November—already, can you believe it? Some of you are probably happily bogged down with Nanowrimo this month. It’s early in, the inspiration is thick and humid, the words and ideas are growing like crazy, but despite your amazing work ethic and exciting word counts thus far, you’re ever cognisant of the reality that you need to log 1666.66 words per day (better round that up to 1667!) to nail this bad boy.
Others of you, like me, decided to forgo the 50 000 word extravaganza this month, because you have other writing priorities yelling loudly in your head that you don’t want to ignore.
Whatever camp you fall in, I suspect that because you have spectacularly lofty goals this month, life will throw a lot of unexpected distractions at you this month, including but not limited to things like: surprise visits from old friends, birthday bashes, baby showers, or other celebratory not to be missed events, extra work hours, a small family crisis or two, etc . . .
Wait? Am I talking about November particularly or the writing life in general? Rats, you caught me. Nano or no Nano, my writing life, despite my best laid plans, always gets interrupted. I still manage to get quite a lot done most months, however, and one of the easiest ways I’ve learned to motivate and focus myself (not to mention remind myself of what I actually want to accomplish) is to use sticky notes. And not the sticky note app—the actual, messy little pieces of paper that one scrawls notes on and sticks up all over the place.
The idea is not uniquely mine, of course. After all, sticky notes were invented to leave memos for yourself. And I took a class with author Kerri Nelson, called “The Book Factory—Produce Multiple Novels in a Year” that I raved about before in “Take 15 . . .”
Kerri advocated constructing a brief list of things you need to get done in a day or in a chunk of writing time, keeping it in a highly visible place, then before you got to bed that evening making sure you’ve accomplished each one.
There’s something powerful in the act of prioritizing (only so many goals fit on a sticky note) and then crossing each accomplishment with swift stroke of ink. The more specific the goals, the better.
When I jot down “Blog post,” it’s a little tougher to get down to, than if I write “Blog post + TITLE,” because just writing a title is consideration of an idea—and idea that stirs about in the muck and mire of my brain, and is then more than ready to muddy up the page once I sit down to it.
When I write “Edit TITLE,” it’s not as effective as when I write, “Edit three chapters of TITLE.”
“Write a chapter” is not as forward-driving as “Write scene where blah-blah-blah.” (Of “blah blah blah” is actually spelled out on the note—even if so cryptically that only I know at a glance what on earth I’m talking about.)
I also write mundane, non-writing tasks on my sticky notes (“Toyota Payment, “Park Optometry,” etc.), not because I consider them writing-related per se, but because my brain sometimes uses menial chores and other trivial “must-do’s” as a way to avoid writing. “You shouldn’t write right now. You should insert-silly-but-practical-distraction.” Once those chores make it to the sticky note, I can make my procrastinator shut-up. (It’s on the sticky note, it’ll get done. Now be quiet, I have work to do!)
I don’t know if sticky notes will revolutionize your writing days or the short sessions you try to sneak in around the other demands of life, but I know that when I’m using my sticky note system, I’m always a little blown away, by how I manage to get things done when I have no time.
I wish you crazy productivity this month—especially if you’re Nanowrimoing! And if you have special methods or tips for breaking down your big goals into smaller, manageable ones, please share.:)