In commemoration of my 300 post mark…
(waits for applause to abate)
…this post’s about productivity. And as someone who took 300 years to figure out how to post more than one thing a day, I’m obviously a quality locution gladiator capable of offering others self help. And (*takes crown and flowers in hand*) I thank my betters who motivated me by showing me magical writing tools and tricks…
So, a couple friends noticed this week that my blog had fewer cobwebs than usual.
Asked if I’d sold my soul for motivation (that’s the only way, isn’t it?) I realized there was no new inspiration. Really, I’m seeing the same ridiculous drivel. But what did happen is the sudden realization (is it really sudden if it took me this long to “get”?) that what I’ve been doing isn’t working. And for a bitch that references Einstein every other blog, I certainly wasn’t taking homeboy’s advice on the whole repeating-bad-results thing.
The problem is this:
I usually get one good idea and work on it so much that by the time I publish, the sun has set and I feel like sending hand written invitations for everyone to come marvel masturbatorily at my one amazing article. Then when I wake up the next day, I re-read it only to realize it’s unintelligible and unfunny because I picked at it worse than a meth-head does his own face.
“Dafuq is this written in, Ashley? Sumerian?”
Thus, one day it dawned on me.
I’m more productive if I do my workday in “modes” as my pal puts it. Then, instead of multi-tasking all the things that go into a single article, I’m setting a quantity goal and going through each creative layer with full focus.
It breaks down vaguely to: Inspiration, Outlining, Drafting, and Final Drafting.
STEP 1. INSPIRATION
Turn on the news.
Or discovery channel. Avoid the internet which is distracting. This one time I’ll favor T.V. because it’s passive. We want to listen and learn in this mode, not share your genius with the world. Find something interesting to jump start your brain. Turn on the coffee pot, listening ears, thinking cap, murder mittens, etc.
Then calmly sip your magical caffeinated elixir (or green drink, whatevz) until that wondrous thing occurs. You know what I mean? That thing where you spontaneously say something brilliant about what you’re watching? Out loud? To no one?
Don’t let it die in silence!
Write that thing down in your phone notes! They’ll hear it soon enough…
“You’ll GET yarr reward, boy!”
Just type the gist and keep listening. Do not try to perfect it. Yet. Do NOT beeline to the laptop. Yet.
We’re in inspiration mode, not creation mode. Yet.
STEP 1a: UNINSPIRED?
Maybe it’s not your morning.
You’re not feeling creative and nada’s interesting. This is where the “critical listening with notes” thing comes in handy. Try thinking: What’s funny or absurd about what you’re watching? Does it remind you of a movie? Pop culture ref? Sometimes those annoying phrases banging around in your brain have a hilarious place on a web page.
Better yet – you know that friend you make fun of other people with? Imagine they’re sat there – next to you.
Now, watch something stupid (like Good Morning America).
As critical people, the more absurd the show is, the easier it is for us to come up with material. Whatever you’d verbalize to your partner in hate crimes (in hopes of getting a reaction), turn that into material – just a quick witty note. For now. Actively mine your mind while listening.
Jot any connections down.
A funny reference, metaphor, meme, etc. (“Grumpy cat would fit well there”). Avoid saying “I’ll remember it later”. You won’t. Add it now. But no perfecting it yet. Once you’ve got the gist of story one, forget it. Move onto fodder for story two.
This is critical listening mode. Not Shakespeare mode.
Protip: If you can find something that makes you laugh during this mode, you’re golden. Chuckling is top tier Spanish Fly for effing the creativity out of your brain and onto a pixelated page later. And, go ahead. Laugh at your own jokes. No one’s there to judge you.
STEP 1b. RETRIEVE YOUR NOTES
Once you’ve hammered out a handful of ideas, mail yourself your notes.
We don’t have to worry whether they’ll work out as full articles as is. If you have just one unique thought about the dog show piece Fox just did (“They should take points off if the trainer looks like a cat lady”), it might just morph into a masterpiece later. Even if it doesn’t, it might remind you of that one article you meant to do last week. And that’s the idea here. Our brain’s still yawning and stretching and processing caffeine. So we gotta meet it halfway.
After all, individual inspiration is the price of a freelance freedom…
(the struggle is rilll.)
Protip: If you must delve into social media for inspo, set an alarm. Seriously. You and I both know that as people who get paid to pontificate for a living, it’s hard not to comment in Zuckerland or Twitterverse. Then we lose the thought-train AND an hour of our lives via online debate spiral. Better yet – if you feel like commenting, make it material. Whatever you want to say to Sally Jay, publicize in lieu. And get paid too, obviously.
STEP 2. OUTLINE FIRST DRAFT
It’s time to layer a lil muscle on those note bones.
But not everything. From your notes email, pick the story you’re most motivated to write. The thing that’s easiest to weave into entertainment will be fun and offer the proper mental gymnastics you’ll need for momentum to move along to the other stories.
Yeah, I understand that “fun” sounds like a luxury thing. And it is.
While those poor bastards in blazers can’t afford it, you and I rely on it. If we don’t connect to our work, it shows. And an audience won’t connect either. So, if you’re in a bad place, stop, take a walk, masturbate, phone a friend, ask the audience… whatever. New sensory input jars us outta everything from writers block (“I can’t dick around – I have to pay my bills!”) to wrist slitting in a tub (“I can’t dick around – I have to pay my bills!”) #blanketsolution
Two things for drafting: Just make an outline and do it in word, not wordpress.
Why outline? To morph your notes into a skeleton. The concept of the beginning, middle, and end makes injecting fat and blood into it later less messy. As with the notes part, if Zeus drops a zinger on your dome, add it. But if you start to obsess over perfecting it, stop. Block out the gist and move on.
Why Word? The temptation to perfect, preview, and see your masterpiece come together prematurely is too great in wordpress. Spend no more than ten minutes on it, press save, and move onto the next.
Disregard media hunting. For now.
This is drafting mode, not pageant mode.
Protip: Media – can wait. Sending a neural search party out for pictures is a worse distraction than Facebook. So I save it for the end. While comedy is great motivation, hyperlinked comedy is crack. Just don’t do it. Have a great media idea? Brilliant! Block out an area for it in your draft. Don’t see if it exists yet. The image will be there later.
“…Insert room for another American Psycho Meme… #whynot?”
STEP 3. FINAL DRAFT IN WORDPRESS
At most, an hour should have passed.
It’s midmorning, likely. But that’s alright. You’ve gotten the hardest part – the inspiration and outline down. Now, it’s just about going back over each with a picture-day comb and diction jizzing all over it. Open that first article you wrote, and make it sound prettier than your first draft. Once it’s done, paste it into wordpress. Now, fine tune it with optical gifts from the net – one at a time.
But we can’t stay here too long. This is distraction country.
- We’re in tree-topper mode. Not strangle ourselves with stringed lights mode.
Protip: Google Images is Aladdin’s cave. Get in, get what you came for, and get out. If you start getting distracted by visual gems, remember: You’ve got several other amazing articles already drafted and waiting. That’s literally money in the bank that you just haven’t transferred yet.
“And remember. Touch nothing but the lamp, boy!”
Step 4. JUST PUBLISH
Review each published post once for errors.
And then erase it from your brain.
Move onto the next drafted story. Fish it outta word, fry it up in wordpress, saute it with media, and publish. And remember, you’ve still got those other drafts on deck! That’s half your work already done. 50% more of the creative process complete than if you’d spent all morning mindfccking the fun out of writing. And (to reiterate) wasn’t “fun” why you picked this field? Identifying more with Mickey Mouse than Rat Racers? Also, it’s WordPress, not Word-Precious.
Obsession is the enemy of creativity and productivity alike.
And both the latter are crucial to manufacturing articles – which you can totally update later. Nothing’s written in stone. So abandon your tablets, Moses. If something brilliant dawns on you post-publishing as you pork your maid Rosa, politely excuse yourself to scrawl it down. She’ll understand.
Especially if it’s funny and you’re internet famous.
Hope this helps.
While my present numbers def don’t make me queen of the quill, it’s better than where I was a few weeks ago. So if this resonates, start rubbing your mental lamp instead of your underpants and put your inner genie genius to work.
Only you can make all your wishes come true.
Which is nice – because that means you never have to stop at three.