Caffeine is for Finishers

Since August first, I’ve written two complete manuscripts (about 55k words each), completely edited one of them, and contacted hundreds of reviewers to promote it; all in addition to school and keeping this blog semi-updated. This sounds like an alright list of accomplishments to me, and if I can have a moment of your time I’d love to explain how I managed it.

The first part of my technique is borrowed from the famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld. He has a great productivity trick where he crosses off each day that he meets his goal, whatever that goal may be. For me, of course, the goal is to write.

But how should writing be measured? Stephen King advises a set word limit (2,000, specifically), but I quickly found that didn’t work for me. Some days it would take almost three hours to reach 2,000 words, while on others I would manage the total in half that time. The variation in schedule drove me crazy.

Also, there wasn’t any extrinsic motivation. If I know one thing about myself, it’s that I’m not the best at motivating myself to do things for the simple sake of doing them… Which is why I started looking for productivity techniques in the first place. I needed something external, and the answer was caffeine.

I’ve never actually seen Glengarry Glen Ross, the film which gave me the idea to try caffeine. But I’d heard the quote “Coffee is for closers” a few times before. My addiction to caffeine in different forms has proved a great motivator, perhaps better than any other I’ve ever encountered.

Pairing the idea of extrinsic reward with Mr. Seinfeld’s technique, here’s what I came up with: every day that I wrote four hours or more (even if I simply stared at the screen thinking about where I wanted my novel to go), I was allowed to have caffeine. If I didn’t, I had to go without the following day. This worked for me because I could get into a set schedule and rhythm, and I’m desperately addicted to the drug. Before long my average wph (words per hour) was skyrocketing, to the point where it’s almost twice what it used to be (last night I managed just over 1,600 wph).

This raises a certain question of quality. After all, it makes sense that the faster I write, the worse the resulting product will be. I don’t think that’s the case, however. I’m simply learning my own rhythms and following them; becoming more familiar with my own voice.

So maybe this will help you too. Maybe it won’t. Either way, I hope you give this a try. If you do, let me know how it went in the comments down below. I love to hear from you all, and would be very interested to see if this works for anyone besides me!

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