How to be productive when you are feeling unproductive

Catchy title huh? Well, this is my justification for having written not a single word of my new novel today. People ask me how I stay motivated and I say it’s easy when you are doing something you love, but the truth is some days I’m just not in the mood. Now we all get that, but when you are employed by someone you just have to suck it up and get on with it as best you can. Sitting at home, with a Sky planner full of delicious programmes, a new PS4 game I’ve hardly touched, and a hot tub outside that’s just aching to be used, could prove something of a distraction but, the truth is, I do want to use my day productively. Think of it like when you’re on a diet; doesn’t chocolate taste so much better than normal? Or how much more you enjoy a sunny day when it has been preceded by a week of incessant rain? If I just did what I wanted all day, I would soon get bored of it and have nothing to look forward to at the weekend. Plus it would be like that scene from The Shining when my wife wanted to read what I have been working on for weeks and finds just the same sentence copied over and over, page after page.

So, I either push through my can’t-be-arsedness, or, like today, I do something else that’s somewhat productive instead. You’ll probably be used to my weekly blog by now but the reality is I tend to write them in batches like I’m doing today. Ironically I end up with a total word count that is superior to what I would normally achieve on a good day of novel writing but, then again, it’s so much quicker to jot down whatever ramblings spring to mind.

But this particular blog needs to serve more of a purpose than just dealing with my guilt for slacking off a bit today. In which case I shall share with you my single greatest joy about writing, and the reason why days like these are thankfully rare.

Do you remember when you used to get your new exercise books on the first day of the new school year? You would write the title in your very best handwriting and promise yourself you will take better care of it than you did the last one. You will underline your title, perhaps twice, with a ruler, and be gutted when you make the first mistake. Well, that’s like when an author opens up a new Word document for the first time. This new book is going to be more expertly crafted than the last, and will surely be the one that propels you to greatness. You agonise over your first sentence, keen to grasp the reader straight away. And, just as you flicked through all those empty pages of your exercise book and sigh at all the work that is to follow, you watch that word count tick slowly over and wonder how on earth you are going to hit the 80,000 words that make a completed novel.

Just writing that has put me in a more productive mood. Perhaps I will manage a chapter or two after all before I call it a day…

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