So far, I’ve worked on my NaNoWriMo novel in my home office, the Allure Media offices, a food court, a hotel room and an airport lounge. Which location has proved the most productive?
Picture by Benoit Mortgat
The answer to that turns out to be: it doesn’t seem make any difference. I’ve been averaging 2800 words a day across two hours no matter where I write. Each location had distinct potential distractions — housework at home, chatting with colleagues in the office, constant announcements in the lounge — but those seem to average out.
One of the most common bits of writing advice is to set up a dedicated writing zone and work there, but I can’t see how that would have made much difference to my productivity in word count terms. I do remember feeling vaguely self-conscious when I was writing a sex scene sitting in the food court and wondering if anyone wandering past would be able to read it over my shoulder, but that was only a momentary distraction.
I wouldn’t want to suggest that this is an outcome that would apply to anyone tackling a novel or any other big project. Journalists have to learn pretty early on to write even when they’re surrounded by other people. If your day job doesn’t involve writing at all, then a degree of consistency and quiet could turn out to be more essential than it has for me.
The big takeaway lesson I think anyone is (as we’ve said quite a few times around here recently) multi-tasking is not a good idea when you’re tackling a major project. A burst of concentrated activity, no matter what length, brings better results than just diving in and out of the project.
A couple of days this week I’ve worked in two one-hour bursts rather than a single sitting, and produced roughly the same amount of work. But I wouldn’t want those slots to get any shorter. My location doesn’t matter much at all, but setting aside time purely to tackle this activity (and using a separate PC to do the writing, so I can’t jump into other work tasks) is very important.
This week sees me travelling across four states and attending a bunch of events, so managing my calendar and officially slotting in writing time is going to be a more important requirement than ever. But with more one-third of the minimum length written after just a week, I’m more confident than I was when I began that I will actually see this through to the end and have a completed novel by the close of the month.
Throughout November, Angus Kidman will be blogging about his participation in NaNoWriMo to unearth lessons about writing, project management and creativity.