Sleep is for the weak. I honestly probably don’t sleep enough. I average six to seven hours of sleep a night. But this isn’t because I’m busy – it’s because I can’t sleep. I’ve had trouble with sleep for as long as I can remember.Abnormal sleep habits are something Russell and I share. Although he suffers from insomnia, whereas my sleep schedule drifts constantly over the course of several weeks with no dependence on the earth's day/night cycle.
Still, turning your afflictions into strengths is a sound tactic, and more than one successful author has mentioned cutting back on sleep as one of the sacrifices he made for his art.
As George III said, six hours is sufficient sleep for a man, seven for a woman; eight for a fool.
If I don’t stay busy I get bored. This is actually true as stated and not just snark. My mind does not shut down, ever, except in two circumstances: when I finally manage to fall asleep or when I’m exercising with extreme intensity. Neither of those circumstances guarantees it, either. Those are just the only times it actually happens. I might as well put it to use. But that’s not the real truth. The real truth is that if I don’t stay busy I get depressed. And that’s far worse. Human beings are not meant to be idle. Most depressed people would be better served by six weeks of boot-camp style intensity than by medication. I know you feel tired, but that’s not because of too little rest: it’s because of too much. Get off your butt and do something real.You know what really separates professional writers from amateurs? Every single pro I've heard comment on this has said that he simply can't not write. For some of us, not writing for 24 hours induces a downer effect similar to opiate withdrawal.
As any addict can tell you, a physical compulsion to do something is a great way to get good at it.
Instructions for instantly doubling your productivity:
I don’t watch much TV. This is another one that’s generally true. The average American watches four hours of TV a day. I struggled to figure out where they find time for that; then I remember that 41% of the adult population doesn’t work… and what else are they going to do all day?
- Go to your TV.
- Unplug it.
- Go to the window.
- Make sure the ground is clear below.
- Defenestrate the TV.
On a serious note, sleeping 7 hours a night gains you 1 extra hour a day. Ditching TV gains you 4 more. That is a surplus of 5 hours a day for getting shit done--enough time to, say, write 2000 words.
More generally: I don’t do a lot of other things that people like to do for fun. I write blog posts and troll Twitter instead.I spend a lot of time studying the habits of successful people. One of the more intriguing phenomena that keeps popping up is that folks at the top of their game tend to indulge in bread and circuses style distractions much less than average.
Self-aggrandizing testimonial: I've stopped watching TV altogether. I rarely go to the movies, and my Netflix subscription died of neglect. My video game habit has shrunk to a few hours per week, and my pen and paper RPG playing has been cut back to one night per week. Weeding out superfluous distractions has taken years.
How's it working out? One of my novels recently cracked the Kindle top 500 and was #4 in its category. As for me, I'm now a Campbell nominee and I made it into the top 30 horror authors on Amazon (the only Stephen King book in that category that outsold me was Misery).
|Steven King Rulez!|
Many people I know would probably react with horror and despair to the prospect of giving up their pet diversions. But the fact is, you can cut down on the lotus eating, and you won't even miss it when you've attained your dream.
I spend far less time on this than you might think. My average blog post is less than 1000 words. Many are less than 500. I rarely edit them. I never proofread them. I seldom even read them through when I’m finished. Half the time I know what I’m going to write before I start it. The typical post takes me about 10-15 minutes to write – tops. It’s a blog for crying out loud. If it takes you more time than that, you’re doing it wrong.Here's one area where Russell and I part ways. It's not that I disagree with him. It's that I'm incorrigibly slow. Despite concerted effort, I read slow and I write even slower.
How slow? The example blog post that Russell says took him 10-15 minutes to write takes me 2-3 hours.
I know why, too. First, I'm highly sensitive to language use. Misspellings, comma splices, and incorrect apostrophe placement pain me like ice picks to the eyes.
And yes, going on the internet is excruciating. But I do it for you.
Also, I can't not edit. Remember that heroin withdrawal feeling that serious authors get when they don't write. Not proofreading/editing everything I write produces the same agony x10.
My output is going to be lower than some other bloggers'. I've come to accept that. On the other hand, my posts get lots of compliments, so when it comes to quantity vs. quality, I'll take the latter.
If you found Russell's advice edifying, there's more on his excellent blog.
And depending on when you read this, there might still be time to win a free copy of his new anthology, Between the Wall and the Fire.