Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's the ordinary days that make the extraordinary ones

by April Henry


The trick to regularly having books published is to have a regular routine for writing them. When I was working full time, I just fit in my writing when I could, at about the same time each day.  I tried to write 45 minutes a day, usually after work.  Sometimes it was less.  Sometimes a lot less. 
But somehow it added up, just doing it day after day after day.  I wrote about a book a year that way.
Now I work full time at home. When I first quit my day job, I thought I could write eight hours a day.  After all, I had worked eight hours a day, right?
Well, on second thought, maybe not.  Not when you take out meetings, chatting with co-workers, checking the headlines online, and getting coffee refills.  Plus, even at my job (which was writing non-fiction), I was not creative 60 minutes an hour, eight hours a day.
I’ve found that I can’t write more than five hours a day. And even that is a lot. More often it's three or four. Revising and research I can sometimes do for longer. Sometimes. 
Now what I try to do is write a couple of hours in the morning and the balance in the afternoon or early evening.  I usually split my day between two books, although if I’m on deadline with one, that book takes over.  in the next ten days my life will become interesting when I get editorial letters from two different houses.  I’m not sure which one will have a tighter deadline or require more work.  I might even see if I can continue to make progress on one of the books I'm writing.  

A few tricks I use
A few things that have helped my productivity: the Pomodoro Technique and Freedom.  
The pomodoro technique is a way of working in concentrated bursts with short breaks in-between.  Author Randy Ingermanson describes it here. 

Freedom is a program that shuts you off the Internet. I use it with the Pomodoro Technique. 

One more thing I’ve added to my writing routine lately is reading. I still think of reading as a “treat” but after reading that Amy Kathleen Ryan made a point of reading because it helped her be a better writer I've been telling myself it's okay to read more.

Routines lead to creativity
"I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning." - William Faulkner

"I set myself 600 words a day as a minimum output, regardless of the weather, my state of mind or if I'm sick or well." - Arthur Hailey

"All through my career I've written 1,000 words a day--even if I've got a hangover. You've got to discipline yourself if you're professional. There's no other way." - J.G. Ballard

8 comments:

  1. thanks for all the tips and giving us a little window into how you manage to juggle all those books at once! Will have to try the Pomodoro!

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  2. Hey April! I think the tip about making time for reading is great-- so many aspiring novelists forget that if you want to write, you need to read as much as possible!

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  3. I've bookmarked the Freedom page. I've been trying to use self-restraint and switching to private browsing to manage the temptation, but it doesn't always work. The pomodoro method is intriguing... Thanks for the great ideas!

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  4. This is an excellent post, April!

    I thought I'd write six hours a day after both my kids went to school. Little over-optimistic there! Love the quotes, especially the Faulkner one.

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  5. Great post. I'd never heard of either of these techniques. Will give them a try! Thanks.

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  6. Awesome! I'm definitely trying the Pomodro. This was really a helpful post.

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  7. I thought I was an adult and capable of policing my own Internet usage (plus too cheap to pony up the 10 bucks), but the free trial of Freedom showed me that I lasted about five minutes on my own.

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  8. I'm all about the daily quota - good post, April!

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