I know from several decades of taking my writing seriously that I experience seasons of high productivity, followed by leaner times. It is during those times when writing is a struggle that we prove to ourselves what it takes, and the price needed to be paid. I am currently coming out of a very lean period, a dark, season of little output and plenty of discouragement.
In the early 1990s I read the Stephen Covey book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I devoured the contents of this book, and those he subsequently wrote, and successfully applied many of the principles to my own life. It changed many things about the way I lived, including my writing. At the time I was teaching full time and the books also influenced how I approached my teaching career. (Note to self: time to reread those books – and any subsequent books he wrote.)
I recently came across a short article called The Habits of Highly Effective Writers. While this article didn’t go into great depth on the subject, the author has some valuable principles from which all writers could benefit.
Productive writers don’t reach for excuses when the going gets hard. They treat writing like the job it is. They show up, punch the clock, and punch out. Nothing romantic about it. They give themselves a quota; sometimes it’s butt-in-chair time, sometimes a word count. Simple math allows you to figure out how quickly 1,000 words a day adds up to a book-length work. These writers know how to use deadlines, whether external or self-imposed, to stay on track.
I guess that I have, in part, been using the excuse of illness in recent months for not making as much progress with my writing as I would have liked. To be fair to myself, there were many times when I was nearly doubled up in pain due to a stomach ailment, or being unable to even sit at my computer for any length of time due to back pain, or even falling asleep in mid-word at the keyboard due to the effects of sleep apnoea. Despite all these hindrances, I pushed on as best as I could, but achieving far less than I had hoped. It was a frustrating time.
Apart from still some back pain, these issues are in the past – I hope – and now the reality to those dark days fading into the distance is being realised. I have reset my goals and look to the coming year with great anticipation. I dream that this will be my best year of writing ever, eclipsing the year I achieved my Masters degree. All I have to do is put in the hard yards – and quite a few miles as well – and those dreams may turn into reality.
Happy Australia Day to all of my readers.
For all of my non-Australian readers let me explain. Australia Day celebrates the arrival of the First Fleet carrying soldiers and convicts to Sydney in 1788. They were the first Europeans to settle here and were followed soon after by many free settlers.
Traditionally families have gathered on this special public holiday for picnics, barbecues, games of cricket or tennis and swimming at one of our many thousands of wonderful beaches. Many people also go boating or sailing in our wonderful waters, like Sydney Harbour shown above. This is also a time of year when there is much on offer in the way of international sporting events to attend or watch, including the Australian Open Tennis in Melbourne.
And what did I do?
Not a great deal apart from some reading and writing here on this site and on some of my other sites (see Trevor’s Birding here as an example). It was cool here in South Australia with a little light drizzle – can’t call it rain – and not at all like the normal hot weather we usually expect at this time of the year. Still, I don’t mind the milder form of summer we are currently enjoying.
This evening I took my wife to our local cinema to see the Australian film The Water Diviner directed by and starring Russell Crowe. This powerful and engaging film tells the story of a father looking for his three sons who went missing in action during World War I at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915. The story, based on real events, poignantly relates this father’s anguished quest to find his boys after the war in 1919. The movie was filmed partially here in South Australia in places we know well.
For non-Australian readers this movie will not open outside of Australia for a few months yet, so I recommend that you look out for its release.
Over the years I have plodded along with my writing on this site with little attention to milestones along the way. Only today I suddenly realised that I have passed two significant points quite recently.
- I have now written over 1000 posts here on Trevor’s Writing.
- I have now written approximately three million words over the last 22 years.
Not all of those words were on this site – the figure includes several novels, a daily journal, dozens of essays for my Masters degree, more than 2600 articles on my other sites Trevor’s Birding and Trevor’s Travels, and thousands of emails and letters. Oh… I forgot – I also do all of the maintenance and most of the writing for our church website here.
No wonder my fingers are tired.
The archives of this site now contain over 1000 articles about writing, writing ideas, reading, books, teaching, reviews, poems and short stories. You can access this amazing resource here, or go to the Archives button above.
You can also access articles on various themes or topics in 3 other ways:
- The Contents section on the sidebar.
- The Categories on the sidebar.
- The search button near the top of each page.
As impressive as all of the above is – in my mind anyway – there is one thing I would like to add: “You ain’t seen nothing yet, folks.” Planned for the future include:
- Many thousands more articles about writing.
- More reviews and essays.
- More writing hints and ideas.
- More poems and stories.
- News of forthcoming ebooks and printed books.
Please help me:
I am open to suggestions about what my readers would like to see here on this site. Please respond in the comments, or send me a short email via the Contact form above.
Good writing and reading.
I think I need to give my fingers a rest – and go read a book.
Do you make “To Do” lists?
I do. I generally find them not only useful but sometimes quite essential to help me to remember to do important tasks. It also helps me to remember those unimportant but essential things like putting out the rubbish (garbage) bins on the right night ready for collection the next morning. These lists are important in helping me to also prioritise tasks needing my attention.
I keep all kinds of lists relating to my writing, lists such as
- tasks achieved each day – to keep me focussed
- hours and words written each day – to keep me accountable to myself
- writing goals – to know where I am heading and to keep on track
- publication successes – to encourage me when I feel depressed
- income from my writing – to show me that I am not entirely wasting my time
- lists of blog post titles coming up – as a part of my forward planning
This is just a sample of some of the lists I keep. None take more than a few seconds to fill and all those statistics show me where I’ve been, how I am currently going and – most importantly, where I am heading with my writing.
I strongly encourage all writers to make, keep and regularly update whatever lists they deem necessary.
WHAT NOT TO DO
My To Do List
- Make a list
- Cross off item #1 on this list
- Realise that I’ve already achieved 2 – no – 3 things on my list.
- Reward yourself with a nap (in progress).
Here we go again – I am writing, writing, writing… after a long break.
I haven’t posted any new material here in over 3 months, and not on a regular basis for over a year. I hope that 2015 is different and that the words – and the posts – will flow freely again. Thanks to all of my devoted readers who haven’t deserted me. I have great things planned for this site as well as my other sites (click Trevor’s Birding and Trevor’s Travels.)
The reason for a lack of posting on this (and my other sites) is that I have had a few serious issues with my health. Most of these have been dealt with, or will be in the coming weeks. One of the major issues has been dealing with severe sleep apnoea. Before I had a CPAP machine to help me sleep I was constantly falling asleep in front of my computer screen. Reading was also very difficult; every time I picked up a book or magazine I would blink – and not open my eyes for 5 or more minutes. I am now getting a good night’s sleep every night and devouring books from my unread piles at a great rate. I am no longer falling asleep at the computer, so the words are flowing again.
In the coming months I have some interesting plans for this site – and the other sites too – as well as some important news to announce. This includes plenty of writing advice, examples of my poetry and fiction and the publication of my first ebooks and perhaps even a few pbooks (paper books) – I can dream can’t I? Stay tuned.
In recent months I have done some writing as my health issues have allowed. Most of this writing has appeared on yet another site I manage. You can read this site here and any articles with TH at the end were written by me. Many more articles will appear there in the coming months.
Good writing – and reading.