Productivity Through Letting Go

The brain is a weird – and sometimes quite annoying – thing…

Lately, I’ve been struggling with motivation in terms of getting on with my personal creative projects. I haven’t done any knitting in months, I haven’t written a new short story since April, I’m only keeping up with podcast prep and Stanley’s online content because they have external deadlines, and I’m putting off launching into revisions on my latest novel because it seems like too much work.

And that’s okay. Every creative person has fallow periods, and we all have days when we just can’t be bothered to do anything useful. And if I think about my progress throughout the year overall – I did write both a new novel and a new novella earlier in 2023, so I’m doing okay!

I’m also not having any trouble at all with completing my paid editing work – which is awesome. I still can’t believe I get to make my living doing something I enjoy so much and that I seem to be really good at.

But, on any given day, it’s very easy to prioritise the paid work over my own projects, since it’s, um, paid – and it also has hard deadlines I need to meet to keep my clients happy. And I’m delighted that I actually like my job these days!

And on my days off from paid work, it’s also very easy to think I need a real break and so I usually give myself time off from my own projects as well. And it’s true that rest and relaxation are important and it would be bad for me to push myself too hard to get things done.

That being said, it’s not as if I work all that hard across the week… And I do want my own projects to get done (even if I don’t actually want to do the work most of the time!). So, I’ve been trying to improve my work ethic – by alternating paid projects with personal projects and by writing my weeknotes at the start of the day so I already have it in my mind how much I’m going to achieve.

It’s hard, though – especially when the only person encouraging me to make progress on certain things is me.

One thing that seems to work, though, is deciding that it’s okay not to do anything at all on a particular day! As soon as I tell myself I can have the whole day off and not do anything productive at all, I suddenly want to do – all the things! The days when I’ve achieved most on my personal projects are days when I’m taking time off from paid work and I decide I’m just going to do whatever I want, with no expectations of working on anything specific…

The problem is – now that I’ve identified this as a tactic, I can’t actually use it as a deliberate tool for getting things done. That’s because my decision to take the day off has to be completely sincere, so I can’t trick my brain by telling myself I don’t have to do anything as a way to motivate myself to get things done!

Ah well – I’ve got external structure and accountability coming up for the novel in the form of Revision Club starting soon – so hopefully that will help!


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