Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Outgoing vs. Incoming

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

First a special note—yesterday marked the first anniversary of the Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine. The WKB is the free, searchable archive, developed by Mike Fleming, for all the writing-related links I share. Hope you’ll try it for information on writing a novel, querying an agent or publisher, or promoting your book.

blog2I think a lot about ways to be more productive. We all have only a certain number of hours in our day and a certain number of things we need to accomplish in those hours.

I have a really tight schedule up until summer and I’ve been grabbing my writing time when I can find it.

I’m an early riser. In the past, I’ve tried to go straight to my computer in the morning and get some writing done….first thing.

I knew I was supposed to do this. I knew it helped me get my writing goals met for the day. I knew it made me start off the day on the right foot—with a win.

But I didn’t really think about the underlying reasons I was doing it. And because I didn’t, it meant that I didn’t ascribe the importance to the task that I should have.

Over the holidays, I got into a different sort of habit. I still got up before dawn, but I was checking my calendar, checking my emails, and checking online activity: had the blog I’d scheduled posted correctly? Did I have any messages in my Twitter DM folder that I should read?

Those are things that do need to be done. Do they need to be done at 4:45 a.m., though? No. I really don’t even need to check my calendar before 5 a.m.—what could I possibly be needed for at that hour, anyway?

Seth Godin had an excellent post a couple of weeks ago. He asked what was the first thing we do at the computer each morning. He suggested it was “checking our incoming.” But he reminded us that, if we’re artists, that:

“the first thing you do should be to lay tracks to accomplish your goals, not to hear how others have reacted/responded….to what happened yesterday.”

In other words, we should be focused on our outgoing, not our incoming. Start out our day creating something new.

After reading Godin’s post, I decided to start writing first each day again. This time, instead of feeling like it was just a chore to knock off my long list, I felt like I had more of a sense of purpose to my writing. I was creating something, moving forward, not looking back at what I might have missed in the last eight hours since I’d last checked my emails or other messages.

And it felt good. In fact, I was more inspired and felt more purposeful.

Have you ever thought about changing your morning routine? Or considered writing before checking in with social media?