Friday, February 22, 2013

More, More, More: Why It Pays to Be Busy if You Want to Write More

Do you ever feel that if you just had more time to write, you'd write more? Yeah, I fool myself thinking that too. Only thing is, when I have more time, I don't usually write more. I suppose I could ask myself, "What's up with that, Chipper Muse? If more time won't make you write more, then what will?" Except that I already know the answer, and it's not pretty.

I write more when I'm busier.

Yes. It's true. I actually get more writing done when I've got more on my to-do list than at times when I'm not all that busy. And I'm not the only one suffering this malady. When I asked fellow writers back in November during Nanowrimo about how they find time to write, at least one responder brought up the issue of being less productive when she has more free time. A perfect voice for this problem, Kitty put it like this:

"I think my issue is that I actually don't have anything to really keep me busy. I stay home all day and fritter away my time online...and somehow still don't write as much as I should."

That sounds like me. Somehow, when I have all sorts of glorious free time, I find myself luxuriating in the pleasure of having no obligations, no errands, and no deadlines. And so I, like Kitty, fritter my time away with reading, playing on Twitter, sipping coffee while I watch the clouds go by...literally anything but writing.

And let's face it, sometimes we need that kind of downtime. There's nothing wrong with it. In fact, it can be a good way to recharge your creative batteries. That's one of my secrets, actually. When I need a breather to boost my muse, I take a walk or go outside and enjoy nature. You can't work all the time. It's not healthy.

But I'm also a procrastinator, and that can work against me if I'm not careful. Too much free time isn't good for me, because it makes me less likely to accomplish anything. So I harness the power of positive procrastination. (Check out the linked NY Times article later; it's pretty cool.)

Positive procrastination is an actual scientific concept. (Yes, people study this kind of stuff for a living.) It's the idea that the more you have on your to-do list, especially a few frighteningly big items, the more likely you are to get most of your to-do list done. NOT the frighteningly big items, of course. You'll avoid them. So, the key is to put something you really don't want to do, like taking down the wallpaper, at the top of the list, and then put something less awful, like writing your next chapter, somewhere around the middle of the list. Suddenly, sitting at the computer will be more appealing.

This really works. No lie. When I have too much to do, writing sounds like a wonderful, almost selfish indulgence, and I find time to fit it in. But when I have little to do, writing can seem like work, and so I avoid it. I've determined that for me, being busier actually makes me more productive. It's one reason why I like to keep busy to begin with: it's the only way I know to avoid being lazy.

So, as odd as it may sound, if you are struggling to write, maybe you could try looking at what else you have going on in your life. Because if you're afflicted with procrastination, as I am, you might just find that adding more to the to-do list gets you writing more. It sounds crazy. But it just might work for you.

Now, you share: If you, too, get more done when you're busier, let me know. And yes, I know some of you will feel completely the opposite about this, and that's cool. Tell me about it in the comments. Tell me I'm crazy. I already know I am. But it seriously works for me to have my to-do list full, and then to cross things off it, writing included. It's a psychological trick that works for me. If you have a different trick that works better for you, please share it. I'd love to hear it. It could help one of your fellow writers, and I'm all for that!

Thanks, and happy writing!

Copyright (c) 2013 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.


  1. Hey, Michele. No, if I had more time, I'd just blog more. *laughs* How have you been? Well, I hope. Sadly, my time has only managed to shrink. I try and find time to write/edit every day, but that means I end up rarely, if ever, blogging. That's why I'm blogging while watching The Academy Awards. Got to try and fit it in!
    Take care and have a great week.


    1. Hi, Jimmy. Sorry to get back to you so late. Been crazy lately. I know what you mean by shrinking time. There should be more than 24 hours in a day, right? Take care, and chat again soon! :)


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