Every time I think of productivity, I think of Andy Dufresne from Shawshank Redemption. Day by day he chipped away to achieve something. Writing weekly letters to the government for funds for expanding the library. And the whole wall thing, too. He didn’t do anything all at once, but it was one drop by drop one drop into a lake until the lake was filled.
So many students and friends of mine try to do everything all at once, and when they don’t succeed, they become frustrated and quit. In college, I had a roommate who was taking an English course, and he kept putting off an analysis on J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, which he had over a month to write. Night before, he panicked and was offering to pay me to write it. I didn’t write it, and he pulled an all-nighter, chugging coffee and Monsters and whiskey. He dropped the class days later after the all-nighter produced about a page of distracted writing.
I just read an interesting article about Jerry Seinfeld. (Note: I think Seinfeld is overrated, and I despite comics who tell the same jokes for fifteen years; I’m love me some Louie, Bill Burr, Carlin, and other who ditch their material after a year or two or after it’s been recorded). Seinfeld gave this advice: Get a big calendar. Make a goal for each day. For example, write 1000 words. Or write a joke. Each day, you must complete that task; it doesn’t have to be perfect or wonderful or even good. You just need to complete it. Then draw an X through that day. Day by day, do this. Then, you’ll create a chain. This chain will create momentum, and you’ll want to see those X’s lining that calendar hanging from your workspace wall. Overtime, you’ll produce plenty of garbage. (I know this personally. I have tons of garbage. I don’t burn it, though. That’s bad for the electronic cloud.) You’ll also produce good writing/ideas.
So, that’s what I’ll be starting Monday. A big ol’ calendar on my work wall. Its only purpose: for me to draw a big X on each day I complete my goal. And my next goal will be daily writing on my next work, which will be my third novel, and fourth book-length project.
Oh, John Grisham does something similar, too. That’s how he was able to write novels while working a seventy-plus hour workweek while he was still a lawyer. I don’t know if he was a Street Lawyer, but he did something right, at least in terms of success and making a living making shit up. (He’s produced at least one book per year for the last twenty-four years.)
On another note, check out how Seinfeld doesn’t get political correctness: What’s the deal with PC people?