Where Is Your Brain?

brain in jar Seems time is just as tight as money these days. When you’ve got 15,000 things on your perverbial plate, you cease to function. The brain goes on a road trip without packing a bag or spare underwear. And that’s the problem (the list, not the underwear – I hope). You can’t do it all today or tomorrow. If you’re like me, not even in this lifetime. That’s okay. Auntie M is here to help you get your writing brain back home and on track. Are you scared yet?

Getting Things Done. You’ve probably heard of GTD before. Loosely, it’s a time management concept by David Allen. Think Franklin Covey’s Seven Habits and for many, without the organizer. Others have variations of it, like my fav, Merlin Mann. It’s based on the principle that requests and demands are unlimited and time is – make your time count.

Why have I chosen GTD for this week’s post? Because as writers we procrastinate. Shock, huh? We can’t write because: work, house, family, friends, pets, school, the lawn needs mowing the fridge needs cleaning, an agent might email, and our summer wardrobes need organizing by color, size, and how we might look in light of the full moon on Tuesday.

If this is you, raise your hand.

Uh huh. Quite a show of digits there. And, I hear a lot of “But! But!” And that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? Excuses. If you really don’t have a couple hours to spare in your week, you’re not being fair to yourself or others. May I suggest rethinking the everything, all the time is always important factor. Here’s a favorite saying I’ve loved since I first heard it: Everything you must have, owns you. That’s not just materialistic things people.

Let’s take it slow and simple, okay? Baby steps. Got half an hour? An hour? You can write. You don’t? Well, then step away from the manuscript or reside yourself to the fact that writing is merely a hobby like knitting and gardening. If you can’t spend half an hour at least 4-5 days a week, you’ll never finish writing an entire novel. Or, it’ll take you ten years. Is writing something you’re serious about or is it a hobby? Be honest. Don’t load yourself down where you’re nothing more than a hamster on a wheel. Enjoy life. Enjoy writing.

Everyone else with me? Step right up! You can make the most of that writing by simply applying Merlin Mann’s theory on time. Everyone wants a slice of it. And, every writer says that interruptions seem to take up most of their writing time. So, that’s what we’ll tackle today.

First, set aside the time. Thirty or sixty minutes, your pick. Now, get rid of the clutter around the goal. If the dishes in the sink are going to bug you, do it. An unmade bed? Fine, but you’re bordering on avoidance. Do NOT make a list. This is only procrastination at its finest. Break the clutter down to this: High or low priority. High isn’t making dinner or walking the dog because you’ve scheduled time around that. High means that someone or something is in great, urgent, life-threatening, bleeding from both ears peril. But, if the sink full of dishes really irks you, get it done before you sit in front of the computer. More than one pet peeve and you’re practicing procrastination at its best.

Next? Rules: No email, no internet, no TV. No people, pets, or anything that distracts you or tempts you away from your 30 or 60 minute goal. No phone (that’s what voicemail is for). No snacks. No looking out the window. Disconnect your computer from the internet. Do it. No whining. That means you in the back. If you honestly can ignore the email chime or researching for your novel, fine. Keep the security blanket there. If you fail, email and internet access are grounded every writing session forward.

Buck up, little camper. You’re only whining because… You. Don’t. Want. To. It’s your brain throwing a temper tantrum because you’ve dragged it’s happy cortex home and said you’re in charge now. Look! It’s the Brain Whisperer! Exercise, discipline, affection!

If you’re freaking about this, revisit the writing/hobby/maybe in ten years theory. If you ever want writing to be your job, then treat it like a job – even if it’s for a hour. Brain affection? Bake some cookies as a reward. The brain loves chocolate chips cookies. Or brownies. Okay, maybe that’s just mine.

Ready? Excellent! If you’re disciplined enough, you’re set. Not so much? Need a shove in the back and a kick in the ass with a size fourteen pointy-toed boot? Two choices: try Write or Die or place a timer near your computer. Write or Die is an application that allows you to set how many words you’re willing to bet you can write in an amount of time that you also set. What happens if you don’t? It deletes EVERYTHING you’ve written, hence the Write or Die part. Not a risk taker? Write down a word count goal on a sticky and put it where you can see it. Check the current word count on your WIP. Then, set a timer or alarm to 30 or 60 minutes.

Once you’ve done this a few times, it gets easier and on most days, your productivity increases exponentially. Seriously. Try it. Then give your brain a little affection and bake cookies.


7 thoughts on “Where Is Your Brain?

  1. Great post, Michelle! I always tell people the most important thing about learning to write is to WRITE! Every spare half hour, in the doctor’s office, the coffee shop, wherever . . . WRITE.


  2. This brain loves brownies and chocolate cookies too. The attached body, however, not so much so.

    Write or Die, on the other hand, is pure terror.
    Kamikaze Mode is a real motivator — but even Normal Mode is enough to keep my fingers flying. There’s not much I won’t do to avoid having to listen to The Banana Phone Song.
    /me shudders

  3. I agree with Laura Rainbow Dragon – Write or Die indeed sounds like Pure Terror! (even in capital letters).

    But it’s great to hear more kick in the ass type posts. Maybe they’ll even inspire me to slow on my post reading a bit. . . and actually do some writing 😉

  4. Excellent post! The – people in my life in mortal peril – problem has definitely distracted me for the last while. It’s time to get down to business now, though I’d never use the ‘write or die’ program, It’s way too scary. People I love are in danger of dying – I don’t want my words to die too.

    • You DEFINITELY have a reason to put your goals aside. Family is A L W A Y S first. But I’m with you on the Write or Die. Tried it once and although I was able to hammer out some words, it’s a bit nerve wracking for my tastes.

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