|Also, you might shoot your junk off.|
|It's not creepy because we're almost the same age. (Okay, so it's creepy.)|
Before I go on, please note that while I'm using a novel as an example, this applies to everything you might wish to do. Everything worth doing is impossible. Your job is to find out how to break that impossible task into pieces that are possible. For instance, the novel. Many people don't know this, but a novel is actually made of words.
|Words: the pre-internet Youtube video|
Pick up a big heavy book, like Anna Karenina or Moby Dick. That giant inexplicable tome of genius is just a bunch of words, one after the other, written by some fat guy sitting in a chair. If you wanted to, you too could write Moby Dick (or at least a book as long), but if you sit down with that goal in mind you're going to be so overwhelmed you won't be able to start. And even if you do manage to start (thanks to diligence, creativity, or cocaine) you'll probably get stuck after a few pages and freak out. How can I do this? You'll think. Why am I trying—it's impossible! Well of course it's impossible: you didn't break it down. Remember that fat guy writing one word after another.
Let's tone it down a moment: you just want to write a good, short novel, say 80,000 words. That's still a lot of words! If you try to write 80,000 words, you'll get discouraged. Don't. Write a thousand. Anybody can write a thousand words, it's like two pages. A thousand words is no novel, but at least it's possible. So don't worry about whether you'll get the novel, just write the thousand. Make the goal and then do it. Congratulations! You achieved your goal! But you didn't, you say. You have no novel. Well, here comes the easy part. Tomorrow, do exactly what you just did today. It'll be even easier. The day after that, do it again. In less than three months you'll have a novel.
|The bad news is it will probably suck.|
Of course, once you've identified your steps and made a daily plan, the main enemy will be your own laziness. Even if it's something you enjoy, the thought of having to do it will elicit an immediate response of deliberate distraction: I don't wanna write my words! I need to check Facebook again in case somebody liked my Gizmo reference! I need to clip my toenails! I haven't vacuumed under the bed in a week! My daughter needs fed! Shut up. You've made a daily, possible goal and you must stick to it or you'll never achieve the impossible. What helps me is to write both the daily goal and the results down on a chart.
|My current chart (page)|
I put mine on the wall above my monitor, where it stares accusingly down at me as I waste my mornings reading about cereal mascots on Wikipedia. When I put up the chart, I wrote down my daily word quota (1000 words) and decided on a schedule (Get up at seven, get coffee/toast and do nothing else until my words are written). Now, every day I write in the exact number of words I wrote that day and the times I started and stopped working. That way, if I screw around and miss a day, while no one will be there to punish me, I have to stare at that 0 every day and think about whether I'm really a writer or just a moron with a childish dream. And then I put a thousand up the next day and feel a small triumph over a world that doesn't know I'm there. The chart knows I'm there: I'm filling it. When it's done, I'll have a novel, and even though that in itself is only the smallest step on the way to publication, I'll know that I took the impossible, broke it down, and accomplished it of my own volition, with no one's discipline but mine. And once you've experienced that, you'll realize how powerful this approach is, and you'll know that every step was worth it, and it'll make it that much easier to do the next impossible thing. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got an engagement ring to buy, right after I figure out Emma Watson's birth stone.
(This is part 1 of my productivity post. I'll get part 2, A Defense From Leeches, up in the next few days. It addresses the shotgunning mentioned in the intro.)