Monday, 5 September 2016

D is for Daily: soap, religion, and productivity for writers.

Ah, dailyness. The most powerful force in the world. What things can it not accomplish?

This morning a colleague of mine was lamenting that he had got only 2000 words that day. He was a bit sad because lately he has been getting 3000, 3500, like that every day. I pointed out to him that at 2000 words per day, if this were kept up throughout the year, he would have over 700,000 words. That's up to ten shortish novels or six big ones. Think about that. Ten novels written in a year. I myself, by aiming for at least 1,000 words a day have produced over 150,000 words so far this year, and I don't even write every day - I have days off, like any worker, and I spent all of July on other work, not writing anything. And yet. 150,000 words. In quantity, that is two books worth. And it's only the beginning of September. It is the daily habit that produces this quantity of work, not the occasional mad, coffee-fuelled writing binge that leaves one wrung out and debilitated.

A fat person who diets and exercises every day will soon be a fit person. A hopeless alcoholic who avoids alcohol every day is a sober man. A mean, hateful person who wants to can become kind and loving, by practising those virtues every day. Like the dripping of water that wears away stone, dailiness can achieve almost anything.

Yesterday I spoke about cleaning the house, and how it supports me in my writing. Today I want to carry on that theme. I spent most of my working hours yesterday (admittedly there were not many of them, as it was Sunday) cleaning my house from the disreputable state into which I'd allowed it to fall. How did this happen? It happened because, in the frenzy of getting out my new books, I had neglected to take care of my daily list each day. 

My daily list is not long, but when duly carried out each day it prevents the house from getting like this. A few minutes in the kitchen (dishes and counters), a swish and swipe in both bathrooms, a tour of the house with feather duster, emptying the washing machine and dryer, and most importantly, putting things away. That's all it takes really, to keep the house more or less acceptable. Oh, of course my desk still gets messy. That is because I lack discipline, but chiefly it's because clearing my desk isn't something I have on my daily list. If I did, it would stay neat too. 

But a list, any list, is like religion. Like soap. It works really well, but only if you use it. Therefore, I am starting this Monday morning by taking care of this business, before I even decide what I will be working on. For your information and entertainment, I will set a timer so that you may know exactly how long it takes me. 

As it turns out, the daily list takes me sixteen minutes and fifty-one seconds to complete. A quarter of an hour is not much. I have seen people in messy houses spend more time than that moaning about how much there is to do, before lifting a finger. And now I can write without that other D word, distraction.

Cats prefer a neatly made bed.

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