income generator.

Don’t forget that if you want to stay home and write all day, you need a ‘sure thing’ like paid editing work or some other form of guaranteed income to pay for your new lifestyle.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell


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