To my surprise, none of these lists mentions an easy to grasp rule Ernest Hemingway applied to his writing process. His hack is perhaps too nonconformist to be part of the "getting things done" gospel.
The winner of the 1954 Nobel prize in Literature explains in simple words how to keep the momentum going and how to avoid writer’s block, a common affliction amongst authors. But his hack applies to any task related to an important goal. Here’s what you should do to avoid being stuck and maintain the flow state that maximizes productivity.
The quote :The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.
Let’s see what another famous writer, Roald Dahl, has to say about Hemingway’s hack (in The Roald Dahl Treasury ).
Excerpts :I never come back to a blank page; I always finish about halfway through. Hemingway taught me the finest trick : “When you are going good, stop writing.” You don’t go on writing and writing until you come to the end of it, because when you do, then you say, well, where am I going to go next? You make yourself stop and you walk away. And you can’t wait to get back because you know what you want to say next.
To summarize, Hemingway tells you :
Don’t finish your daily task if you want to keep the momentum going :
- Make finishing your task your « next task »
- Stop when you know what you will do to finish it
- Stop when you feel the drive to finish it
- Stop when you reach a creativity peak
- Stop thinking about it until the next day
The benefits. You :
- Avoid being stuck
- Keep the momentum going
- Start your day by the rewarding work of finishing a task
- Boost your self-confidence and motivation levels before starting the « next task »
- End your day on a high note
- Put your brain to purposeful rest when you stop working
- Allow you subconscious to work profitably on « it » = « the bigger picture » = your goal.
Create Every Day
June 2013 - Medium.com - Create something every day
Story ideas and other tips for authors - Oct 08, 2013
GTD - Don't break the chain - Seinfeld productivity tip - Jan 15, 2014
Guidelines to increase productivity by limiting time on the Internet - Mar 03, 2014
Writing Tips - Sep 07, 2013
Managing Complex Change - Dec 14, 2015