On Writing

The Salt Mines

Work with me on this.  It’s time to get serious for a moment.

Before we do, today’s results?  Word goal: 2,500.  Word achievement: 2,900.  Or, to put it in perspective, a clean 16,000 words this week.

Back before I left the company of other G-men, there was a bit of a change.  Prior to the change we’d had the ability to work from home if we wanted it.  Then there was this bit of a perception problem – apparently when people work from home, all they do is watch Oprah, play video games, and surf for porn.  None of us can be trusted to be motivated(✎) by just wanting to get the job done.

All despite evidence: we manage to crank out a chunk of work when at home away from interruptions.  It says something about the Office of Interruptions that we’re more efficient actually away from the work environment, ostensibly surrounded by televisions, video games, and pornography.

✎ I’m going to be honest here and say the last thing I want in my home is work.  I want it at work.  That’s where it belongs, and I can use their toilet paper.  It’s sad that the workplace is (to me, anyway) the place where work goes to die.

Part of this writing experiment is to find out just how much I can do without interruptions.  My fellow G-men would constantly interrupt; on a given day, I’d have 3 to 5 meetings of an hour – “collaboration” or “gaining a consensus view” – and then have to do other work in amongst people phoning or arriving at my desk with a casual, “Have you got five minutes?”  Point of fact: five minute meetings are never shorter than a half hour.

And the curious thing about the phone?  No one ever calls you to take your work away.  Think about it.

Despair by cruxbrasil.

It’s really hard to keep sane in that kind of environment.  Oh – I get that extroverts (60% of you out there are extroverts – keep reading!) prefer to work in this, ah, collaborative way.  But for some of us – the 40% that are introverts – it’s exhausting, and inefficient.  It is the worst way of using the way we work.

Further innefficiency is driven into the system when you’re working on 8 projects – you know, the three “Number One Priorities™” you’re working on, plus the other five projects that won’t fucking die.

So, back to the question: how much can I actually write on a given day?  Before I kicked off this junket, I wanted to set a goal that was challenging, and would keep me busy: 2,500 words a day.  That goal would let me kick off 10,000 words in a week.  I’d already written about 35,000 words on my book, so – assuming 120,000 words in a first draft – I had only 85,000 left to do.  That’s 8 or 9 weeks, plus some slush for writer’s block or getting typhoid, comfortably within our 12 week time slot.

2,500 sounded like a lot, considering what I was able to achieve in the Office of Interruptions.  What’s this week delivered so far?

  • Monday: 3,200.
  • Tuesday: 3,200.
  • Wednesday: 3,200.
  • Thursday: High Score! 3,500!
  • Friday: 2,900.  Give me a break – this is a long blog post.

16,000 words in a week.  Sixteen.  Thousand.

I’m mighty pleased with that.  Goals are great; beating them is even better.  To understand how to make this a repeatable outcome, I need to unpick why it’s been so hard to do this much work, well, at work.  I think I can sum it up:

  1. I’m enjoying my work.  It’s still work, but there’s no politics; it’s pure product.
  2. I’m working on just one thing here.  That’s a single item of WIP, which is highly efficient.
  3. I get no interruptions.  I manage my own time.

It does leave me wondering how I’ll feel when I return to the office.  If you can’t change the environment, maybe you need to change the environment?

4 thoughts on “The Salt Mines

  1. Thanks 🙂 Of course – quality is not quantity! But you need quantity (or something at all) before you can edit it down to something a bit more manageable. This week’s been fun!

  2. I won’t argue with that! It’d be pretty easy to classify a lot of work with the G-Men as “other people’s dreams.” That’s no way to live 🙂

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