What author doesn’t want to write faster and better? Isn’t that the ultimate goal—to produce quality work at a fraction of the time? What about stay-at-home-moms or dads? Are parenthood and writing mortal enemies?
I have spent loads of time researching increasing writing productivity, and I’m starting to see a few recurring themes. It all boils down to four things:
- Get your “butt in seat” every day
- Track your progress
- Research outside of writing time
- Don’t edit until you’ve finished your draft
Of course there is a list of other tips that changes from author to author. Some say writing at home is best, some swear by writing naked in a hotel room, some protest that the local coffee shop is the only place worthy of your creative endeavors. My personal opinion is that you should experiment and do what works best for you.
My inefficiency in writing has always centered around one thing. The inability to focus. For the past nine years, I have had at least one child home with me for the majority of every single day. It’s wonderful, but not when it comes to my focusing ability. Often, I compare myself to other writing mothers—people who actually finish their writing projects in a reasonable amount of time—and wonder what I’m doing wrong.
I’m currently reading Rachel Aaron’s, 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love.
One of her first suggestions is to track your writing progress. I thought I’d give it a try. I picked an afternoon where I knew my son would be away and (with minimal guilt) set my daughter in front of her favorite movie for an hour and a half. After 87 minutes of tracking my time, I was flabbergasted.
Just look. I dare you to not laugh.
No. Freakin’. Wonder. It’s clear now. Kids condition parents’ brains to have attention deficit disorder. (There’s a bold medical statement from a very un-qualified me, but it makes sense to me so it must be true.) My longest time spent without a distraction was 5 minutes. That’s it. By the time the kids are in bed, I’m still running on the 5-minute length of focusing ability. It’s sad, people. Cry with me. (But only for a couple minutes, tops.)
Out of 87 minutes of attempting to write, only 28 were spent in my seat, and most of those 28 minutes were spent trying to figure out where I had left off in my thought process of what happens next. Oh brother.
This chart, as one of my writer friends pointed out, is both pathetic and hilarious. And yet, as I was going through the process, it didn’t feel like an “off” day. I felt productive at the time, because I was at least getting my head into the story. That’s all well and good, but in the end I wrote nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. (I can’t even focus long enough to change those cliches!)
The worst part? I spent that entire time being only halfway present with my kids and my writing. Not awesome.
Maybe you are the type of writer who can instantly re-focus and use up those few free minutes to create brilliant work. I hope you are. But if you’re like me, I’m so, so sorry. I need more than a five-minute stretch of time here and there to produce anything worth reading.
Now that I know this about myself, I can look forward to that day when the kids go to school and I can focus on writing for a while. That’s only 40 days from now. I’m elated and depressed at the same time. Maybe, hopefully, the writing will distract me from the sad fact that my babies are grown up enough to go to school full time.