Wednesday, April 22, 2009

DAY 10: Setting Productivity Goals

Day 95 - Manuscript
Originally uploaded by objecthoags
Now that we've trained ourselves to be at our computers and working for at least an hour a day, it's time to define the word "work."

Work is producing. Whether it's a page a day or a thousand words, setting a production goal is oddly freeing. Anthony Trollope, one of the great lions of writing discipline, wrote six pages every morning in the hours between five and eight before leaving for work. Rumor has it he adhered so strictly to his routine that if he finished a novel at 7:30, he didn't run out into the English countryside and give a celebratory yell to the local rabbits and foxes, or even toast himself with an extra cup of tea. He took out a clean sheet of paper and began a new novel..

Now I wouldn't go that far, and most days, six pages of day is beyond my creative limit. But I've adapted his method to my own daily goal (three pages) when working on a first draft). It may sound constricting, and it doesn't work at all when polishing a second or third or fifth draft. But for a demanding first the page-every-half- hour challenge keeps the fingers moving so rapidly that there's no opportunity for FEAR or DOUBT, the Deadly Enemies of the creative impulse, to restrain them.

So set a goal that works for you whether it's counted out in words or pages, and train yourself to produce it. Without angst. Without demanding perfection. Without allowing the Deadly Enemies to look over your shoulder, or even enter the room.


  1. Fear and Doubt do knock on the door, don't they. The thing to remember, I think, is that they can't enter unless we invite them in. And then their friend Guilt often follows. And Guilt, the gift that keeps giving, likes to stay.

  2. I need to get back on the goal wagon. Thanks for this!!

  3. debra: You're so right, but for most creative people, keeping them OUT is a lifelong challenge.

    carleen: Come back and let me know how it goes!

    Jon: Thank you! Great to see you here.

  4. I need to seriously limit myself to working on manuscripts, instead of the million plus things I do on the computer. H am midway through third out of 4 drafts on a novel...

  5. I had my aunt visit this week and, while I had a delicious time with her, lost my focus. SO I'm going to tell you my goal so I won't chicken out. Edit two chapters of current novel, proofread two chapters of the YA. Being on two deadlines has unglued me a bit (fear and doubt, yes) but with your help, I'll get it all done.

  6. Kathryn: That's the constant challenge, isn't it? But if you're on the third draft, it sounds like you've found a way to master it. Keep going!

    Tish: I love it when we hold each other accountable. I'm committing to two chapters of revisions, too. I'll check in later...

  7. Thanks to you, I finally edited a chapter I've avoided for almost a week. Thank you!

  8. Tish: I had a chapter like that, too, and I somehow work around it all day. But after I read your comment, I decided to pretend we were back in that alley in New York, and just get it done. I had to stay up past my bedtime to do it, but I did! Thanks for making me feel accountable.

  9. I'm afraid the Deadly Enemies have been kicking my butt this week, Patry. I'm shooting for noon tomorrow to get back on track and stay on track through next week. Fingers crossed, K.