Creativity doesn’t tell you when it’s ready to go. You don’t know when you’ll have your ‘a ha!’ moment until it happens. So how are you supposed to plan to get writing done when you don’t know when the good stuff is ready to pour from your fingers?
The 80/20 rule is about knowing that of 100% of your work, 20% is actually the useful stuff. This won’t come as a surprise to writers: after killing the darlings, many revisions, and time spent trolling the internet for distractions–writing is actually all about editing and inspiration.
How writers can apply the 80/20 rule to writing:
- Divide out your writing time into segments: if you set aside two hours for writing write for 20% and edit for 80%; or start by editing what you wrote the day before (20%) and then start your writing (80%).
- When you’re in book outline mode: research for 80%, write for 20%.
- If you work from home: 80% work at your desk, 20% work from a coffee shop or vice versa (whatever keeps you productive!)
- Working with critique partners?: find your own 20/80 balance and share work accordingly.
- If you write non fiction: research, conduct interviews, test recipes (or whatever it is!) for 80% and write for 20%
- In the early stages of a project? Let yourself get distracted. Active procrastination is something I’ve mastered: watch TV, read books and magazine articles with openness for inspiration. 80% let your mind wander, 20% make notes.
- Want writing practice? Do free association/stream of consciousness writing: Set yourself a time limit (say 10 minutes) and write whatever single word comes to mind for the first 8 minutes (computer, tree, bookshelf etc) and then, for the last 2 minutes, start writing in sentences which will help you flow into creativity.
As we all know, rules are meant to be broken and creativity is a cruel mistress. But being successful with your time is all about maximizing your potential. Take breaks, know that surfing the net is a form of inspiration (as well as procrastination), and be aware of your time. Many writers squeeze in their writing before their kids get up, after they get home from work, and other small segments of time.
Q: How do you maximize your time and creativity?