Productivity. It’s the element all writers wish they had a firm grasp on, yet very few actually do.
In the majority of cases, writers do not operate by a typical nine-to-five work schedule. There isn’t always a set time to clock in and clock out. I started working from home this year as a freelance writer, and I’m STILL struggling to set up a consistent schedule. But it’s something I work toward every single day, because otherwise, optimal writing productivity is something I will never achieve. And my work … and my bank account … will suffer the consequences.
Writing productivity is essential for all elements of a writer’s professional life. But where do you start?
Here are eight writing productivity tips to help you write 5,000+ words every day – or at the very least, to help you get into the habit of writing more on a more consistent basis.
Set a writing schedule you can stick to
I, personally and professionally, write every day. I do this because routine is how I thrive. I know when I am most creative and what times of day I am most likely to be able to write more quality content in less time. However, not everyone can write daily, or needs to. Whether you’re literally interested in writing 5,000+ words every day or just want to write more in general, the most productive thing you can do is set a writing schedule you can stick to – and actually stick to it. You might be a Monday through Friday writer, or a weekends-only writer. The specifics are different for everyone. The point is to stay consistent, as a means of holding yourself accountable.
For those who are interested, here are a few recommended strategies for writing every day.
Focus on eliminating distractions, not ‘finding motivation’
We are all guilty of spending fifteen extra minutes of pre-writing time venturing down the deep abyss of the internet in search of the motivation/inspiration we think we need to get writing done. What you’re doing here, instead of actually engaging in a productive writing habit, is giving into the one thing all writers start out weak against: distractions. They’re everywhere. If you consistently go an hour without getting some kind of notification on your phone or desktop, there must be something seriously wrong with you. Unless you turn them off on purpose … because you know you need to write, instead of giving into FOMO.
Here’s why searching for motivation to write doesn’t actually work.
Set a specific goal for how much writing you are going to get done in one sitting
Whether you like it or not, productive writing involves a little bit of planning. Sitting down and vowing to ‘just wing it’ might be a more comfortable way to ease into your writing routine, but it’s much less likely to help you focus and accomplish what needs to get done. Set a specific goal (e.g., 5,000 words before 5:00 p.m.) that you can work toward. Once you reach it, you can then decide for yourself whether or not you want to continue or close your laptop for the day.
Here are some more tips for setting SMART writing goals.
Break up your day into 1,000-word segments
No matter how much you decide you are going to write today, this afternoon or before you go to sleep, don’t try to get it all done at once. Especially if you have a busy schedule, and don’t have large chunks of time to write thousands of words all at once. Break up your work into smaller pieces. I typically separate my writing time not in hours, but in amounts of words. Usually 500 words is the threshold we need to reach before we hit a steady flow; 1,000 words is a healthy place to stop and take a break, or move on to something else for the time being.
Busy writers, check out these helpful tips for getting more writing done during the week.
Work on more than one writing project at a time
Sometimes what stops us from getting more writing done in one day is falling prey to the myth that we can only work on one piece of writing at a time. The problem is, we’re human: we get bored. The longer you spend on the same task, the less focused you become. Use the strategy of breaking up your work into smaller segments and use that as your signal to switch to something different. Yesterday I wrote a blog post, took a 10 minute break, wrote a short paper for my graduate class, took another break, and then spent the remainder of my day following this pattern: write an article, answer a few emails, step away from the computer for a few minutes, come back, write another article. And repeat.
Learn how to effectively juggle multiple writing projects at once for a more productive and focused writing schedule.
Have an idea of what you’re going to write about before you sit down to write
Some of you reading this are cringing at the thought of planning ahead, or worse, formulating the often-dreaded outline. Why would you take your ever-expanding creativity and try to squish it into a tiny little box? If you’ve been writing for awhile, you know that ideas are always expanding and morphing. Just because you decide what you’re going to work on ahead of time, maybe even going as far as outlining your subheadings or main points beforehand, does not mean your creativity won’t still manage to surprise and delight you. This is meant to guide you and keep you on task, and nothing more.
For all my fiction noveltiers out there, here are some tips for organizing your stories without using a traditional outline.
Research, write, edit – in that order
When you try writing, researching and editing all at the same time, it slows the entire process down. Start by outlining your main points (see previous heading), researching what you need to research to cover those points and THEN filling in the content for each heading. Fiction writers should have at least a general idea of what’s going to happen in the scene they are writing, and should know if there are things they need to look up before writing. Obviously, editing should come last. You should try your best to refrain from interrupting your own writing flow to fix a simple grammar mistake.
Stop self-editing as you write, so you can have more productive writing sessions each time you sit down to crank out some serious wordage.
Take a break every hour – and have a snack
The same way our brains get tired after studying for an exam, we use up energy when we’re writing. You might feel like you could write for five hours straight without stopping, but you’re going to burn yourself out if you aren’t careful. And that feeling might not hit you today, but it sure will tomorrow. Take short, five to 10 minute breaks every hour to let your brain process some of the things it couldn’t while you were busy writing. Have a snack, too – a granola bar. A piece of fruit. Get some sugar back into your bloodstream so your brain can continue functioning.
Here are some tips for taking a productive break from writing.
We all have great writing days and awful ones. Writing productivity is all about planning ahead, staying consistent and moving forward even when it feels like no amount of caffeine could ever be enough to get you through it.
Be strong. Press on. Get back to writing.
What is your writing schedule like? How did you go about setting up and following that schedule? If you don’t have a writing schedule, how do you keep track of your writing time and progress?
This post was written as part of the Problogger: 7 Days to Getting Back Your Blogging Groove challenge. If you have been struggling to write the engaging, well-thought-out posts your blog is known for, or have abandoned your blog completely but are ready to get back into posting more regularly, consider joining the challenge today.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.
Image courtesy of pixabay.com.