Ever seen a circus performer spinning plates?

When you slip into the world of productivity and self-improvement, you quickly discover that improvement is cyclical, or iterative.

Applied to writing indie fiction, this becomes a strategy to avoid overwhelm, too:  It is simply impossible to improve absolutely every aspect of your writing business and productivity all at the same time, and at the same rate.

What you do, instead, is spin plates.   Plate-spinners get one plate moving, then spin the next, then the next, and so on, until they must move back to the first plate before it slows too much and falls off the stick, to get it spinning once more.  They will keep spinning and adjusting the plates until the act is done.

Consider all the aspects of productivity, related to writing:

  • Sticking to your writing schedule
  • Actually making a writing schedule
  • Putting in the hours on production
  • Making sure you market a little every day
  • Learning to write more words per hour
  • Improving your story-telling skills
  • Learn how to plot better, and more quickly
  • Get better at self-editing
  • Becoming more efficient with your publishing process
  • Increasing your skill at sticking to your task list each day
  • …and on and on.

There is a potentially endless number of skills and disciplines (usually disguised as “habits”), and all of them have room for improvement, because no one is perfect.

As you become more experienced with the business, you will find that big leaps in improvement, via “breakthroughs” in understanding, don’t occur as often as they did when you first started out.

Once you are established and have a degree of expertise as an indie author, improvements come in increments and are often barely noticed.

This is the case for me.  I am always reading new materials on productivity, efficiency and publishing in general, but often those books and blogs, etc., merely provide a review of a subject that I already know well.

I love non-fiction books that provide a very clear, simple way of looking at complex topics.  Even if I know the subject pretty thoroughly, if the author can give me an unexpected viewpoint, then the book/post is a keeper for me.

This happened to me a couple of weeks ago.  I read Get It Done: The 21-Day Mind Hack System to Double Your Productivity and Finish What You Startby Michael Mackintosh.

I admit that I was wary when I started it.  I’m always wary, these days, because most books are disappointing, and the hype-y cover made me wonder if this would be another book that was all promise, with a dime’s worth of sizzle at the end…or none at all.

Michael Mackintosh’s approach to discipline and productivity clicked with me.  In particular, his “mind hacks” present powerful mindsets for getting things done that really appealed to me.

For example, his #1 mind hack can be summarized as:  Will you pick the short pain, or the long?

Mackintosh explains that when you are faced with a task such as your next writing session, you can sit and get the words down for the day, which might be painful, or uncomfortable, or merely an effort you’re not looking forward to (writing is hard!).  This is short term pain.

Or you can choose to skip it today, for any reason your fertile writer’s brain can spin up for you.  As there are no dire consequences for skipping your writing session today—no 19th century school masters will screech at you and whack your knuckles with a ruler—it becomes much easier to skip again tomorrow.  Avoiding the short pain has a numbing effect.

In the long term, the pain you experience if you continue to choose the “long” pain over the short, is that you miss release dates, disappoint your readers, mess with your Amazon publishing “cliffs” and impact your sales (negatively).

No matter whether you skip the writing today or not, there’s pain.  Mackintosh suggests that as you’ll experience pain either way, why not go with the short pain, and garner all the benefits of a disciplined life?

He sums it up very nicely:  Don’t settle for a sedated half-life.

Mackintosh’s other mind hacks are also useful kicks-in-the-butt.  I devoured the book, then immediately got to work, and last week I had one of the most productive weeks of my life (measured by word count)…despite not writing for two and a half days of that week.

I am reviewing the mind hacks each day to keep them in the forefront of my mind, and more than a week on, I’m still finding it easy to get to work each day and write my butt off.

This is the plate I had to get spinning again.  My ability to get to the desk and just start had crumbled a little bit in the last few weeks, for a number of reasons including failing to notice open loops I was setting up before I got to work.

Now I have this plate spinning properly again—and faster than before–it’s time to move on to the next plate which is slowing down and starting to wobble.

What plates do you need to give some fresh torque to?