Stephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com and the author of several young adult novels, including the 1920s mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street (Blink/HarperCollins). Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and sign up for free books on her author website.
Earlier this week, I followed a link to an article called something like, "10 Ways to be Super Duper Productive!" I'm a sucker for those articles. I hardly ever get anything out of them, but they're like a flame to my inner moth.
There was nothing of use in the article, but the tone of it irritated me more than usual. "Make your bed first in the morning! Then you'll have at least accomplished one thing!" And, "Spend fifteen minutes picking up your house at the end of the day! That will help keep it clean!"
Look, these are fine things. When I worked from home and had zero children, I did make my bed first thing every morning, and there was no need for me to pick up my house at the end of the day because both my husband and I clean up after ourselves. Productivity has gotten increasingly harder as I've gotten older and my responsibilities have grown.
That article did not understand me or my productivity struggles, and to be fair, I was probably not the author's target audience. All the same, when I saw that the blogging topic I jotted down on my calendar for today was, "Being a productive writer during the summer," I just laughed.
I graduated high school in 2001 and immediately went to work, so the last real "summer break" I experienced was in 2000. At this stage of life, it's easier for me to be productive during the school year because that's when the majority of my kids are occupied during the day.
Truthfully, I can only offer this advice from my memories of what it was like to have a summer break stretching before me. Maybe these thoughts on summer and productivity will completely miss the mark for you, but here are my ideas, and I welcome you to include yours in the comments.
1. Think Something, Not Everything
When my inbox gets overloaded or my to-do list gets real long, that's when I become so overwhelmed that I don't even know what to do first. I find myself scattered. I'll start to answer an email, then allow myself to get sidetracked by checking for that book on Amazon, then remember I need to draft a blog post, then realize I'm still halfway through that email...
Sometimes we can't help that a day holds a lot of need-to-dos, but when I can, it's best for me to think small. To think of the one, maybe two, items that I want to cross of my list. Or the one scene I want to get written, rather than the whole chapter.
That's what the 100-for-100 challenge is about in a lot of ways. (Just a few more days to get registered, writers!) Aiming low because we know that getting something done each day is better than hoping to get everything done.
2. Think Training, Not Mastery
I don't know if you're like me, but I tend to want to rock something right away. If I decide I want to take up running, I determine I'm going to start running a mile everyday. If I'm feeling motivated to eat better, I decide only salads for lunch and absolutely no sugar ever.
—everything from running to writing a novel—NOW.
Writing stories is fun, but it's also a long journey that requires endurance and training. You probably won't be able to go from writing 0 words every day to 5,000 words every day. Start with something small—again, that's why we do a 100 word challenge—and then bump it up a bit as time goes on.
3. Think Today, Not Tomorrow
"I'll start that tomorrow" is the phrase I used to say to myself all summer, until I would realize school started back up next week, and I hadn't touched any of the assigned books that I was supposed to have read by the first day of school. Whoops!
I regularly have to resist glamorizing and glorifying what person I will be tomorrow. Because guess what? I will be the same me. Tomorrow I will probably still be wishing I had gotten more sleep last night, my writing time will still be shorter than I would like, and there will still be far more interruptions than seem necessary. My struggles tomorrow are often the exact same as my struggles today.
Have something you want to make progress on? Today is a great day to start.
At the same time, don't put pressure on yourself to hit the ground running with productivity on day one of summer. Or day one after you've been on vacation or have been sick. (Isn't being sick during the summer just the worst?) Rest is good for our creative souls. Pressure and stress are not.
I'm looking forward to starting the 100-for-100 challenge with many of you on Thursday! Jill, Shannon, and I have spent the last few months lining up great authors to be our guests this summer, and next Monday I'll give you guys a peek at who will be stopping by the blog!