5 Ways to Be a More Productive Writer

Short preamble: There is much more that can be said about each of these tips but, to save on the tl;dr posts, I summarized to the best of my ability. If anyone would like a more thorough look at any of these feel free to let me know and I will attempt to expend on them in a later blog entry.

Set a Schedule
It is so easy to find an excuse not to write every day. Jobs, kids, wives, husbands, chores, pets, and errands all seem to crash in on us and leave little time left in our increasingly busy schedules to breathe let alone sit down and write a 2,000 daily word goal. If you want to make a career out of writing then you have to treat it like a career. You have to treat it like a second job. This means setting goals and deadlines for yourself and sticking to them. Write at whatever time of day you are most comfortable writing. If you are an early riser, take some time before school or work or before you get the kids up. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, take the time to write when you put your kids down for a nap. Or after dinner. Or before bed. It doesn’t matter when you find the time, just find the time. Find an hour or two somewhere in your day to dedicate to you and your characters and stick to that schedule. If your quietest time is in the evening between 8pm and 10pm, make sure you are at your computer with an open word document typing between those hours every single day.
I put well over 40 hours a week for a year into my writing while I was working on my first novel on top of my 40-hour-a-week day job, busy social calendar, and planning my wedding. The stress paid off in the end.

I know it’s hard. It’s like a chocolate addict working next to the Hersey factory who keeps staring out the window telling themselves, “Just one little trip.” Unfortunately that one little trip will usually engulf your very existence and you spend the next four hours weighing the pros and cons of almonds and crisped rice and whether or not it ultimately robs you of chocolate. The internet is tempting. You have various messaging programs, daily blogs, email, social networks, news, games, and this sort of thing right here which all contribute to distracting you from getting writing done. 

Make it all go away. Don’t even allow temptation to get the best of you. It’s an excuse. If you are the sort of person who likes to write early in the morning, unplug your internet when you go to bed the night before and don’t allow yourself to plug it back in the morning until you hit your daily writing goal, whether that be in word, page or time count. Do the same thing in the evenings or nights if you like to write before bed or when you get home from work. Okay, you don’t actually have to go to the extreme of unplugging your Ethernet cable the night before you write, but you get my point. It’s amazing what one little trip to check your Gmail Inbox (which you already know is empty since you checked it thirty seconds earlier) will do when you find yourself drifting off to tumblr, YouTube, Reddit, or Facebook. Just say no.

Battle Buddy
Find a fellow writer (or writers) local to you and get together once or twice a month (or weekly if you can swing it) for a day/evening/night of writing. Spur each other on. Set time limits and mini challenges. Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and see who can get the highest word count. Then do it again. Writing is intimidating enough; you don’t have to go it alone. Good support networks of friends who write are almost crucial. Share ideas, spur one another on, give constructive critiques and listen to feedback. Someone is bound to share a little nugget of inspiration that triggers the onslaught of gusto from your muse.

Reward yourself. Give yourself little gifts for finishing your goal for the night, give yourself a slightly bigger gift for every 10,000 words, give yourself something even better at your half way point, and so on. Positive reinforcement, even from little old you, goes a long way. 

Ideas for Perks:
  • Special coffee or sweet treat that you love from your local coffee shop or bakery.
  • Rum.
  • Half an hour of reading/watching TV/surfing the net/playing a video game.
  • Buy a new journal/notebook/sketchbook.
  • Go to your favorite sporting event.
  • Rum.
  • Go see a movie in theatres.
  • Candy.
  • Buy yourself a new outfit.
  • Rum.
  • Buy a new eReader (This would fall under the category of “Oh my God I just finished the whole manuscript!!”)
  • A really big bottle of rum. (I said that already, didn’t I?)

Just Make the Bed, A.K.A Man Eats Car
There is this amazingly awesome article which breaks down the daunting task of writing a novel in terms of cleaning up a very messy apartment. I highly recommend said article as it is more in-depth and motivational than I feel I have the ability to summarize. I will be as succinct as I can and say that writing a novel may prove to be a difficult, long and treacherous road, but it doesn’t have to be done all at once. A blank page is all sorts of intimidating, but just do it one word at a time and pretty soon you will go from a sentence to a paragraph to your first chapter. Pretty soon you will have the whole thing complete.
Natalie Goldberg writes about this concept in Writing Down the Bones. The Chapter titled Man Eats Car is more about metaphors, and it always struck me that the perfect metaphor for writing is that chapter title. The man who would eat the car wouldn’t do it all at once. He would start small with nuts and bolts. He would move to spark plugs and radio knobs, gradually moving up to bigger fare. When all was said and done the man would have been successful because he did it piece by piece.

Treat your writing in that manner. You are only one person. Don’t expect to have everything written all at once. Take the time to allow your thoughts to flow. Don’t let your inner editor get the best of you, don’t let the internet distract you, don’t let your family come in and disrupt your process. Just go with it. Piece by piece you will be able to eat the car.

Until next time.