Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or on her author website.
I had a rough time working over the holidays. Because, let's face it, who wants to work over the holidays? No one. Not me, anyway.
But my book (King's Folly) is due February 1. And it's not done. So I had to find ways to work while everyone else was playing. Here are some things I did and a few extras to inspire you when you have to work and are feeling unproductive.
1. Rewrite Your To-Do List
I love my To-Do list, but I totally ignore it. If I'm in a funk, it can be fun to pull it out and see what's on there. Nine times out of ten, I've done half the things on the list and can cross them out or make a new list. It makes me feel good to see that I have actually accomplished some things. And by the time I make a new list, I'm usually excited to tackle some of those items.
2. Bribe Yourself with Incentives
When I'm struggling to get working, I will sometimes bribe myself. One piece of candy when I finished writing a chapter. Or I get to read one chapter of the novel I'm reading (just for fun) whenever I finish editing a chapter. The reward is whatever keeps you going.
3. Get Away
Walking away from the computer is often the best thing to get my brain churning. I can do some chores, take a walk, take a drive, or even take a shower. The point is, get away from the computer and let your brain work. You know what will happen? Your brain will work anyway! And it will often brainstorm you right out of a problem area.
Another thing you can do if you really need some space from your story is to do some of those important chores that never get done, like backing up your computer or flash drives, updating your website, organize your desk, or filing! These chores need to be done eventually, so you might as well do one every now and then when you really need a break.
4. Set Time Limits
Working too hard when you don't want to can be discouraging. And you often will do nothing but stare at the computer. Try challenging yourself to a race. Word wars are great, but if you can't find anyone to war with, go it alone. Set a goal, pick a time limit, and race to get it done. You can't go this pace forever, so it's wise to take big breaks after a well-done work race.
5. Change Your Scenery
Sometimes it helps to get away. If you have a laptop, go somewhere different to write. Out in your back yard, to a coffee shop, to a friend's house. Somewhere different. And if you don't have a laptop, try taking your flash drive to a local library and putting in some time there. Tie this in with Tips 2 and 4---you can't leave until you reach your goal!
6. Go Offline
Turn off the Internet! Get off Facebook. Disconnect if you have to. Need I say more?
7. Make a Productivity Sandwich
Write down two tasks you need to do that are easy. Start your day by doing one of them. Then go about your regular work. When you're ready to be done working for the day, do your second task. You will feel much more productive if you do this.
8. Say “No”
Many of us have a hard time saying "No." I certainly do. I tried it last year and failed. So I'm going to try it again this year. I'm not going to attend every writers conference out there. And I'll say no to judging every contest I'm asked to judge. I'm going to focus on my job of writing and being a part of my family. I also have an Ax Committee with some of my writing friends. If I'm really tempted to say "Yes" I bring it to them. They will help me weigh whether it's a worthy cause or just my Guilt Complex starting to crumble. If you have trouble getting things done because you've over-committed, you might have to start saying "No" too.
9. Consider the Big Picture
Whatever it is that you're working on, take a step back and consider it's value. How much does it really matter? It could be that you're giving too much time and effort to something that's ultimately unimportant, like how much time you might spend Googling pictures of characters or doing Myers-Briggs profiles on every minor character in your book. If that's the case, do your best and only what's necessary, then be done and move on. Or it could be that you're rushing something tedious that's a necessary step toward your dream, like writing a query letter to an agent. That's something you're going to want to put in extra effort on. Try to weigh your tasks for importance and how they add to your end goals, then devoting the right amount of time to each.
10. Say Something Nice
No one is as hard on you as you. And we writers can be terribly hard on ourselves. If you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts or insulting your writing to other people, stop! Speak positive words to yourself. Believe the best for yourself. Encourage yourself. Telling yourself you're terrible and you'll never succeed at anything is not going to get you closer to your goals. If you can't say anything nice about yourself . . . shh!
How about you? Do you relate to any of these? How do you get things done when you're feeling unproductive? Share in the comments. Then get back to work!