I minored in psychology in college, and I’m a huge fan of anything that makes me feel more organized, more in control, and better able to manage the 10,000 things I have to do all the time. Lists help a lot, as do deadlines, but what about creating a self-imposed contract? An intriguing idea.
Aimee Bender, the talented author of most recently The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, has this enlightening piece in the latest O Magazine that talks about her decision to create a writing contract with a friend that would allow for each of them to maintain certain very specific writing rules complete with confirmation e-mails that each had stuck to their previously agreed-to commitments. I love her line about the parallels between writing and psychology: “Although psychotherapy and writing are distinct in many ways, they are two fields whose great resource is the vast plains of the unconscious mind and how this landscape gets translated into words.” So true.
For many writers, the ability to work in solitude is both liberating and daunting. Sometimes it’s hard to motivate when there isn’t anyone there to encourage you. And when you’re feeling a spell of procrastination coming on, the water cooler at work is a good way to get a few minutes of down time before heading back to the task at hand. When you work alone, you don’t have that luxury, and when the Internet in many cases is your sole companion, it becomes way too easy to get sucked into an unproductive cycle. Then again, you can get sucked in anywhere really, but that’s another story (see my recent post about technology).
A contract makes you accountable for your own time and how you spend it. When you commit to writing for a certain period of time each day, or 5 days a week, or whatever works for your own life and schedule, it allows you the time to breathe outside of that without the nagging feeling of always feeling like you should be doing more.
What do you think about this for your own writing, and would you consider doing it? Would you want to team up with a partner to check that you are meeting your contractual obligations? Let us know what you think, and if you’d be willing to experiment and give it a try. I suspect the act of creating the contract alone would make you feel more in control, more motivated, and more productive.