One excellent panel at the Historical Novel Society’s recent Conference in Denver was called “Pressed for Time: Writing and Researching Historical Fiction When Life Gets in the Way.”
The panelists—Stephanie Cowell, Sam Thomas, Lauren Willig, Stephanie Thornton, Heather Webb—were incredibly impressive in their accomplishments. They’d each published multiple historical novels while raising children, teaching, training for marathons, working at a high-powered law firm, and more.
After listening to them, I felt like I should stop complaining about always having too many things to do.
Because, really, when doesn’t life get in the way of the writing? My kids are grown; I’ve been fortunate to have the freedom of working out of my home since 1980. And I still often feel like I’d like to rack up more writing hours in a day.
Speaking of freedom, one panelist mentioned the software program called Freedom that blocks internet access. I think I first learned about this trick from an article about Jonathan Franzen, who at one point solved the internet distraction problem by destroying the Ethernet port on his laptop.
I tried Freedom for a while but unfortunately found that I could easily circumvent it by checking email or, God forbid, Facebook, on my cell phone.
One friend, a yoga teacher who’s in the writing workshop I’m teaching in my home, asks why I don’t just stop myself from going online? I wish I could! I guess I have an addictive, ADD-ish personality and can waste way too much time falling down one virtual rabbit hole after another.
But… one new tool I’m excited about using more is Kanban Flow.
In my constant battle to make Actual Writing fill up more of my daily hours, I read about the Pomodoro Technique. This productivity technique encourages you to write in 25 minute blocks then take a 5 minute break. I’ve been doing this occasionally but wanted a way to visually keep track of my writing hours so I could get a sense of accomplishment over time. Just like I do when I track my exercise workouts on Fitocracy and get points.
What I found is called Kanban Flow. I’ve used it for three days now and really like it. Here’s a link.
Kanban Flow is tied into a Pomodoro Timer so you can begin your 25 minutes, stop the timer if there’s an interruption, and keep track of both what the interruptions are (phone, etc.) and how many full 25 minute stretches you get. It makes me realize, even more than I already did, how damaging those interruptions can be… and how much more I can accomplish if I push through for a number of 25 minute sessions.
I’ve been very happy about how I’ve stuck with Fitocracy for more than two years now. Seeing those points add up, getting props from other Fitocrats, helps keep my momentum going.
Sure, researching and using productivity tools can be another time-waster. But I’m hoping Kanban works. I’m usually juggling multiple writing projects, and this summer is no exception. I’m eager to work on all of them. So best I leave this blog, start the Pomodoro Timer, and get to Real Work!