Cracking The Author Productivity Code

Aside from the core problems of writing, re-writing and marketing, all the evidence suggests that self-published authors’ single biggest struggle & challenge is Time Management. Until recently, I was one of them.

Self-publishing two Pen Name books over the past couple of months [they took about six weeks each from start to finish] was a Learning Curve that helped me finally work out how to crack my own personal Productivity Code, with the result that I’m now writing more than before.

Hint: The hardest book you will ever write is your first one. Like any skill, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

So here’s What I Learned When I Did What I Did:

SILENCING YOUR INNER CRITIC:

We all have that voice in our head, our Inner Critic, and we all have Self-Talk, the Internal Dialogue we have with ourselves about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and if it’s worth it our not. We’ve all made decisions to do things and we’ve all talked ourselves out of doing things. Or is that just me?

When I made my Dr Who Fan Film, Project: Fifty, I had that Internal Dialogue with myself all the time. Me and Him.

Him: Is all this worth the effort? Me: Of course it is. Him: Are you sure you’re going to find a solution to [insert current problem here]? Me: Yes, I will. Him: Do you have any idea what that solution is? Me: No, I don’t. But I know I’ll find one. Now shut up and let me get on…

When you’re clear on WHAT you want to do and WHY you want to do it, that Inner Motivation is what silences your Inner Critic when it challenges the worth of what you’re doing. Knowing your Purpose, the Purpose for your work, is your best argument against your Inner Critic.

Hint: Visualising the end product helps keep you motivated. Which is why knocking up a basic mock cover for your book can be a good thing to do before you start writing. Every time the postman brings me a physical copy of one of my books, and I see them sat on my bookshelf, my Inner Critic has less ammunition to use against “me”. 

GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO BE MESSY:

When we write, the First Draft is usually The Hemingway Version. Mine included. Learning to do anything is always a case of Getting It Wrong First before you Get It Right Later.

As authors we need to give ourselves permission to not get it right first time. If you want to draw, for instance, it’s going to take time and perseverance to get your drawing from Where You Are Now to Where You Want To Be. The work you produce now, while you’re still learning, isn’t going to be the work you want to produce.

When you see the discrepancy between your ability and your desire, you need to go easy on yourself and give yourself permission to be messy. Messy is good, messy is what we do while we’re sorting everything out and learning how to put it together. You can only tidy up what’s messy to start with.

Hint: Perfectionism is the enemy of productivity. All it will do is induce procrastination. 

FINDING THE TIME:

When I wrote The Pen Name Books I set aside the same amount of time every day, at the same time every day, in order to write them. Writing a book is hard, yes, and it takes time too, but being consistent is the key to getting anything done efficiently and effectively.

Scheduled time is more productive, in the long run, than trying to find the time. Scheduling is more effective than spontaneity. 

Writers who schedule time to write are, apparently, three-and-a-half times more productive in terms of pages written than spontaneous writers. It turns out that inspiration really is over-rated.

In terms of creative ideas, those who schedule time to be creative, for things such as writing or drawing, have twice as many ideas as those who prefer to be spontaneous. Or, to put it another way, that’s having an idea every day as opposed to every other day.

Hint: You will always make time for the things that are really important to you. Whatever they are. If one of them isn’t writing, that’s an indication that it’s not The Most Important Thing. Be honest with yourself.

STOP MAKING EXCUSES:

We all have an Inner Critic and we all make excuses to ourselves for why we’re not writing. In terms of basic Writer’s Psychology, we’re scared, simple as that. Doing anything new is scary and your FOF – Fear Of Failure – is almost always the thing that is really holding you back.

I was utterly fearless when I made Project: Fifty. Why? Because my Purpose & Motivation outweighed my Fear Of Failure to the point where it had nothing in me to latch on to. Think of FOF as a vine creeping up the trunk of the tree of your creativity. Your P’n’M is the insecticide that kills that sucker.

If that analogy doesn’t work for you, here’s another: in the internal court of your Creativity, You are the defendant in the dock, your FOF is your accuser and your P’n’M is your defender. FOF will always call your past into evidence against you. Your P’n’M will cite your past successes in your defence.

But here’s the thing – as well as being the defendant, the prosecutor and the witnesses, you are also the judge. YOU have the internal “author” authority to overrule or sustain your FOF’s objections.

When your FOF raises an objection in Creativity Court, here’s how you deal with them:

OBJECTION #1: I Don’t Have The Time Right Now. Maybe Later…

OBJECTION #2: I Don’t Feel Like I’m Ready Yet…

OBJECTION #3: I Really Need To Finish This Other Thing First…

COUNTER-ARGUMENT: Your honour, FOF knows that The Creative does have the time, FOF just wants to intimidate him into continuing to use it to do the things he is already doing instead of doing something new. Like writing that book… Feelings are good and useful things, like emotions, but we cannot allow ourselves to be led by them. The best decisions are both emotional and rational. Since when were our feelings the barometer for our creative decision-making? We all know that The Creative’s Purpose in creating his work is being stifled by the fear being employed by the prosecutor. I ask the court to consider The Creative’s previous work and find in his favour to allow him the freedom to fail on the path to success. I rest my case.

JUDGMENT: Objection overruled. The Critic’s case is not proven and the court finds in favour of The Creative. Case dismissed!

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