As a career author, productivity is subjective. Some days you feel like you crushed it and other days not so much. But that’s okay, because you’re a creative and shouldn’t be judged based on rigid things like metrics. Word counts are for journalists and bloggers not authors. We write what we feel when we feel it, right?
If this is how you view your writing life, then keep reading because I have bad news…to elevate your writing career productivity matters. To compete in today’s competitive literary landscape you need to jettison the paradigms and mindset that erode accountability. If you can do that, then I guarantee you’ll not only write more books faster, but those books will—ironically—be better.
MYTH: Writing is about quality, not quantity.
You’re sitting at your computer and you’re writing. The words are sort of flowing, sort of not, but you love the paragraph you’ve crafted. Instead of forging ahead, you go back and polish to make it even more beautiful and perfect. And when you’re done, you call it a day. You only managed to write 350 words, but man are those 350 words magnificent. Sure, the quantity was low, but the quality was top notch—some of your best stuff.
Does this sound familiar?
This used to be me. I let myself off the hook from moving my manuscript forward by embracing “quality” over “quantity.” Thanks to this misguided mindset, it took me 8 years to finish my first book, AND after it sold, it still required a major developmental edit. Novels are not a string of perfect paragraphs. A novel is a completed story that unfolds over hundreds of pages—however many pages it takes to tell that story. To succeed you have to start with quantity, quality comes with revisions.
TIP #1: Start Using Daily Page Counts
If you’re not using daily page counts, it’s time to start.
Page counts can feel onerous and intimidating and maybe even demoralizing…but the same can be said for training sessions athletes endure when preparing for the Olympics. No athlete ever has won a gold medal by not training. As an author, you need to embrace the same mentality. Think of your daily page count as a training goal. Every time you hit your count, you’ve achieved that goal, which has moved you closer to finishing your book but also helped train your brain to perform at a higher level.
TIP #2: Protect Yourself from Distractions
A distracted mind is an inefficient mind.
Answer this question: Is your writing time more like cruising on the Autobahn driving or driving in Manhattan? On the Autobahn the road is structured for efficient travel, without stop lights, intersections, potholes, pedestrians, etcetera. Drivers can cover a hundred miles in a hour. In stop and go traffic of Manhattan, you’d be lucky to get from downtown to uptown in that amount of time. The same is true for writers. Structure your writing time like the Autobahn. No texting, no emails no social media, no phone calls, no web browsing. Give your mind a chance to cruise by eliminating distractions.
TIP #3: Hold Yourself Accountable
Without accountability, progress grinds to a halt.
Athletes have teammates, trainers, and coaches to hold them accountable. Aspiring novelists have only themselves. If you miss your page count, the pages you didn’t get done need to be added to the next day or spread out over the week. For example, if your daily page count is 5 and you only make 3 1/2 on Monday, that means you’ll need to step up and write 5 1/2 pages on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to make up for it. If you don’t hit your dailies by the end of the week, it means carving out some time on the weekend. Don’t let yourself off the hook, or you’ll quickly find yourself falling back into old patterns of low productivity.
One final point on productivity. I’ve found that, ironically, the quality of my work has improved as I trained myself to be more productive. A disciplined mind writes cleaner, more focused prose. By striving for greater quantity of pages, the quality of my work improved accordingly. I would not be at all surprised if the same holds true for you!
What do you think about page counts and productivity? Any tips or suggestions to add? Join the discussion Facebook.