On a post about productivity, David Farland talks about setting writing goals based on chapter or scene instead of time limit.
I try to do a little of both. Like… I go in saying: “I’m writing this scene today” and I try not to stop until the scene is done, but I also tend to use the Focus Booster timer.
What David says is true about my process as well, that it can be hard to get into it, but once you are in, it’s much easier to stay in. It’s about becoming captivated by your own world. Once you are involved in it, you, as the author, want to find out what happens next as much as a reader would.
It’s like getting immersed in a book or TV show or movie and the rest of the world falls away. It’s the writer’s equivalent of the runner’s high. If you can just get to that place, it’s bliss.
I tend to have a few different markers I use. One is a word count quota. My daily quota is 2,000 words, which truly isn’t a lot. On a day when I’m “not feeling it”, I can still manage to get that quota out in 90 minutes or less if I push through. But that’s just the thing that helps it not feel overwhelming to sit down and write.
If I’m REALLY having an off day I’ll lower my quota to 1k because that’s a word count that doesn’t feel difficult or stressful at all. But usually even when I do that I tell myself I’m just going to 1k, then I push through to 2k.
Another thing I use is the Focus Booster app. It’s a little timer with a color coded bar that sort of stays in your peripheral vision while you’re working to help keep you on task. Depending on the day, its effect can be: “You’ve only got a few more minutes to go, push through” or something more along the lines of: “Hurry, the timer bar is running down and you still have more you want to write.”
Depending on the day I’ll listen to the Focus Booster or my quota. Often both numbers coincide. But the REAL goal is to “get this scene written.” Often the section I want to write goes a little over the word quota. If I can get into that zone where I am totally immersed and enjoying being there, then finishing the scene or chapter is nothing.
The days when I can write more by story accomplishment than timer or word quota always feel like my most productive days (and my least emo days.)