Writing more in less time

Thanks to Windows Phone 7 for sponsoring this post. See the end of the post for details on a Windows Phone 7 giveaway.

Windows asked me to write about doing more with less, so last night I decided that instead of making chocolate chip cookies, I'd simply shovel chocolate chips in my mouth. That's less, after all. That didn't quite satisfy, however, even after I let the chips sit in there for a while and melt. I considered adding some butter, but that seemed like too much work, frankly.

Then I realized I really like peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies so I shoveled some peanut butter in my maw as well. And what do you know? That was better than some stupid cookies. Better = MORE!

A quiet voice in the back of my sugar-addled mind told me that I was possibly not quite getting the concept of doing more with less, so I stopped to consider how the concept applied to my life. Then I fell asleep. But this morning I woke up, as one does, and my first thought was, "I have a half-hour to write this post." My second thought was, "Thank GOD." Because a small window of time is the only way I can get any writing done. And I do believe that's doing more with less, Windows! BLAMMO!

There is nothing that will murder any chance of productivity for me like waking up to an obligation-free, unscheduled day. Henry's going straight to a playdate after school and won't be home until 6, I have a slow work week, and I'm out of errands to run? Well, I tell myself, that means I have hours in which to consort with the muse, obviously! I'll sit down at my computer and oh, the places my mind will go! I have all the time in the world to write the best blog post ever written. No--five of the best blog posts ever written. Or I'll finally finish that novel I began in 1996. Hell, I can do all of these things. I have all the time in the world!

But when I sit down at my computer with all that emptiness stretching ahead of me, panic sets in. That's a lot of time. I need to get a lot done, in that much time. And it better be good, too, because I have no reason to phone it in. I have time. Time means quality. If I write something terrible, that means I'm a terrible writer. Crap. I'm hungry.

So I decide to make breakfast. And since I have all these hours ahead of me, I have time to make myself a real breakfast. No need for a bowl of cereal, like some rushed breakfast-eating chump. But before I do that, I should check Twitter and see what's going on. Oh, look, someone linked to a funny video! Thank goodness I have time to watch it, as I have so very much time. And look, there are all these related, also funny videos! I never noticed how many videos there are of kitty cats flushing toilets. Those are always fun. I normally don't have time to watch those, as I'm rushing about.

Then I look up and it's eight hours later and Henry is home from his playdate and I'm still in my bathrobe.

I am convinced, after all these years, that the two most useful tools in my writing arsenal are: 1) limited time and 2) low expectations. If I have four hours to write, I will expect greatness, or at least quality, and my chattering brain will be consumed with what "quality" means and whether or not I'm approaching it, and as a result I'll avoid work. I'll dawdle and daydream and check my email like it's the only thing keeping me alive. If I have an hour, however, I don't have time for these shenanigans. I have to focus. If I have a half-hour, my fingers better keep moving around that keyboard and words had better be appearing on screen, or I'm screwed.

Even when I have only fifteen minutes, I can get some quality work done. If I can sit down and still the endless chatter in my brain, when those fifteen minutes are up, I find that I've made more progress on a project than I had all week. Because I don't expect much from fifteen minutes. All I expect is a few paragraphs, and maybe to have gained some momentum. And sometimes that's all I need.

So hey, if you want a Windows Phone 7 of your very own, you can win one right here! To enter, leave a comment of 25 words or more about how you do more when you have less time. You've got until November 29 (midnight PT) and you can enter once a day. On the 29th, I'll pick a winner using random.org and post it here. Here are the official, long-winded rules about this contest.