I was used to writing short stories in quick bursts of sustained focus. A single afternoon, perhaps a weekend. But I could not write novels like this, so my method, as evolved, is to work every weekday morning, as much or as little as the day allows, the only goal being to reinforce the habit and stay close to the work, keeping it ticking along whether I wrote ten words or several thousand, to create chains of virtue that, the longer they got, the more reluctant I would be to break them. This is a method often attributed to, of all people, Jerry Seinfeld, though he certainly didn’t invent it. Here’s a Lifehacker article about it. Hey, remember when Lifehacker was a thing? When productivity culture was a thing? So glad that ended. Imagine the horror if there were entire podcasts where people talk about nothing else except how to squeeze more productive output out of the limited hours of your life.

the 56-day streak is when I was really in the flow of writing my second novel; the current streak is from the third

I do enjoy productivity porn a lot. I don’t listen to the podcasts, but this is mostly because I have not yet learned to listen to podcasts regularly. I find audio makes me impatient, because the content of most podcasts is exactly the sort of material I am used to skimming and speed-reading. I love all the other bits of productivity culture, the pointless essays, the endless new methods and tricks and tips, the apps. I don’t really try much of it, but I love that it’s there. If my methods fail me some day, I find it comforting that there will be other things to try.

In the months (years if you count them another way) that it takes me to complete a book, of course I end up breaking the chain many times and starting again. The most important part of chainmaking is to understand that the breaks are part of the work. The gaps between the links are not dead air: they are living breath.