Back when I had a day job, my writing days were mostly the same: come home from work, attend to 'real life,' and once the kids were in bed, settle in and do a little writing. A good writing day meant that I got in 250-500 words. A bad writing day meant I struggled and usually failed to accomplish much of anything. Now that I write for a living, I've gained added perspective on what constitutes a good or bad writing day.
My good days look something like this:
-Get up early.
-Have a quick workout while my coffee is brewing.
-Turn on some upbeat music and start writing.
-Take a break every hour, spend a little time online, get back to work.
-Meet or exceed my daily minimum. Feel awesome!
-Work on something promo/marketing related.
-Enjoy the rest of my day. Get in bed early and enjoy some guilt-free reading time because I've met my daily word count and I feel good! I'm going to own the publishing world some day.
A bad writing day looks like this:
-Get online while I have my first cup of coffee. I don't have time to work out because I slept late, and I'm already off-schedule, so what's the big deal if I spend a little time on the web?
-Check email. Check Facebook, check Twitter, follow the interesting links, check Facebook again. Check my eamil again.
-Get another cup of coffee because my mind is now muddled and I can't seem to get focused on writing.
-Check my sales rankings while I'm having my second cup of coffee. Agonize over the lowest-ranking title while taking for granted the higher-ranking titles.
-Obsess over the poor quality of my work-in-progress while letting my mind drift to all the great ideas I could be putting to paper if I wasn't stuck in the middle of this mediocre project.
-Check Facebook again. Maybe there's someone out there who's having a worse day than me.
-Someone is having a worse day than me. Now I feel bad for sort-of wishing it on him or her.
-Remind myself I can always go back to teaching, which finally motivates me to get writing.
-Turn on YouTube and find something slow and meditative to listen to because I'm so stressed.
-Grind slowly through 250 words because I'm sluggish from no workout and the relaxing music.
-Obsess over all the errands I have to run, and remind myself I should already be done with them, but I slept late and didn't get started on my writing.
-Contemplate carving "FML" into my forehead.
-Go ahead and run my errands, vowing to write tonight, just like I used to.
-Sit in my chair with my laptop, watch reruns of The Office, visit all the sites I visited this morning while reminding myself that I really should have gotten up early and had a regular writing day today.
-Either give up and go to bed early, or stay up late, trying to make myself write.
I've heard many writers say the biggest decision regarding productivity is whether or not to get online. I agree that time spent online is, for me, the biggest time waster, but I've found the decision about what time to go to bed is the most critical to my writing success. I don't know if I'm a night owl by nature, or if I just got into that habit in seven years of doing my writing at night. What I have discovered, however, is that if I can make myself go to bed at a reasonable hour, I make better decisions the next day. If I wake up well-rested, I'm in a better frame of mind, and not inclined to procrastinate online or in any other way. My writing day is more productive, and I tend to enjoy the rest of my day without beating myself up over the writing I didn't do.
What's the biggest decision you make in a day?