Creative Sessions = Dedicated time to problem solve, plot, explore ideas.
In the past two weeks I’ve read two nonfiction books that made a big impact on me. The first was The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and the second was Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. Although very different books, they shared a common theme–focus. The Wright brothers devoted much of their free time to solving the dilemma of human flight. Their passion helped them focus, and they spent hours, weeks, months and years experimenting and problem solving. In Deep Work, Cal Newport puts forth a compelling argument why anyone who wants to excel in their field needs to be deliberate about what they’re spending their time on. In other words, excellence requires focus.
Writing, like inventing, involves a LOT of creativity. And creativity is a form of problem-solving. Fictional characters don’t always behave, and plots get off track. And then there’s the issue of what to write next.
I have many ideas I’d love to explore, so many books I want to write. Time always feels like the deciding factor. But over the past couple of years, I’ve broken free from my belief that producing a higher volume of quality books requires putting in massive overtime hours.
Last year I was tired of constantly setting aside a pet project to work on my contracted books. It hit me that if I didn’t schedule time for it, I would never finish the project, let alone publish it. I had to figure out how to work on it while fulfilling my contracts. I sensed that I could accomplish far more than I thought possible, but I didn’t know how. So, I read several time management books, prayed, talked to trusted writer friends, and finally decided to go for it.
Through trial and error, my beliefs shifted. I reworked my daily schedule, limited the frequency of social media breaks, silenced my phone and pushed myself to meet daily and weekly goals. I also added more time to studying the Bible and praying each morning which had a direct impact on my day by giving me the boost necessary to believe I could meet my goals.
In 2016, I plotted several books, wrote two category length books, a novella and a nonfiction book, promoted two novels, and organized my writing business. This was far more than I’d produced the previous year, and yes, sometimes this meant working overtime, but overall, I fit these projects into normal working hours. How? By deciding in advance what I would work on each day, devoting 30-60 minutes to my nonfiction book (the one that kept getting neglected), and limiting distractions.
The great thing about revising my schedule? My writing continues to grow. I’m confident about the books I’m writing because I’m making the time to thoroughly plot, write, revise and polish them. If my only goal was to publish more books, I’d be tempted to use shortcuts and skimp on the quality. My goal has always been to write the best book I’m capable of and that means no skimping.
One thing I’m adding this year: scheduling regular creative sessions just to think and jot notes. These time blocks will be used to plot, work through a current book problem, explore ideas for new books, and creatively solve any business issues. Setting aside 2-3 hours a week, or even 30 minutes a day, to just “sit and think” seemed absurd until I realized my brain does so much heavy-hitting for me beneath the surface of my consciousness. Scheduling regular creative sessions is another tool to get more work done in a limited time frame. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Do you ever sense you could accomplish more in the limited time you have? What strategies do you currently use to make the most of your hours?
Have a lovely Wednesday!