A writer's life is often a busy life, and productivity is high on everyone's wish list. We wish we had more time, more words, more pages, more books, etc. We'd all love to get more writing done in the time we have, but that time is frequently the first thing sacrificed when life gets hectic. Even if we have a lot of time, we still wish we could make better use of it.
There's lots of advice surfing around the web about being more productive, but I've found that no matter how optimistic I am, if you give me a 10 Things to Boost My Productivity type list, I'll pick one or two of the easy ones and never get to the rest of the list. It's just feels like too much hassle to change all at once and that much "new" disrupts my day. My guess is I'm not alone here.
Change is rough, especially if you're trying to change your routine, so instead of throwing a slew of tips at you, I'm going to hand them out one at a time and let those who wish to try it work it into their regular routines. Then we'll move on to the next. Big changes can come from small steps.
So, without further ado, the first tip on being a more productive writer is:
Carve out a time and place to write.
Yes, I know, "find time to write" isn't revolutionary, but it's the one thing that will make the most difference in your productivity. If you're not giving yourself enough time to write, it's that much harder to feel productive. It's often hard to shut out the rest of your life and responsibilities to get any real writing done.
Hence the second part.
Change of location can make a difference. I know it sounds crazy, but a break in routine can trigger a change in perspective, and if you're in a new location you're free to behave differently. Stake a writing claim and declare, "This is where I write and get things done." Your mindset is a powerful tool, so use it to your advantage.
(Here's more on how small processes changes can lead to big results)
Step One: Find time to write
I'm not an every day writer, and despite what "everyone" says, I don't think you have to write every single day to get anywhere. But you do need to consistently write. Some folks can do an hour a day, others an evening three days a week. If Saturday afternoons are all you have, then write your heart out every Saturday afternoon. Whenever you have regular time to sit down and write, prioritize that time.
If you have a solid, dedicated writing time, then you won't feel guilty the rest of the day (or week) when you're not writing, and can more easily shut the world out and write.
Step Two: Find a place to write
This is the part that makes step one achievable. Sitting at the same desk you do a million other things at and telling yourself "Okay, time to write now" doesn't always work. You get stuck on a scene, so you surf the web, check email, make a call--because it's all right there and easy to do. If you change locations, separate yourself from the things that commonly distract you, and all you have is the writing. You'd be surprised how much more writing you'll get done. Go to another room, head outside, find a coffee shop or a library.
If you physically can't move your computer, try writing on paper and see what happens. Maybe flesh out the entire scene, so when you do get back to your computer you can write quickly and get it all down. Try writing at the library, or even at a friend's house. Stay late after work (if the boss doesn't mind) and save everything to a flash drive. Get creative.
Step Two-and-a-Half: Find different places and times to write when needed
I can edit like a fiend at my desk almost any time of day, but to write a first draft, I need to be away from my office. I've also learned I write more in the mornings. Mixing up your writing time and locations can help you discover your most productive time and place. Maybe certain writing tasks can be done at different times or places, which leaves your best writing time free for the creative drafting (or revision if that's what you need more focus on). If you can outline or brainstorm ideas every night in between other tasks, why not take advantage of it?
Your challenge (should you choose to accept it)
For the next two weeks, carve out a time and a place to write. Pay attention to when and where you're the most productive and if different tasks can be accomplished at different times. Create a writing schedule that works best for you.
Do you have a writing time and place? What do you do to be a more productive writer?
The whole series: finding the right time and place to write, all about preparation, stopping in the middle, not re-reading too much of the previous session, leaving yourself notes, and how to avoid wasting time.
Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a series of self-guided workshops that help you turn your idea into a novel. It's also a great guide for revisions!
Janice Hardy is the founder of Fiction University, and the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, (Picked as one of the 10 Books All Young Georgians Should Read, 2014) Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now.
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