This weekend, I had a chance to sit in on an informal writing program with Carla Cassidy, the author of more than 70 romances and thrillers. (Find out more about her here). She’s been writing since 1991, so you do the math – yep, she writes even more than I do. Which means that she is even more productive than I am.
I asked her if I could recap her recommendations on my blog, and she agreed (because she is a nice person, not because I scare her.)
She uses the acronym “PRODUCE” to describe the actions she takes to be productive. Write that on a piece of paper and tape it to the wall above your computer. Or tattoo it on your forearm, either way.
P is for permission – giving yourself permission to write, even if you’re not published, even if all you get from editors and agents are rejections.
R is for routine – getting into a habit of writing at certain times of day, certain days of the week, helps you stay on track.
O is for organize – your writing area must be organized for you to work effectively. If you have to move your work off the dining room table every time you serve a meal, you’re making it harder on yourself than it has to be. Find a nook, a closet, a corner, make it your own – and keep it organized.
D is for delegate/demand/deadlines – if you have trouble getting much writing done because of all the other work you “have” to do or because your family/friends don’t want to give you time, you have to set boundaries. You also need to set yourself deadlines for getting various stages of a project done.
U is for understand – figure out what’s getting in the way of your productivity. Is it poor tools, do you have trouble saying no to your family, are you afraid you’re not good enough? Figure out what’s stopping you and address it.
C is for create – do the work. Make no apologies or excuses. Put your butt in the chair and work, even if you don’t feel like it, even if the muse hasn’t come calling for a while. Just do it.
E is for educate – learn about the craft, learn about the business. The more you learn, the less time you spend spinning your wheels and the more productively you spend your time.
Although I’ve practiced some of these productivity tips for years, I have to admit that I quizzed Carla on some of them because they’re hard for me (setting boundaries with your child, anyone?) She said, “Think about the worst case scenario.” And I was like, “Well, I am the queen of worst case scenarios so I can think of some pretty bad ones.” And she said, “The worst case scenario is that your kid dies, right?” (That Carla, she doesn’t pull punches.) “Setting a boundary right now, is that going to result in your kid dying?” Um, no. Okay, point taken.
She also recommended rewarding people you’re setting boundaries with for adhering to them. This one worked for me this summer when day camp ended a few weeks before the school year started and I still had to be at my desk for hours everyday, even though my daughter would rather have been at the pool. We compromised by taking Wednesday afternoons off to do whatever she wanted, and doing a special treat on the weekends, if she let me do my work. She did, and we did, and it was actually quite a fun way to end the summer.
What are your favorite productivity tips?