A Writer’s Life: Space

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

This month I’m trying to write at least 24,000 words, preferably 30,000.  This isn’t due to any NaNoWriMo thing, it’s a personal challenge to up my productivity.  In setting this goal, I ran into a problem.

I’d set aside time to write, but it felt constrained.  A punishment, a forced duty.

Yet when I’d get writing, I’d often enjoy it.  I find that even when you don’t want to write, doing it for five minutes usually unblocks you.  Besides, even if you hate it, you’re going to edit it later, so might as well enjoy half-baked crap as you make it.

At this point I knew my “ugh, time to write” reaction was irrational.  So I set about thinking of how I could “re-imagine” that writing time to make me see it in a positive light.  Not so much tricking myself, but more how to take a better attitude.

At the same time, I was also discussing the concept of “Pull” in Kanban, and Agile methodology.  So you can guess this is another one of my Agile/Writing posts.

Anyway, the idea in Kanban is you only work on something when you have space to do it – then you “Pull.”  It’s the opposite of “Pushing” work.  If you’re blocked up, you don’t Pull in new work, you focus on getting things moving.  If you can’t get anything moving because of other people, go do something else like take a class or get a coffee once you’re done yelling at them

It sounds weird, but then you realize that Kanban gives you “space” to work.  “Space” to take tasks on when you’re ready.  It’s very much like my earlier thoughts on the subject.

That’s when I realized that setting aside writing time was not making myself write – it was setting aside Space to write.  That 30 minutes or 60 minutes where I’m clear to write.

This changed my mindset (for the most part).  It felt less constrained, less forced, less trapped.  Sometimes it even felt amazing – “a whole hour to write, wow!”  Oh sure I still get those moments of feeling I’m forcing myself, but they’re diminished – and I can rethink that time as “space” and reduce the feelings.

Let’s see if this gets even better over time, but it’s certainly helped already.

– Steve