Recently I came across this article by Phil Jourdan on writing habits and efficiency. It’s a great read. Phil was researching the subject of writing efficiency, routine, and habits. He found lots of bland, unspecific advice like “write every day,” but very little detailed practical advice. So he wrote his own guide, which includes tips on exercise, caffeine intake, digestion vs. concentration, and eliminating distractions.
One thing that Phil discusses is how it’s important to have a writing ritual; a set of steps, performed in the same order, that bookends your writing sessions.
For the last two weeks I’ve taken Phil’s advice on both counts; I’ve been keeping a detailed writing log (start time, stop time, word count, exercise before writing session, food/caffeine before writing session), and I’ve been performing a writing ritual (or sequence, if you prefer).
Here’s my own writing ritual/sequence:
- check schedule, plan day, attend to any urgent distractions that would otherwise be distracting
- put cellphone and cordless phone inside house (I work outside in a separate office), turn off wireless connection
- get hot black coffee and cold water
- mental preparation (brief meditation, prayer [I'm an atheist but I pray anyway -- here's why], request for inspiration and focus)
- open documents, briefly review and edit previous day’s work
- write until quota is exceeded, stopping only to pace, exercise, or use bathroom, politely decline to be interrupted for non-emergency reasons
- briefly outline ideas for next day’s session
- close and backup documents, retrieve phones, turn on internet
- brief prayer of thanks
So far I’ve been pleased with the results. I’ve exceeded my quota (which is only 600 words — here’s why) on average by 50% except for one day when I had to rush out the door to an appointment. Even though my quota was low, before I started using these techniques I was having trouble hitting it. At the moment I’m about 30K words into the project (after two months of outlining/research and 10 weeks of actual writing). Since I’ve been tracking word counts and time worked, I’ve been averaging 865 words per session, with an average session length of 1.5 hours.
My main problem was internet “research” leading to internet distraction. For me it’s better to just leave the internet off, and fill in any missing facts later.
If you write, do you use a writing ritual? Do you keep a log? What do you find to be effective?