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The Importance Of Being Ernest...Hemingway and Productivity

Hemingway (right)
Lately I've been beating myself up for being a slow writer.  I have a book due and I'm well past the extended deadline.  In fact I shouldn't even be wasting words on this blog, but I've ignored all other aspects of my life for close to two months now.  Except writing and--well, cover design--because frankly, those couple hours in the evening pay the bills.

I schedule deadlines with the reasonable expectation of producing 1000 words a day, all the while thinking I'll actually produce more.  I used to write 1000 words an hour.  But I haven't been able to get my head out of edit mode since I don't remember when.

For months now I've been clawing my way up from 100 words a day to 500--that's right, I went from 1000 words an hour to 100 words a day.  Simply working through it started to pay off as I reached 100, 250 and then 500 words an hour.  But that took months.

That 500 word an hour peak usually comes in the second hour of my writing session and then it's all down hill again from there.  On a big project it's easy to feel like I'm getting nowhere fast.  Then I read Ernest Hemingway set a daily goal of 500 to 1000 words and generally logged around 500 words a day.  One could argue that's fine for a man who won the Nobel Prize for his literary fiction, but death for a genre fiction writer.

Or is it?  Five hundred words a day is 2-4 romance novels a year.  When I look at it that way it's clear my problem isn't that I'm slow.  What I lack is consistency.  While deep in revision on a manuscript I'm not writing on another, but I could be--maybe I should be.  Not writing is what got me into this mess in the first place.  And then spending 8, 10, 12 hours in the chair trying to double my word count and make up for lost time winds up being counter productive when I spend the next day procrastinating.

Consistency is key for the slow (and not so slow) writer.  Though you may not be able to churn out a 50,000 word draft in a weekend you can write a book in 100 days without spending every waking hour at the keyboard.

Here's a tip from Hemingway himself to make sure you show up everyday and keep going:      

"The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start."

~ Ernest Hemingway

And because I teased you with the blog title...

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