21 Feb 10 Ways to Become a More Productive Writer
I’m always looking for ways to boost my productivity and output, mainly because there are so many things I want to write, do, create, see… Here are my 10 hot tips.
1. Batch. This is where you carve out chunks of time to work on the same task / project / piece of writing. We actually waste so much time switching from email to writing to answering the phone. Batching allows you to go deeper with your work, be more efficient and have better results.
2. Create two log-ins. I’ve said this before but having two separate log-ins for my laptop, one only for my writing and music, and the other for everything else has boosted my productivity exponentially. Now, when I log into ‘Author Claire’ I know I won’t be disrupted and I will only work on my current manuscript. I shared this in Chennai and the The Hindu newspaper actually picked up on it. Hilarious. Other writers I know have two separate computers for the same outcome.
3. Schedule. I’m not great at scheduling but this year I’m working at changing that. This includes scheduling time for my writing which is as sacrosanct as any other appointment in the diary. It also includes planning ahead for writing retreats, or weekends or weeks away at a friend’s house for immersion time. You need that, I find, when finishing a project like a book.
4. Discipline. I’m sounding a bit like a school ma’am here, I know. Same idea as above. If you stick to a schedule, you work the muscle. Writing is like a creative muscle that needs to be exercised regularly and then you’ll get quicker. It’s also about showing up for YOURSELF.
Is there a time of day when you’re naturally more whimsical, more in tune with your inner or imaginative self? First thing in the morning? Last thing at night? Right after your morning yoga? Immediately after your lunchtime jog? Sitting at your son’s hockey practice? If there’s a time when you believe that writing will come more easily, make this your daily writing time.
5. Community. At my workshops I always stress the importance of having a writing buddy or group. This is the best way to keep you on task. If you keep setting yourself deadlines and failing to meet them, then you need someone to be accountable to.
Structure your writing relationship so that it is immediately useful to you. Discuss how you’d like to work with your partner. You might want to send sections for feedback chapter by chapter or only share outlines or scenes in isolation.
Plus, your community are the people around you when things do go wrong or you feel disheartened. I appreciate all the support I get on social and through my writers’ network.
6. Goals. I’m a great believer in setting myself goals at the start of the year. Then periodically (every quarter or half-yearly) I’ll see if I am on track, or which goals are no longer relevant. Writing down your goals works for lots of reasons but one is that you are making your goal more tangible. More importantly, you will activate the Law of Attraction by creating an intention for what you desire to accomplish. More on goal setting below.
7. Create different spaces. If writing is one thing you do among others, don’t let not having a writing desk stop you. Find the right cafe, or go to the library. One friend has different cafes for the different parts of his job. I have my ‘writing-only’ cafes. All of this builds ritual and means that your brain knows, as soon as you arrive, it’s writing time. You can also do this at home — if you have a big enough house!
8. Avoid distractions. Take this as fact: e-mail, iPhones, Blackberries, text messaging, and any other electronic-messaging system are the enemies of writing. First, all that time spent reading and responding to messages eats into yours precious writing time. And second, those bleeps and pings and newsy e-mails distract you into completely different mental space—a place far away from your writing mind. However hard it is, even if you are chained to your work or personal electronic device, switch it off. All those messages will be there when your writing time is over and complete.
9. Build a productive habit. Once you understand that it is the progress that gets you moving, you have to turn it into your habit. If your goal is to write a book, focus on writing 300 or 500 words a day. More if you’ve got the time. This will help you keep moving forward each day.
10. Have fun. We write and we create because we enjoy it. There are so many things in our life that we feel we must do, don’t let your writing be one of them. Write because you can’t wait to get back to the page, to see what your character is going to do next, or because you’ve been thinking about exactly how to phrase that sentence. This keeps it fresh — and makes the journey the destination.