All writers have different habits, good and bad, that influence their productivity. Some prefer to write things out long-hand, some like to plot and plan, some simply need to check Facebook and Twitter and twelve different email accounts before they can focus on fiction.
We all know our own foibles, and we know equally well when it’s time to knuckle down and just write.
For me, the best very best thing I can do to ensure that words appear on the page is to start writing as soon as I wake up. And I’m talking as soon as. In pjs, before coffee, eyes still bleary with sleep. It doesn’t have to be a long writing session (though that is a bonus) but if the first thing I think about is writing, then I’m bound to get more accomplished than if I try to do other things first.
This is obviously not always possible. When I’m teaching the first thing I do is hop on a bus to the university, then spend most of the day talking about essays. When I was working on my thesis, I’d be teaching, then researching, then working the paid research job, then marking, then finally writing fiction (feeling guilty the whole time that I was neglecting my never-ending PhD of Doom)… so during semester, fiction often happened at night.
I also realised that my most productive days, no matter what I’m writing, are the ones in which I ignore my email, Facebook, Twitter, and even my phone for as long as possible. If I have a whole day set aside for writing, I’ll hold off on checking these things until lunch — or, if I’m working on a new story, until dinner. On the days when I don’t have hours and hours free to write, it still helps to start writing first thing — it gets the backbrain percolating on the story, so even if I’m working or marking or out buying groceries, I’ve got my writer brain switched on. If I don’t write in the morning but do a bunch of other tasks, it is always so much harder getting into the swing of things late in the day.
I love hearing about how other writers work — how many morning people are there out there? How many night owls? Are you scribblers (like me) who take notes on anything that comes to hand, or do you store it all up in your heads and then spill, spill, spill as soon as you’re in front of a computer? Do you write many drafts, or edit as you go? Do you do best in marathon writing sessions, or in short spurts?
I should also say that ‘productivity’ is soooo subjective. Today I wrote about 1,000 words but it felt awesome. I’m always slow at the beginning of stories — it takes me a while to nail the voice — but once I do, the speed picks up. More importantly, speed depends on the style of story. The one I’m working on now is a bit of a “period piece”, so though I did most of my research before I started writing, I still stopped to check a few details here and there along the way. Again, this makes for a slower — but still productive — writing session.
Knowing this is how I work doesn’t give me an excuse to be slack on the days where I can’t write first thing in the morning — but it helps me to make the most of my days off.