Now that we’re well into December, I’ve been squaring away travel plans and thinking about Jilly’s post on not letting your WIP go stone cold dead over the holidays. I’m planning to take my laptop with me, but it’ll just be dead weight in my suitcase if I don’t open it up and turn it on. Will I have time to write between the demands of old friends and a three-year-old? Jilly said that even five minutes is enough to jot down a note or a thought that you could expand later. That’s probably true for a lot of people. It takes me a lot more than five minutes to get my brain into the book. It takes almost five minutes just to boot up my laptop.
I’ve tried various techniques in the past to boost my productivity. I envy the writers who write one, two, or even ten thousand words a day. Is a five-minute sprint worth the effort, or should I just invest in a pack of Post-Its? How can I cram some decent writing time into my holiday vacation time?
While pondering this question, I sought enlightenment from the masters and found an interview with Joss Whedon, he of Buffy, Firefly, and Avengers fame.
Want to get more done? Whedon says, specificity about what he needs to accomplish that day is essential. When he’s working on three projects, he can’t say, “I’ll work on Project One,” because that lets him fritter away his time. Instead, he makes a list and then breaks down that list into next actions.
Here’s what I love, part one: He says, “eat dessert first.” Whatever you want to do the most, do that first. Of course you still have hard work to do on a manuscript, elements that you may not have worked through or that are more difficult than usual. But if you do the fun stuff first and save the hard stuff for the end, by the time you get to the end, you have a manuscript you mostly like already and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
And here’s what I love, part two: He rewards himself early and often. He eats chocolate not just when he finishes a scene, but when he gets the idea for the scene. And you know what? It’s the holidays. Yummy stuff is everywhere. I might have a LOT of ideas.
One piece of Whedon’s working practice is advice we’ve seen often here at Eight Ladies: Fill the tanks. Watch something new, read something outside your usual preferences. When Whedon worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he got a two-week vacation every year, during which he read 10 books and saw nine plays.
People familiar with Whedon’s work know he uses his friends in his films and TV shows. Those friendships strengthened over Shakespeare readings at his house. He doesn’t mine friendships for content, but their combined creativity is the yeast that refreshes everyone’s well. Jilly mentioned hitting up friends and relations for information that could help strengthen and enrich your writing. I might have to think a bit about how my friends and relations could help me with my current project, but if I listen carefully enough, they might help me on the next one.
Finally, Whedon says, don’t make excuses. Someone will always tell you that you can’t. If you’re talking about it, you should be doing it. He quotes his wife, who says she doesn’t like to see talent go fallow. Do it for yourself and joy for the product itself.
So that’s it. I have room in my carry-on for my laptop, and I’ll be taking it. And I’ll turn it on and use it, because, hey, no excuses. What about you? Planning to write over the holidays? How will you manage it?