Mapping memories, NaNoThon, and Structuring productivity

If you only read the first sentence: create every day, and keep putting yourself out there! I’ve posted a few more poems on Medium, and am enjoying how easy it is and the attention it is getting (over 500 hits on this How-to-write-a-poem post, thanks to a kind Editor’s Pick and front-page feature). I’m also trying to get a picture up with every one. Rather than getting into techniques for optimizing organic web traffic, I’m just going to say: people like that kind of thing.

Breaking your routine or being creative in other ways is an amazing way to discover new internal topics or to get through writer’s block. One of my favorites is doodling or drawing before you start writing, but sometimes that’s still too open-ended. Try drawing a map, especially one based on your memories. A more visual friend of mine (who really understands creativity) recommended this way back, and of course BrainPickings knows what I’m talking about. For this poem about the street I grew up on, this was the prompt: Draw a map of where you grew up, featuring exactly seven locations. Then write.

Today (right now!) is an all day marathon of writing from the Office of Letters and Light (aka NaNoWriMo). This #NaNoThon is a good time to drop everything and finally edit that chapter or story you’ve been putting off forever. It also brings up a few ideas I’ve been processing for a few days.

I tend to over-organize (it keeps the overwhelming-ness at bay) but I think it’s SO important to structure your productivity. I’ve fallen away from it lately, and it has been a struggle. I mentioned in this Scheduling Creativity post (featuring thoughts from John Cleese on taking your 90 minutes) that it’s crucial to put the time in when you can. But lately I’m learning that it’s also important to take it easy.

I get bogged down in the always-having-to-do-something mindset. Talking this over with some other creative workhorses, I’m learning I would be happier and more productive if I scheduled specific hours of the day to write fiction or to program, instead of maintaining an exhausting and constant grind through my to-do list. Constant work over the course of many hours or days is not as productive as focused, powerful segments of reasonable length interspersed with time off. Especially when I’m tired, those extra hours tend to be a waste, when switching gears or taking the evening off would have been an investment in the next burst.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t grind it out. Sometimes you need to, and when it’s right, I’m all about that. But don’t let your to-do list loom over you or slow down your overall speed. Everything gets done one thing at a time, or not at all.

For that time in between sprints? I dove into Brave New World and House of Cards last week. Do whatever you want! Your brain will appreciate it.

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