Monday, April 16, 2018

The Easiest Way to Get More Writing Done

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I’m always looking for ways to be more productive (and organized, which for me, is a lot harder), so I’ll try just about anything that sounds interesting. But what has worked better than anything else I’ve ever done, is something anyone can do.

Turn off my email when I sit down to write.

Turning off my wifi is even better.

When I have no distractions, I get more writing done. But when email is sitting there with its little Inbox (13) staring at me from the bottom of my screen, it’s hard not to click over “just to check.” Especially when I hit a point in my scene where I’m not sure what the next sentence is. Instead of focusing and getting past it, I’m wasting time looking at an email I don’t need to worry about right now.

(Here’s more on boosting your word count every writing sessions)

Some of you might be breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about being out of touch for any length of time, but it’s really not that big a deal. Simply check your email before you begin your writing session and make sure there’s nothing critical and time sensitive you need to take care of, then close it down.

Pay attention to that words “time sensitive.” There’s a difference between “needs to be done today” and “needs to be done right now.” If you write in the mornings, and something important is in your email that can be handled after lunch, let it wait until after lunch. If you reach your afternoon writing window and there are still non-critical + not-time-sensitive things to do in your inbox, let them be. They can wait until tomorrow. It’s about prioritizing your writing time, and when it’s time to write—WRITE.

It’s Okay to Tell People You’ll Be Out of Touch for Awhile

It’s not hard to let those in your life know you’ll won’t be responding immediately to things. My friends and family know I write in the 6-11am hours. They don’t call, they don’t expect me to reply to emails or texts, and they know when I’m writing I’m working.

And while I turn off my email, I do leave on my phone in case of emergencies. I tell folks if they need me right away during those hours, text or call me. Very few do, and when they do, it’s because they really do need me right then and there.

(Here’s a less lonely way to get more writing done)

It’s Okay to Let Tasks Wait

In today’s world of “right now all the time,” it’s hard to remember that not so long ago people had to wait for things. You left messages on answering machines that didn’t get answered until that night or even the next day. People didn’t check their email when they were out of the house. It may seem as if we have to respond immediately to everything, but we really don’t.

It’s about prioritizing, and if you want to make writing a priority, you have to actually do it. That means focusing on your writing during the time you set aside to write.

(Here’s more on finding time to write)

There Will Always Be Stuff You Need to Do

Publishing a novel doesn’t mean all your other tasks magically go away. In fact, you’ll have more to do, because now you’ll have marketing, promotion, and writing the next book to deal with. So you might as well build good writing habits now when you don’t have deadlines and expectations looming over you. If you wait to write after “everything else” gets done, you’ll never write.

Try It Out for a Week

If you’re unsure, do it for a week and see how much you get done. Odds are you’ll be quite pleased with the results, and it’ll make the next week easier to manage. Before long, you’ll happily disconnect and savor all that quiet time with you and your characters.

I could link a list of dozens of articles and tips on being more productive (even a bunch written by me), but this is by far the easiest and most effective technique I’ve ever tried. It can take some getting used to, but it’s well worth it.

Do you disconnect when your write? What helps you get more writing done?

Looking to improve your craft? Check out one of my books on writing: 

In-depth studies in my Skill Builders series include Understanding Conflict (And What It Really Means), and Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It). My Foundations of Fiction series includes Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for plotting a novel, and the companion Plotting Your Novel Workbook, and my Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft series, with step-by-step guides to revising a novel. 

Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book. It was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize (2011), and The Truman Award (2011). She also writes the Grace Harper urban fantasy series for adults under the name, J.T. Hardy.

She's the founder of Fiction University and has written multiple books on writing, including Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting It), Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, and the Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft series.
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  1. You are blessed. I can't get the people in my life to understand when I am working. I don't do notifications or email beeps or whatever, and I let my answering machine and voice mail do their job...and it makes people mad. I do it anyway, because stuff has to get done, but you're right. Somehow they've forgotton what life was like without instant communication. Glad you''ve discovered another helpful trick. Thanks.

    1. So sorry to hear they don't get your work time. That would indeed make it much harder. That's unfair :( I hope you find a way to get them to understand you need your writing time.

  2. Thanks for another timely post, as I sit here, bitten by a radioactive procrastination bug. Today should be productive: husband is working, teenage son is playing guitar, and it's stormy weather. (50s, wind, and rain. New England in the spring. Hooray.) But I just killed 45 minutes online shopping because I can't pass up a flash sale, 40% off clearance, which I saw in my email *sigh* Good thing I'm a night owl.

    1. That's exactly why I turn my email off :) I've been sucked into the same thing, different sales. I've toyed with investing in one of those "turn off your wifi connection" aps. If my willpower fades so much I can't stay offline, I'll do it.