Wednesday, June 18, 2008

To Do or Not To Do (Lists)

I'm finally making some progress on the rewrite of my new novel. It took me a while to get my head into the right place where I was ready to start up again. And it took a little longer to get onto a new schedule that was productive (at least for this week--the kids finish school on Friday, so I'll need to tweak a bit).

My secret this week has been making sure that when I arrive at my desk to write my e-mail application is closed down, my web browser is closed, and I don't make a to-do list. This seemed counter-intuitive to me at first, because a) I'm a compulsive list-maker, so any list is a good list, and b) I'm trying to get more done, so having a list should make me more organized and get more done. Right?

Normally I keep a to-do list on a 3x5 card, and that covers my desired chores/goals for two days. I long ago figured out that it's impossible to accopmlish more in one day than will fit on a 3x5 card. I tried using a software program for a to-do list, but it just added one more thing to do to my already long list. My daily habit is to start a new 3x5 card, and then write in my journal, and then get to my actual writing. Sounds good, yes? However, what I figured out is that composing my to-do list before I started writing put me in completely the wrong mind-set. It got my head into the daily list of clutter and chores, and not at all around writing. Plus, creating the list always ended up taking more than just two minutes, because I'd be at the computer, so I might do one or two really easy tasks or have research a phone number first. And, once the list was complete, I'd have it on my desk, so that while I was writing, if I suddenly remembered something else I needed to do, there it was--I could just write it down. But that also meant that my subconscious was always analyzing what I should be doing and how to get more done and in what order, all when it was supposed to be cranking around character and language.

So this week, I've waited for e-mail, internet, and to-do lists until after I finished my writing for the day. What I find is that I'm able to write longer and with better concentration. My list of chores isn't waiting for me--I can create it when it's the time to actually start thinking about such things. And I've made writing top priority, which is the only way it gets done, because otherwise there are a million tasks waiting to push it to the back of the line.

I'm going to get less done, but that's all right, because I'll do a lot more writing. (I don't think this will work for night time writers--I write in the early morning, so this works for me.)

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