I’ve got a problem with inertia. Once I start working, I’m fine — I’ll keep working. But once I quit, I stay quit. The fact that I have to sleep makes it inevitable that I wake up, every morning, not wanting to work. So I’ve come up with some techniques that help me get to the keyboard (and also help me do my practical magical work).
- Small steps. Pathetically, incredibly small steps. My current one is for every active writing project, every day I must turn on the computer, boot up the wordprocessor, and load the documents. That’s all. After that, I give myself permission to shut it all down again, and sometimes I do. But usually I manage three to five pages a day that way. If I had set myself the goal of three to five pages a day, however, I’d never accomplish it — it’s too big.
- Rewards first. Rewards are dangerous, but sometimes useful. However, most people reward themselves by telling themselves they can have the reward when they finish. I offer the reward first. “I’ll have Chinese buffet today, and then I’ll sit down to write.” It seems odd, but for some reason, reversing the order of the reward and the task makes the task easier and maintains my intrinsic motivation.
- Slacker time. No more guilt. Part of the process of creative work, and probably noncreative work as well, is the downtime. I need time to play computer games, watch Jackass, and read science fiction. So now, as long as I’ve fulfilled my first requirement, the debt of honor that says I open the wordprocessor and the document I’m working on, then I feel free to slack without guilt.
- Rule Zero. If some requirement is preventing you from working, if you’ve got to look up some article or need some particular magical tool or something, then throw away that requirement. It is better to begin imperfectly than never begin at all. Or as we say in academia, “a finished dissertation is the best dissertation.” (Thanks, Ed)
This is my program for getting out of the armchair and getting to work, whether that work be writing or magic.