Monday, 18 October 2010

Monday mornings and psychological tricks

One of the best things about writing is never having that Monday morning feeling that I remember so well from when I had what my mother would call a “proper job”.  On the other hand, you don’t get the whole Thank-God-It’s-Friday buzz either, as chances are that you’re writing all weekend when you’re on a deadline.   Still, I never quite lose track of the days, and when I sit down at my computer on a Monday  it always feels like time to square up to a new week. 

I’m going to Scotland for a few days this weekend (I know, more holidays!) so had planned to keep this week clear to crack on with The Secret Princess, but it never works out that way: a drink here, a coffee there, some nifty juggling of the hats I wear for different roles - oh, and the absolute necessity to get my nails done (hey, I can’t go to Scotland with raggedy nails), and suddenly the days are filling up again.

So far, though, I’m sticking to my schedule.  I have one of those repressed Virgoan personalities that can only operate by ticking things off a list, so I always begin a book by writing out a timetable with a daily page target (highly recommended as a procrastination activity).  I’ve been very easy on myself for this first draft – 6 pages a day - and as always, I started the timetable when I already had five pages under my belt, so that I was ahead of myself before I’d even begun to tick the pages of the timetable, a little psychological trick that I fall for every time.  I’ve ticked Sunday off, as you can see, but in fact have notes up to page 59, so it shouldn’t take me long to reach Tuesday’s target.  I’ll then feel good about being ahead of my schedule in spite of the fact that I’ve been cheating all along.

In my experience, writing is all about tricking yourself into the right frame of mind.  Am I alone, or do you have any psychological tricks up your sleeve too?


  1. Jessica, I guess one of the pros about being an unpublished writer is that you don't have deadlines imposed upon you. I can set my own and then when I don't meet them I tend to just give myself a stern talking to and then console myself for getting into trouble (chocolate, shopping or cocktails usually cheer me up no end)!

    When I do set goals, I tend to set big picture goals (eg first draft by Christmas or second draft by Easter etc). I've read that this is one of the perks of being unpublished and I should enjoy it while I can if I'm serious about having a career as a writer.

    Psychological or not, I admire your approach. Hope you have a wonderful time in Scotland (sigh) - that's me being jealous!

  2. You're absolutely right about the deadlines, Elissa! Make the most of being able to set your own while you can. Maybe you should think about rewarding yourself (shopping and cocktails always work for me!) when you DO make your self-imposed deadline, rather than ticking yourself off when you don't?

    My entire writing process is based on the reward system, in fact (a bit like training a dog. So I'll let myself go downstairs and make some coffee if I get to the end of the page, or check my email at the end of a paragraph ... All tiny things, but they keep me writing, which is what I need.

  3. I do that little reward thing, too. Coffee is excellent motivation.

  4. Seriously: coffee is not a reward or excellent motivation. Coffee is oxygen. Me without coffee is the equivalent of a houseplant trying to churn out a book - ain't gonna happen! But I do like the idea of little rewards......chocolates are little right?

  5. I'm a list maker too. I tried not to be for a while with disastrous results.

    I like the idea of counting progress by pages rather than words. I'm going to switch :)

  6. If chocolates work for you, Elissa, then go for it. You'll soon be whizzing through the pages! I had coffee overload when I first started writing - was drinking it all day at work, then long into the night - and ended up so jittery I could hardly string two words together. Now I'm one of those boring people that can't touch it after lunch, but boy, am I hanging out for it come 10.30 in the morning ...

    Lacey, never try and deny your inner list maker. It's just too painful. I've tried stepping out of that particular comfort zone, and it never works!

    When I was writing my 'time slip' earlier this year, I changed my reward system to get me into a different writing mode, and switched to word rather than page targets. I also changed the font I normally use. Just little things, but they made the whole writing experience feel different.