It’s so easy to fool yourself into thinking that you’re working hard. It’s so easy not to write. So you use any trick you can to make yourself know there’s work to be done. That’s why I wear a jacket and tie when I sit down to write. – Robert Caro
Writing is work. It’s a lonely endeavor, writing a novel. American Journalist and author, Robert A. Caro understood how hard it is to make himself write and how easy it is to be distracted from his goal. For Mr. Caro, formal attire reminded him to stay on task and apparently, that worked for him.
Dressing up wouldn’t work for me, though it might provoke a spontaneous piece or two about what a stupid thing ties are and how binding a coat feels when trying to work at the keyboard. I might fly off into a rant about how we should start looking for functional, practical clothing over fashion. It would be a silly rant.
What does work for me are artificially imposed goals: I will write 1000 words tonight, or I will edit 5 pages. I say this to myself when I sit down to write, allowing distractions like email and Facebook, checking ballgame scores or whatever as I work. But before I turn in for the night, I must meet my goal.
What happens if I don’t meet my goal? Nothing. And unless I put pressure on myself, nothing is exactly what I will accomplish at the keyboard, night after night. Muse or not, writing is work and it is important to keep momentum.
Most of the time, I meet my goals. Sometimes I don’t, and I am not kind to myself when it happens. My goal for the next session is doubled – that is my penance to make up for my lost productivity. I’m very disciplinary about it and a little thick when it comes to cutting myself slack, i.e. I don’t.
I don’t consider the practice healthy by any measure, but it does work for me. I’d love to hear what other writers do to put their butts in the chair and make the words. Share your best practices with us.
© 2012, Mitch Lavender