Daily Writing Tactics by Martin Haworth
Let’s welcome back monthly columnist Martin Haworth as he shares with us “Daily Writing Tactics.” Enjoy!
Consistency has never been my strong point. I’ll say that up front. So the opportunity to write about how I manage to overcome this failing is something of a cathartic exercise for me.
It’s not that I can’t write (or do other things for that matter) regularly enough to achieve my goals, it’s something about my values that fail to be met if I do the same thing for too long.
And that includes writing.
So how is it, that last November, in my first ever NaNoWriMo I was able to crunch 62,000 words of my first ever novel in 15 days? How could I bring myself to focus on one thing for such an intense period?
Well, despite my aversion to doing the same thing for too long in anything, I’m going to share with you two tactics (and one awareness) that helped me. One I’d known a long time and one I found out recently and realized how well it fit the bill for my seeming lack of ability to realize my potential in my writing.
In the early years of the new millennium, I was in the throes of starting my coaching practice. I was very excited about this and I attended all sorts of events to learn more about my new profession, all over the world.
In one of the breakout sessions, I came across a piece on time management that I never forgot and indeed, changed my life. The speaker was one Mark Forster, famous for his interesting take on how to get the best from your time. He was promoting his new book Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play. You can see my review of the book is you scroll down far enough on Amazon (to 2002!).
In the book he shows up with all sorts of tactics that help people make the most of their time and for me, one of them stood out particularly. Indeed, if you are so inclined, you can read this on his blog at http://markforster.squarespace.com/get-the-file-out/.
Yes, the article is still there!
The key thing here is kick-starting to create the “momentum” that will get and keep you going. The very act of starting towards your daily page goal might be as simple as sitting in your work chair or opening your Word file. Once you start, there is now traction for you to get yourself going and keep going.
For my NaNoWriMo novel, it was as easy as that. Sit down, open the file, and start writing for one hour, without stopping. I did that three times each morning and then stopped. I set myself “on-the-hour” rituals. Or more simply, I would start at 7am, 9am, and 11am. 4-6000 words a day equals that 62,000 words, some of it dictated with Dragon. And do other stuff (like breakfast and my morning walk.). I still had time to play.
More recently, I’ve found another reason that this worked, and this has also added to my menu of tactics for getting important things done, but before I share it with you, there’s a little model that you need to know about.
In 1989, Stephen Covey wrote his fabulous The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Whilst that book has a series of very appealing models you can use, there is one about prioritization that Covey adapted from one that President Dwight Eisenhower put his name to. You can see a simple video that will explain it to you at http://www.eisenhower.me/eisenhower-matrix/. You see, there are urgent things and important things. There are non-urgent things and unimportant things.
Whilst the urgent and important things take priority, often the non-urgent, yet still very important things often get squeezed out. Writing may be less important in your life and it is rarely urgent (unless you’re like me, for whom deadlines are my regular urgent and therefore important). Making time for these non-urgent and important things will make a huge difference to you.
The second tip came to me recently in the form of another book called The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. The tactic here goes one step further than other ideas shared already, for it encourages the reader to simply focus on doing One Thing and, to put it simply, ignore everything else.
If the focus is made on one thing only, the chances are that it will be done, the doer will feel more successful and fulfilled and likely therefore to do other things too. After you’ve completed your One Thing, do whatever else you want to in your day. You are only allowed One Thing a day of initial focus.
In summary of these key points:
- Create a routine or ritual for your writing.
- Simply do something/anything related to your writing to kick-start it.
- Notice that the most urgent things often aren’t the most important.
- Block off time early in your day to write for important and non-urgent.
- Choose one thing a day as your only focus.
No one says having any sort of routine is fun. But it seems that for most, a routine and the tactics to make the most of your time is critical.
If you don’t get your wonderful idea on the page, then you will be guaranteed to fail. I can assure you.
ABOUT MARTIN HAWORTH
Martin Haworth is a coach, trainer and would-be fiction author with a manuscript that “needs work.” He lives in Gloucester, England and has two grown up kids and three grandchildren. He loves walking, travel, and supporting Burnley Football Club. Check out his website at http://martinhaworth.com.