8 Ways to Increase Your Productivity as a Writer
AUTHOR DENISE JAY / CATEGORY WRITING / PUBLISHED: SEP-03-2019
Even if you don't have to produce work to a deadline, you'll want to complete your writing projects within a reasonable timeframe; there's no fun in only managing to write a paragraph or two a week or never completing a piece at all. Fortunately, slow progress usually has nothing to do with how you feel about writing and everything to do with poor planning, poor goal setting, or surrendering to distractions. These are issues you can do something about. Here are eight tips for overcoming the most common hurdles to getting more done.
Get Ready For National Writing Month
Set an achievable target word count
There are two questions to ask yourself here. How many words do you want (or need) to write each day, each week, or each month? How much time can you give to your writing? You need to be realistic without cutting yourself too much slack. Unless you're working to a deadline, for a competition submission, for example, making reasonable progress matters more than clocking up a large word count each day.
What reasonable progress means to you depends on your goals. Is 500 words a day reasonable for you or can you reach 1000 easily once you get going? Importantly, don't set goals that are too ambitious because then you're more likely to fail and much more likely to give up completely.
Discover when you work best
Are you a morning person or do you do your best work in the afternoon or evening? Experiment a little until you find your sweet spot. Keep a journal to track how you feel as the days and weeks go by and look for patterns in energy levels and mood you can exploit to increase your productivity. If your best time changes as the year progress, go with the flow.
Be flexible, to a point
Life can get in the way of writing. Sometimes you're not going to be able to sit down and focus when and where you want to, but don't let this stop you altogether. At these times, you need to have a fall-back strategy. Try splitting a writing session into several shorter ones over the day or reducing your target word count for that day. However, a writing routine can help you stay on track, so get back to yours as soon as you can after a setback.
Have your writing space set up ready to go
If you've set aside 30 minutes to write and spend half of that searching for your pen and notebook or firing up your laptop and finding your latest draft, you're wasting valuable time. Be prepared. Keep your writing paraphernalia in one place. Turn your computer on 15 minutes before you sit down to write, and, if possible, have your word processor or writing software of choice open automatically at startup.
Cut the digital distractions
For many, the internet is the biggest obstacle to productivity. It is a great research tool but social media, news outlets, and shopping sites forever beckon, and when you're idly surfing the internet, you're not writing. If you have trouble focussing when the internet is a click or two away, try writing by hand. If you must work on a computer, use an app or program to block access to the internet for an hour or two so you can devote time exclusively to your art. Alternatively, set a timer and vow to focus only on getting words down until the alarm goes off.
Minimize human distractions
If you're living with others, you may need to shut yourself away or leave the house entirely to write. Plenty of writers work in libraries, cafes, or even book themselves into hotels to get away from human distractions. If you can't get away, negotiate with your roommates or family for uninterrupted time to write. Use headphones or earplugs to shut out any noise and send the message "do not disturb." It's worth a try. Your writing matters, so try to make others understand this.
Find a writing buddy
Do you have any friends who write? Do you belong to a physical or online writers' group? If so, find someone to pair up with and be accountable to. Check-in with each other from time to time and share how you're getting along. Set joint writing goals or introduce some competition. Perhaps the last to complete a chapter or short story in a given time agrees to buy the other a drink.
Take time to nurture yourself
Writing can be a lonely business and unhealthily sedentary, so make time to get out to meet friends, spend quality time with your family, go for a walk, or treat yourself when you've achieved your writing goals. Come back refreshed and eager to move forward.
If you're not writing as much as you'd like, you'll feel frustrated or you might even be ready to give up completely. Fortunately, there is hope. There are solutions to your problems if you're prepared to approach your writing practice differently. Help yourself by planning ahead, setting realistic goals, building in some flexibility, and finding the right place to work at a time that suits you best. Happy writing!
About the Author
Denise Jay is a freelance writer based in the UK. She holds degrees in chemistry and a Certificate of Higher Education in nutrition.