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05/07/2002 - PRODUCTIVITY OVERLOAD
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PRODUCTIVITY OVERLOAD

Dear Friends,

For five weeks, I've been writing tips on productivity. As I sit down to write this column, I seem to be applying nearly all of them simultaneously. I'm working on several projects at once, working in small blocks, stopping in the middle of scenes, taking productive breaks, writing every single day (because if I don't, I'll never get these done), and setting and keeping deadlines.

The one I'm not exactly following for all of these projects is the all-important one I mentioned last week - picking projects that you're passionate about. The main two I'm working on are really at the top of my mind, and that makes all of these other little ones that much more difficult to work on. Nevertheless, I press on.

This week's tip has to do with getting rid of the worst distractions. As writers, if we have distractions, we will take them. Because nothing is more difficult than writing. The distractions I'm talking about include the evil device that my brother left over at my house. Yes, it's a Playstation 2. Now, this probably isn't a problem for most of you, but for me, this is like visual heroin. So I've told my brother I need it out of my house asap. If I didn't have six deadlines hanging over my head, I'd be on that thing all day, perfecting my virtual driving skills.

Hey, look, maybe you don't have a video game habit, but I'm sure you've got something of your own. Some people watch the news a lot. Others do crosswords. Watch way too much television. Talk to acquaintances on the phone too long. Build model ships. Surf the internet looking for columns on writing. Read too many books (yes, it's possible, especially for a writer). Or some other seemingly harmless activity, like getting a full night's sleep.

None of these things is really terrible for a writer, if done in moderation. Heck, television writers have to watch television for research. Reading transports you to different worlds. And we all need a social life. And sleep.

But you know there's a difference between activities you need and activities you're just engaging in out of habit or because you're dodging your responsibility to your writing. Life is short. You have to take a hard look at your activities and your productivity, and make choices about how important writing is to you. I guarantee that writers who have enduring careers in writing have all given up a great deal for their craft. If you don't, you won't be able to put in the time, thought, or focus necessary to do that one thing that separates you from the rest of the non-professionals - finish projects!

Yes, you can waste time and blow off steam however you want. But everything in moderation. Except writing. That you can overload on as much as you want. Your mind and body will tell you when you need to take a break - it's up to you to build up your tolerance so that you can work longer hours and get more done with the hours that you do work.

Back to the deadlines with me. That Playstation 2 will have to wait. The pool table looks so inviting, though . . .

The Shark,

Grady

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