by Julie Glover
In 2021, my husband and I sold our house and ordered a new house to be built. When our apartment lease ended, the house was nowhere near ready. With rent about to jump substantially, we concluded that it wouldn't be that much pricier to pay for housing in Europe. With him retired and me working from home, this was a plausible-if-adventurous idea.
In late May, we moved to Cahors, France, a 20,000-resident town north of Toulouse, where we will be through late July. I worried, however, that with our desire to soak in the culture and sites around us, my writing productivity would go down. The opposite happened! I can't believe how much I'm getting done.
Like many of you, I've read numerous articles, attended workshops, and engaged in discussions with fellow writers about how to improve productivity. Plenty of the lessons shared by others have helped me increase my word count and focus, and I still heed a number of them. But without any extra effort, I realized a few weeks in that I was getting a lot more done here in France.
Is it France itself? Or could I achieve similar results after we return to the United States? Hopefully, my takeaways will help you increase your productivity too!
One important aspect is the distance of both space and time from those who could (and did) interrupt my work back home. Here, I'm not going out to lunch or social activities with friends because they're across an ocean. I'm only available for phone calls during a short window when daytime and daytime here intersect, which leaves the rest of the day for myself. (And my husband, of course.)
While I previously believed I was following the good advice to protect one's writing time, it became clear that I wasn't. I didn't set my phone aside, I didn't grab chunks of time in my schedule where the default answer for those wanting to do things was simply no, and I did spend too much time on social media.
What if you acted as if you were in a foreign country during your writing time and just couldn't be reached?
How much more could you get done? Consider using a helpful tool like the Google Chrome extension Stay Focused or a kSafe or other time-locking container. Even the Do Not Disturb function on your cell phone might do the trick.
Stepping away can be unrealistic for those who are responsible for another human being (child, elderly parent, special needs adult), but perhaps someone else could be the contact person for a short period and let you go "off-grid" from time to time.
Writing fiction is my side job. My day job also involves writing, as well as speaking, podcasting, marketing, and more. Between wearing those two hats, and several others due to life and family, my to-do list often looked like a detective's crime board, with disparate tasks linked by a thin thread and wishful thinking.
Knowing that I'd be overseas, I pared down my projects list.
It helps that I have no printer and certain other office tools here, so some tasks simply weren't going to happen until I got back—easily crossed off. But having a shorter list of projects meant I could give each more attention.
How realistic are we regarding what we can accomplish? Which projects do you need to work on now, and which ones could wait? It may not be ideal, but by limiting how much you take on, you can give each work in progress its due.
I hate exercising, "working out," and anything else that smacks of getting healthy through outcome-based activity. So despite believing for years that I needed to get into better shape, I largely didn't.
But here we are in a fascinating, walkable town with no vehicle, and we've been all over. Our apartment is on the third floor, and when we first arrived, I was breathing hard by the time I reached our front door. Not now. I can jog right up those steps, no problem. And renewed physical health has given me more energy to work and greater concentration when I do.
Of course, it's not just exercise but health overall that helps us maintain vigor and focus. For practical tips, check out Kris Maze's Dear Writer, What Causes Burnout? and Lynette Burrows's 35 Tips to a Healthier Writer You in 2022.
Let's get as healthy as we can so we can get more things done!
I came to France with a regular-sized suitcase, a flight-attendant-sized suitcase, and a tote bag. That's it—the totality of my belongings for three months. Nearly halfway into our experience, I concluded that I packed too much.
I have less stuff to track, clean, and care for. I have fewer choices on what to wear. I have less clutter and chaos in my work area. All of that means fewer distractions and more headspace to work on my writing.
Of course, I'm not going to go home and toss everything I own that doesn't fit into three travel bags. But I plan to purge more stuff when I return, knowing that I don't need as much as I thought I did.
Do you need less than you think? What could you get rid of that would free up physical space and headspace? Rather than tidying expert Marie Kondo's advice to get rid of anything that doesn't "spark joy," maybe ask what sparks your productivity?
My critique partner and sometimes co-author, Christina Delay, has written especially well about how travel, play, and fresh settings can evoke creativity (see Change Your Path by Stepping Away, Build Creative Muscles - Through PLAY!, and Why Write and Travel? It's Good for Your Heart.).
I've lived it as well. Being in a place with different scenery, culture, and experiences is inspiring.
Surrounded by natural beauty and the art of buildings, sculptures, paintings, and more, I can't help but want to add my own creativity to the mix. Soaking up the history of this place also inspires me to tell stories that touch on universal experiences through specific tales.
France isn't the only place with gorgeous views and cultural inspiration. Even the suburban apartment I lived in before we moved here had a walking trail that led to a pond of Muscovy ducks and turtles sunning on a log that infused me with a sense of wonder.
Beauty is everywhere if you look for it and let yourself be inspired by it.
You don't have to be in France or somewhere special to you to get inspired and get more writing done. Though if could write here every day...
No, really. The takeaways from my time here can work anywhere.
Do you have a location or habit that improves your writing productivity? Where is the place or what is the habit? Please share it with us down in the comments!
Here's one fantastic opportunity:
Cruising Writers brings writers together with bestselling authors and a world-renowned writing craft instructor on writing retreats around the world. Cruise with us to Grand Cayman in April 2023 with Becca Syme of the Better-Faster Academy and Kirsten Kiki Oliphant of the Create If Writing podcast and take your writing career to the next level!
* * * * * *
Julie Glover is an award-winning author of mysteries and young adult fiction. She also writes supernatural suspense under the pen name Jules Lynn.
When not drinking wine in France, she is working on book five in that series, which begins with Mark of the Gods.
She'll be at the Cruising Writers retreat next April and would love to see you there!
Copyright © 2022 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved