I am, on occasion, asked what my process is for finishing books – specifically, how I stay disciplined enough to do so. The answer, unfortunately (after hysterical laughter), is that I do anything and everything that works. I thought this was a terrible answer until recently, when someone got the look of inspiration in their eyes, and now I think it might actually be helpful. So here goes:
Do whatever the f*ck you need to do.
Some mornings, you will sit down and you will have a clean office and a cup of steaming hot coffee and the birds will be singing and the words will flow from your fingertips like you have a personal muse. Some mornings, you will have slept terribly and you will be angry about something (or A Lot of Things, Goddammit) and the words will still somehow come out well because you are so incredibly grateful to have something else to think about that isn’t the power company and its unworkable billing system (of course this isn’t an example from real life, why would you ask?).
On those mornings, you will think you are set. You have cleaned your workspace or done your outlining or whatever and you will feel virtuous because you are accomplished. Good for you. Also, gird your loins, because while you’ve managed to forget the Other Kind of days, they haven’t forgotten about you.
You know the kind of day I mean. The kind where your clean office and fresh coffee and snazzy outfit and 8 hours of sleep are not helping you at all. You’ve got a clear schedule and you are getting nowhere.
But you have to get things done, or else you’ll get nowhere in life and you actually won’t be able to pay the power bill, as opposed to having the money but not being able to figure out the billing system (yes, I’m still bitter). So, without further ado, here is a (probably incomplete) list of tactics I have tried to get myself done with my work. I have used any and all of these:
- telling myself, “you’re sitting in this chair for the next four hours either way, you bitch, so you might as well get some work done”
- bribing myself with candy
- bribing myself with music
- bribing myself with dance breaks
- making a pretty to-do list with lots of colors of ink and pretty ticky boxes
- writing little inspirational messages to myself, again with lots of colors of ink
- going to work out
- playing music
- not playing music
- reminding myself to change out of my pajamas
- changing back into my pajamas because they’re comfy
- going to get all the blankets I can find and building myself a blanket cocoon on my work chair
- pondering the possibility that my husband might leave me for a more successful author
- telling myself I can’t get more coffee until I’ve done at least X more sentences
- telling myself that I can’t get up until I’ve written just one sentence. Just one.
- okay, now one more
- and another one, because I am a filthy liar
- writing sprints (20-25 minutes on, 5-10 minutes off)
- doing sets of jumping jacks, push-ups, and sit-ups between writing sprints
- turning off my internet
- writing in a notebook instead of typing
- promising myself that I can walk to the library and get any book I want if I just get my words done for the day
I mean this literally: do anything and everything that works. Don’t get hung up on sticking to some perfect schedule, or thinking some type of motivation is too silly. Whatever works that day, use it.
What are your favorite tactics?