When I’ve been spending more time reading blogs and newsletters than writing my material, I feel like my son who used to sit very still and quietly in class. The teacher was thrilled he wasn’t making trouble, and he wasn’t. Of course, he wasn’t learning anything either.
For weeks I’ve been sitting quietly at the computer – typing, reading and generally looking very engaged and busy. And I am thrilled with all the work I’ve been doing. But I haven’t really accomplished a damn thing.
Writers and creatives are at risk for miserable failure if we don’t understand the difference between being busy and being productive.
Because distinguishing between the two can be tricky.
Sometimes an afternoon of reading was spent gathering ideas, researching and catching up with industry trends. Ot it’s a colossal waste of time.
Conversely, in a traditional job, taking a walk in the middle of the afternoon, chatting in the break room, standing around in the hallway, is considered goofing off. For a writer, those exchanges, especially the walks, are critical to real production.
Day dreaming is productive
Checking Facebook is not.
Lunch with a friend, or better, lunch with a fellow writer, is productive.
Eating at your desk, compulsively answering every email is just exhausting and will give you heartburn.
Since Just sitting at the computer does not necessarily mean you are accomplishing anything, how do you know you have been productive?
The increasing word count on the novel is a big indicator.
Another indicator is how tired you are. Not emotionally exhausted, or frustrated but tired.
Writing is a full body activity; we lean in, we tense up. We hurt ourselves because we’ve held a crouching tiger position for hours as we bang on the keyboard or scratch with our pens. We get carpal tunnel and bursitis and leg cramps. And paper cuts, but I never get any sympathy for those.
Are you exhausted because you’ve spent the morning in the zone?
Or are you just emotionally exhausted from a project that has been over thought to death?
Did you finish up your work at exactly 5:00 and think, GOD I need a drink, I’m so finished with this.
Or did you finish for the day because a power failure killed the computer and stopped you cold? But you unearthed a flashlight and notebook and continued?
Set this idea of being busy aside, and tap into your passion; allow it to drive the process instead of over thinking it. Put away the to do list, turn off the alerts for email and Facebook and just focus on the book, even if only for ten minutes.
It may be the most productive part of your day.