Tips to Help You Concentrate While Writing

Having trouble concentrating? Try these tips.

Are you an easily distracted writer? I could make this post very short and sweet and tell you to get off the internet and just write already, but that doesn’t always solve your problem. I’ve greatly improved my ability to concentrate over the past few months, which has made me much more productive and satisfied with my work. Here are a few strategies that might help you focus and get more writing done.

Write in intervals

You’re going to get distracted — sometimes, there’s no way to avoid it. If you’re having trouble getting into a flow state, it might be better to use your inability to focus to your advantage. Try writing for 30 minutes straight without looking away from your screen. Set a timer so you don’t have to keep glancing at the time. Once 30 minutes hits, one of two things will happen. You’ll either stop writing and allow yourself to be distracted for 10 minutes or so, or you’ll keep writing, your temptation to do something else having disappeared.

Write what’s most interesting to you right now

I never write fiction in chronological order. If I have to step away from writing in the middle of a scene, it’s almost impossible for me to go back to it later with the same enthusiasm straightaway. If there’s a string of dialogue or an important plot point at the front of my mind, I write it, no matter where it appears in the story. Some days, you just have to write what you want, and skip over what you’re not in the mood for. You’ll concentrate much better when you’re fully invested in a scene or topic.

Pick a place and stay there

I’m all for a healthy change of scenery from one writing session to the next, but I can’t start writing in one place, pack up and move somewhere else, and continue on as if nothing’s changed. If that sounds a lot like you, make sure you’ve blocked out a block of writing time that doesn’t require getting up and moving somewhere else. I find it’s much easier to completely immerse myself in what I’m writing if I have the luxury of forgetting where I am and what time it is.

Designate your writing time as writing time only

If I really need to focus on writing something in the next few hours, and I’m able to, I completely eliminate all distractions from my immediate surroundings. I block certain websites I know I’ll be tempted to check, I put my phone upside down on my desk, I have a giant glass of water (and maybe a snack) within reach, I close my door, and I write. I don’t answer messages or emails (unless I’m working and someone pings me on Slack) — I completely isolate myself from the world for a designated chunk of time. And I live with three other people and a very needy cat. If I can do it, you can, too. If you have to, get up earlier or stay up later than everyone else to get that alone time you need.

Choose background noise, or silence

There are two kinds of writers: those who depend on background noise to concentrate, and those who will shave off your eyebrows while you’re sleeping if you so much as sneeze in their presence mid-creative burst. Figure out which one of these you are (I’m the latter) and make sure you’re in the right environment while you’re writing. Sometimes, light background noise like rain can help even those who hate interruptions. Everyone’s different. If you can’t stand noise but need to write in public, invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones. My Beats are a lifesaver.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.

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I Work From Home — Here’s How I Stay Focused and Write … A Lot

Being too easily distracted is just an excuse.

Do you want to know what the most challenging part of my job is?

It’s not coming up with ideas. Or setting deadlines. Or working 10 to 12-hour days during the week.

It’s staying focused.

I get up. I’m tired. I write a lot. Coffee. I write some more. Food. More writing. More coffee.

I write over 5,000 words a day across my many responsibilities as a person creating stuff on the internet. That’s not a complaint — to be completely honest, it’s an accomplishment that took years of hard work and training to achieve. I know writing seems like an easy job to many people, but it’s not. Writers don’t make a lot of money. We have to overcompensate to afford the necessities. You know, like books.

Want to know the best part of my job? I never have to leave my room.

How do I do this? How do I consistently write for my employer, write for my clients, post on this blog, Do All The Things when I’m basically working unsupervised at a tiny desk two feet from my bed?

Great question! I’m glad you asked.

I make daily to-do lists.

Before I go to sleep, I write down in my planner everything I need to get done tomorrow. Sometimes, if I need an extra layer of “do this or else,” I’ll create a virtual list of tasks in Asana (it’s an app built for teams, but I am my own team, so THERE). I do this nightly because I prefer to wake up and start getting stuff done right away. That’s right — sometimes productivity happens even before the coffee’s done. Unless it’s a Friday, of course. Sometimes I let myself sleep in a little later on Fridays. (!)

Some people hate making lists; for some, it just doesn’t work. If a planner doesn’t work and a task manager like Asana doesn’t keep you on track, then making lists just isn’t part of your workflow process. That’s fine. It’s what works for me — it took some trial and error to figure that out — and so that’s what I do. Crossing things off makes me feel good. It will never stop bringing me joy.

I use Cold Turkey.

It’s a desktop app. The free version lets you “block” a selected list of websites for a certain amount of time (during my work day, eight hours). While I’m at work, I can’t check Facebook, get lost in a BuzzFeed vortex, or reply to tweets. It turns out I’m not as addicted to any of these things as I thought: if I really wanted them that badly, I’d just turn the app off.

You’d be surprised how easy it is to avoid distractions when they’re not available. What I love most about this app is that it doesn’t block everything. You can still Google search, you can still check email — it doesn’t block you completely from the internet as a whole unless you tell it to.

My phone doesn’t have very many apps.

I’ve even recently removed email from my phone. I used to be one of those people who was “proud” to say she checked her email every hour, all day long. I can’t, and don’t want to, do that to myself anymore. First of all, email is a grossly ineffective form of communication since most people don’t know how to use it productively. Also, I’m not cool enough to get a lot of emails. 80 percent of the emails I get are from lists, Barnes & Noble, or spam.

I don’t have Facebook, YouTube, or gaming apps on my iPhone at all. I haven’t gotten rid of my WordPress or Twitter apps simply because, to be honest, I need those occasional bursts of satisfaction every time one of you likes a post (my Millennialism is showing … ). But even those things distract me way more often than they should. I love notifications, but I try to minimize them as much as possible.

I don’t like being late.

I get anxious when a deadline approaches. I try to get things done early when I can — bust mostly, I just try to stay on track from day to day. I do not sleep well when there is something that needs to be done that I haven’t gotten around to yet. Yes, I have been late before — I’m not perfect. But it is not an experience that I enjoy, nor have I ever had a reasonable excuse for it.

Above all, I treat my work as if I am a paid professional — because, I guess, I technically am. People are depending on me to get things done. Often times, someone is waiting on me to finish something so they can send it off to someone else. Being late, in my opinion, is unacceptable, and I have a very hard time understanding why there are people who don’t seem to agree. A deadline is a deadline for a reason. It’s disrespectful not to keep a promise.

I love what I do.

I don’t know exactly how I got to this point, but I happen to do a job that I look forward to arriving at and don’t look forward to leaving. It happened unexpectedly and it was the best miracle I could have asked for at 24. Yes, sometimes I get distracted. Sometimes I have a rough day. It happens to all of us. But I genuinely love my job. I WANT to work. I WANT to be productive. I WANT to feel fulfilled.

I know that kind of thing does not come very easily to very many people, so “find a job you love” would not be the best advice to give here. Instead, I’ll tell you this: do what you like. It might be part of your job, it might just be a hobby. Regardless, there has to be a part of your life you love more than you’ve ever loved anything in this world. That is what is going to keep you going, especially when nothing else will.

If you are “blocked,” it is almost always because you’re letting distractions interrupt you. Or you’ve been focusing too long and you need a break. TAKE BREAKS. Switch between tasks every once in awhile, but don’t stop working until you’re done. If that’s too hard, you’re either trying to do too much or you’re not doing the right kind of work for you. Writing is hard. If you’re up for the challenge, make it happen.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.

How Hard Do You Need to Work?

How much is too much? How much is enough?

What does it take, to be a writer?

Or, the more pressing question: how much work is required?

How many hours do you have to put in every day to make it happen?

What happens if you don’t work hard enough?

On the surface, these questions comes off extremely lazy. So, you mean, I have to actually put in effort if I want to build a career? It’s … a challenge?

It’s not that simple, though. Some people work very hard and don’t ever “make it.” Some people seem to be able to make money writing not working very hard at all, at least from the outside looking in.

That’s why writing, as a profession, is so complicated. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all definition of “doing everything right.” You could spend five hours a day writing for 10 years and nothing could come of it. You could write one blog post a week and grow to millions of monthly page views in a matter of years.

So is luck part of the equation? Maybe.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to do any work at all. So how do you know you’re doing enough? How do you stop yourself from working too much?

My best advice for you is this: pick one thing.

Decide to start a blog or start writing a book or choose English or journalism as your major. Pick one thing you are going to focus on for a set amount of time — a year, maybe more. Put all the time and energy you can into that one thing. Learn to balance that one thing with all your other responsibilities — friends; family; work; health. See where that one thing takes you.

And while you’re working on that one thing, learn. Learn how you work. Figure out your ideal writing schedule. Discover what inspires and motivates you. Understand your greatest barriers and master how to overcome them.

It’s during this time you will figure out how hard you personally need to work in order to get things done. Some people can crank out worthwhile blog posts in 30 minutes. For others, it takes hours. You don’t know that until you spend many, many hours figuring all that out.

Only then can you take on another kind of writing project. And another. And another.

When you know how to balance it all, when you know your working style backwards and forwards, that is when you become eligible, as they say, to begin your journey toward succeeding as a writer. Whatever the heck that means for you.

What does it take, to be a writer? How hard do you have to work to make all your dreams come true?

I don’t have the answer to that question, because I am not you. I don’t know how your brain processes information. I don’t know what times of day you’re most productive, what your greatest writing struggles are, where you want to end up or how long you’re going to give yourself to get there. But you do. Or you can, if you take the time to figure it all out for yourself.

There is no magic formula that will tell you how many articles you need to write, how late you need to stay up, who is going to be the most responsive to your posts. It’s trial and error for every single one of us. As long as you’re aware of that, and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to learn how this is all going to play out for you, trust me: you’re going to be just fine. How hard you have to work won’t be a chore or a disappointment. It will just make sense.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.

Yes, Giving 100% Is Enough

People who give 110% are doing it wrong.

For starters, yes, I am aware that to give 110%(+) is not a literal suggestion. However, if another person tells me I need to give 110% to anything I do, they’re going to have to listen to me give a verbal version of this rant, and that’s their fault, not mine.

At one point this year, I worked (briefly) with a client who asked me to give 110% to the work I completed for them. At first, I took it at its non-literal meaning: put in the effort, and maybe you’ll get a cool bonus for a job well done. Awesome. Except not awesome, because my client actually expected me to give more time and effort than I was capable of. Not because I was not willing to do the work, but because after six mornings in a row of waking up to 20 unread messages (you think I’m exaggerating …), I had to say no. No, I cannot give more than 100%. Because if I am to give 110%, I have to take time away from other things. And that is not something someone should have to do for even a paying job.

The second you start giving 110% to something, you give 10% less to something else. Because you are a human. You cannot give more than 100% to all the things in your life. Life, productivity, accomplishing things, surviving, it’s all about balance.

Sometimes you will not be able to give 100% to anything, because there are too many things, most of which are not in your control. Does that make you lazy? Apathetic? Inconsiderate? No. It makes you a person.

If there is anything the creatives of the universe need to hear right now, it is that they are people. Not superhumans. Not overachieving masterminds. People. You can be good at what you do and still need to take a break. You can have enough enthusiasm for your entire department and still need to go home and not think about work for 12 straight hours.

Giving 100% means you know your limits. You know exactly what needs to get done, you put in all the effort to get it done, and then you go home. You rest. You enjoy the rest of your day. Because life is not about just your job, or just your family, or just your personal projects. It is about everything. Everything demands 100% effort. And even 100% effort does not always seem possible.

100% is enough, because it means you’re giving it all you can give. No one should ever expect you to give up more than you are capable of. I love my job as an editor. But when I’ve worked all my hours for the week, I stop working. I have to move on to something else. Not because I wouldn’t love to give more time to a job I love – but because it is not my only job. I have a dozen other responsibilities crying for my attention. I have learned to prioritize. To put in the effort, and then stop when it’s time to stop. You must learn that, too. You must learn that giving 100% will get you everywhere you need to be. Burning yourself out, because you think it will get you ahead – it’s not worth it. Trust me. You’re going to crumble. And it’s going to hurt. And you’re going to have to learn the hard way not to push yourself so dang hard.

Give 100%. To your writing; your loved ones; to yourself. Just enough to get you where you deserve to be, but not enough to leave you off balance, exhausted and regretting all your destructive life choices. Okay? Yes. You’re going to be okay.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.

How to Train Yourself to Stick to Your Own Deadlines

There isn’t always going to be someone waiting for you to finish your work.

I used to be terrible with deadlines. Depending on how much I have going on at one time, sometimes I still struggle. I’m a life-long procrastinator. Sometimes I submit things at 11:58 when they’re due at midnight. It’s easy to think working deadline-based jobs is enough to train you to meet deadlines with ease, but it has taken a lot of self-discipline to improve even a little on my own.

One of the best ways to learn how to stick to writing deadlines is to work with editors, publishers and supervisors who consistently expect you to meet weekly or even daily deadlines. However, if you’re just starting out, you’re having trouble finding that kind of consistent work or you just want to get more practice meeting deadlines, you can’t always rely on someone else to help train you to do so.

Here are a few helpful tips for training yourself, on your own time, to meet deadlines you set for yourself. It takes discipline. It takes consistency. It might take awhile to turn making deadlines into a habit. But it’s a skill all writers and creators can benefit from, whether you’re working for someone else or you’re all on your own.

Tell someone you’re terrified of disappointing

There’s this argument out there that you shouldn’t tell other people about your goals. In some cases, this rule fits nicely: you shouldn’t necessarily tell the whole world you’re working on a new project when you haven’t even started yet. However, sometimes intimidation is a pretty strong form of motivation. I care what people think of me. It’s who I am and in many areas of my life it’s not going to change.

At the beginning of this week I admitted a nearly impossible deadline to my Facebook friends, but said I was going to find a way to make it work. I’m going to report back at the end of the week, and I don’t want to have to admit I was unsuccessful. If you have a person in your life that you really don’t want to disappoint, tell them about your deadline (even if they don’t care). Then go back later with the news that you’ve actually done it (even if they still don’t care). It makes you feel good.

Write it down in multiple places

Normally I use my planner to keep track of everything I need to get done in a single day. Because of a few deadlines I need to meet by the end of the week (deadlines no one else is forcing me to meet – but I need a vacation, gosh darn it), I have three different lists going right now. They all have the same things on them, just structured differently. There’s just something about being able to cross things off in multiple places at once that makes it a thousand times more satisfying.

The more you keep track of your deadlines, the more likely you are to actually stick to them. It gets to the point where you start seeing that deadline everywhere you look – and you have two options: ignore it or finish it so it will leave you alone. You already know which of the two options is going to make you feel better about yourself.

Set up a definite reward – or consequence

That being said, if there’s no incentive for getting something done, it’s less likely to actually get done. I now that if I keep pushing myself as hard as I can, and finish all my work by Friday, I don’t have to do even a minute of work again until January. However, I also know that if I slack off at all, and don’t get everything done, I’m going to have fewer days of vacation time next week – or, if I just stop working now, none at all.

I’m terrified of not getting this time off. I want it. I need it. So I’m going to do whatever it takes to make sure it happens, even if it’s a little miserable for a few more days. You need some kind of definite reward – something you kNOW is or is not going to happen depending on whether you meet your deadline or not. It’s best if you’re not in control of it. For example, you can tell your friend that the two of you can go out Friday night if you get all your work done. If not, she’ll still go without you, and you’ll miss out on all the fun. Incentives. Consequences. The more you train yourself not to give yourself what you want even if you haven’t earned it, the more effective they will become.

Test your limits

So far this week, I’ve done more work in two days than pretty much any day this year. Granted, we’re really not supposed to be working 13-hour days multiple days in a row, but I’ve now proven to myself that, if I ever need to, I can do it. I can put aside things that are less important and focus multiple hours on one project until it’s done. It’s not fun. I would much rather be doing something else. But I’m testing my limits, and I’m surprised at how much more productive I can be when I don’t let myself give up too soon.

Every once in awhile, you need to push yourself to see how far you really can go. Recommended only every once in awhile, but still. Use this as another incentive for seeing how well you can meet deadlines while maintaining quality of work. You’ll be surprised at what you can do when you force yourself to focus and block out the distractions circling around your head. I haven’t touched Netflix in three days. That’s an accomplishment, trust me.

Deadlines are an important part of any job, but careers like writing and editing are especially dependent on meeting deadlines, quick turnarounds and completing spontaneous projects. The more time you spend teaching yourself to make deadlines an absolute priority, the more marketable you become. Employers and clients notice when you’re always on time. They don’t just appreciate it: sometimes they’ll trust you with more responsibilities. YAAAAS.

Are you always going to be perfect? Of course not. Things happen. But it’s never too early nor too late to teach yourself how to rock any and all deadlines. The earlier you can get it done, the better. The more good work you can do in less time, the more productive you’re going to be overall.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.

You Have Two Weeks – What Are You Going to Do with Them?

Pick one thing and do it – with 100% effort from start to finish.

Many writers, creative people in general, have one thing in common: they’re really, really good at wanting to do things, but putting them off as long as possible.

So when the end of the year appears, harsh and frantic and demanding, one of two things usually happens. You either transplant Stuff You Want to Do from 2016’s list over to 2017, or you take a deep breath and try to get as much done as possible before you have to throw your old calendar away.

You don’t have to give up and Try Again Next Year. You also don’t have to Try to Do Everything right here, right now. But you SHOULD do something. One thing. You should decide how to make the most of the rest of the time you have left before 2016 ends forever.

Why? Because, why not?

What are you going to do? Work really hard this week and then take next week off (because you can and you deserve it)? Go easy on yourself this week because the holidays are hard – which is totally OK because you’re allowed to be human? How about finally doing that one thing you’ve been putting off all year – submitting that article, emailing that editor, finishing that book, finally starting that blog?

I’m all for using the New Year as an excuse to start fresh and Do All The Things. But this is the time of year for Doing All The Things You Haven’t Yet. 2016 is not over. We all wish it would end already, but there are two weeks left. Two weeks to do what you need to do. If you already have in mind something you haven’t done yet, that’s your thing. It’s time to plan out how you’re going to get it done before the year ends, sit down and do it.

Why? Because if not now, then when? Never is a major possibility when you’re actively procrastinating. There are probably a lot of things in your life that are already wrapping up. Next week is especially critical, because most people are going to stop – or at least slow down significantly. So sure, maybe you’ll email someone and they won’t get back to you because they’re enjoying a nice tropical vacation while you’re stuck in your office trying to meet a goal no one else seems to care about. But that’s why it’s so important. Fewer distractions. Less of a chance that someone will reject you within two hours of hitting the submit button.

Whatever is holding you back – there’s no more room for excuses. Look at your calendar. Look at all the things you have accomplished in the past year. Look at your list of things that haven’t been accomplished yet. What’s the one thing you still want to cross off that list before everything resets? Circle it, highlight it, underline it, whatever you need to do. And then do it. Now. Don’t wait. Right now, the outcome is the least of your worries. Finish it. Get it off your mind. Don’t drag it along with you into 2017. Get it done and, in the most basic sense of the idea, leave it behind. If you transfer it over to your 2017 to-do list, you’re just going to put it off all year, again.

You have two weeks left to Do That Thing. This time of year is busy in many ways and awfully slow and boring in others. Just make this part of the deal.

You have to weeks left. What are you going to do? Why? How? Don’t ask when. Do it now. Start it now. Finish it soon. Start fresh; new.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.

A Different Way to Think About Managing Your Time

It’s about the time you DO still have.

When you think about the amount of hours in a day, you probably also start creating a mental list of things you don’t have time for. We’ve all done this. However, if you want to make better use of your time, you might want to consider changing the way you think about time management.

It’s actually very rare that you “don’t have time” for a specific thing. You just end up filling all available time for that thing with other things. Most likely things you would rather be doing – things you want to do – instead of that one thing you probably really should do – the thing you NEED to do.

You will always find a way to fill up time. There are 24 hours in a day, around 16 of which you will probably spend awake. That’s a lot of time to get a lot of things done. Eight spare hours of awake time if you follow a 40-hour workweek schedule – seven if you have a long commute both ways. It does not take you eight hours to accomplish everything else. No, really. There is always spare time – time you will spend on your phone, or in front of your TV. You don’t always realize it, but it happens. Often.

Time management is not about assessing the time you DON’T have to do something. It is about surveying the free, waking hours you do have, and filling them with both things you want to do and things you need to do. Look at writing as something that needs to happen – if you want to finish writing that book or keep up with your blog. It doesn’t matter if you don’t FEEL like doing it: you have to. And if you allow yourself just enough time to get it done, it’s that much more likely to happen.

Writing isn’t always fun. You’re going to feel pressured and stressed, sometimes. in some ways, that’s a good thing. I, for example, accomplish less when I have less to do or fewer deadlines. Separate your ‘want to do’ time from your ‘need to do’ time. Yes, I want to binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy for about four hours today, but first I have to get at least four hours of work done. I have time to binge-watch Grey’s for eight or more hours – that doesn’t mean I’m going to do that. Hopefully …

I’ve written it plenty of times before, but schedule, schedule, schedule. Block out that writing time, sit down and get it done. If you have more time than you think you do, don’t wait – just get it done. Set a small goal and just try to get there before your block of writing time ends. If you have to put writing off until the end of the day, do so – and find a way to force yourself to do it even when you don’t want to. I’m not telling you this because I’m good at it – I’ve already told you my almost-didn’t-win-NaNoWriMo-because-procrastination story. We can all do a little better at using our time wisely.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find out how Meredith survives another near death experience – I mean go do some work.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.

How to Write Your Way Into a Flow State, Fast

Your brain on writing is a MACHINE.

My favorite writing moments are those in which I am no longer sitting in this chair, typing on this keyboard, counting the minutes until I have to move on to the next thing. I am not just writing a story: I am IN the story. I can see events playing out in my head as they are being written. Overall, I’m no longer hungry or emotional or anxious – I’m just working. Nothing else matters.

Productivity experts call these kinds of experiences ‘flow states.’ Entering a flow state is both a mental and physical experience. Just a few minutes of writing without distractions or breaking your concentration can send you into a flow state, during which you will write, probably more than you figured you could in a short amount of time, without feeling the need to break your concentration for any reason.

Flow states are important for fast and focused writing. Some projects work better when completed under flow states than others. Regardless, read on to learn a few ways you can launch yourself into Productivity Extreme, without wasting any writing time.

Set a (very loose) word count goal

Before you start, have in mind a relatively low word count goal – 500 words is what I typically recommend, because for me, by the time I hit 500 words, I’m ‘in the zone.’ Having a goal as you’re sitting down to start writing helps you process that in the time you are going to be sitting here, you are going to write 500 words. If you go over, great. But all that matters is that you get to 500 words.

Usually what happens – depending on a few internal and external factors – is that you enter a flow state a few hundred words before you hit your word count goal. You might even be so into what you’re writing that you fly past it without even noticing. At that point, you might just decide to continue – there is no pressure to get to a certain point beyond your original goal, and if you reach a point where you want to stop, you can. But once you’re in that flow state, you might not stop for awhile, or until you’re done – which is pretty awesome. It feels really good to sit down not knowing whether or not you’re going to be able to do it, and then sit back an hour or so later and realize you’ve done it – and it wasn’t even that hard after all.

Clear your desk, silence your phone and shut off your wifi

I’ve had people argue with me in the past about this advice, especially when it comes to the internet. The idea that you need to be online at all to write – at least the kind of writing in which you’ll generally want to enter a flow state for – does not make sense to me. There are going to be some cases in which you have to look things up, I understand that. But the more you willingly expose yourself to distractions, the more likely you are to be distracted.

When I really need to get into a flow state as quickly as possible, I clear my desk of everything non-essential – meaning my monitor, keyboard, mouse and coffee mug are pretty much the only things within reach. I keep my phone on silent and flip it over – you’re not so important that you need to be reached by phone 24/7, trust me, and if you are, you’re probably not spending your time reading a blog post about flow states. I don’t always turn my internet off, UNLESS I’m working on my book and have blocked out specific time in the evening for it. I sit down to work on my novel, and it is the most important thing in those moments. That is how you get stuff done. For a block of time, you put your work first, before everyone and everything else. It may only be an hour a night – but immersed in a flow state, you can get a LOT done in 60 minutes.

Start writing anything – even if it’s awful

You can’t enter a flow state if you don’t start writing something. Often you probably get too caught up in writing something ‘good’ and that stops you from being able to transition into this seemingly effortless state of productivity. When you’re in that state, you usually stop worrying about whether or not what you’re doing is perfect – that comes later. But you have to get into that mindset first.

Sometimes your mind doesn’t come up with the ideal direction for your prose to go until you’re already writing something else. The way our brains seem to spontaneously create stuff out of nothing is also pretty cool. You don’t have to understand it once you’re in it – you can just let your thoughts drive your writing forward, even if they’re all over the place and don’t make total sense right now. Always remember that writing always comes first; editing always comes second. You can’t edit if you don’t write. You can’t have a good piece of writing until you’ve written something not so good first.

Everyone writes differently – not just in style, but the process itself. Some people don’t like flow states. They don’t want to feel completely separated from the world while writing. That’s fine. Productivity-wise, this might help you – and it might not. Try it out and see. You’re either going to find out you never want to do it intentionally again, or you’re going to want to do it as often as possible. That’s the great thing about being a writer. At the end of the day, you decide how you work. The results of that work – well, that’s up to you.

You might be wondering: did I write this post under the influence of a flow state? Actually, yes, but certainly not intentionally. I lost track of time. That’s the best part, really. If you’ve never experienced this before, you’re going to love it.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.

How to Rearrange Your Writing Space for Maximum Productivity

Distraction-free, comfortable writing spaces are essential.


Want to be more productive so you can write as much as possible in less time? Your writing environment is more important than you might think. Here are a few ways you can rearrange your writing space to ensure optimal productivity in the weeks, months and even years to come.

Position your desk so it faces a door

I’ve always been skeptical of whether or not things like feng shui, which suggests the best possible arrangement of objects in your surroundings. When I ‘flipped’ my desk around after buying a new computer this summer, I didn’t turn it to face my bedroom/office door on purpose. I just didn’t want to face away from the windows anymore, and staring at the wall was getting old. Even though I still can’t see the door from where I’m sitting (thanks, 27-inch monitor), I’m being completely honest when I say my environment has felt different ever since – in a good way.

I’m not a Chinese philosophy expert, so I don’t know much about why this might work. But it can’t hurt. I like to think it’s because, facing the door, you’re not only literally and figuratively open to people who might enter your space, but you’re more willing to accept new ideas that come your way. Abstract, but whatever gets you through the day.

Clear your desk

Though I like to claim I’m organized, I usually end up with way too much clutter on my desk. Right now there’s a cup holding all my pens, a CrashCourse mug housing my 1000 containers of lip balm, my planner, sticky notes, a hair clip, my Blue Yeti, two empty coffee mugs that actually had coffee in them at some point and, of course, my computer monitor, keyboard and mouse. THAT’S TOO MUCH STUFF.

When you’re writing, all you need is whatever piece of technology you use to write. I’m getting better at clearing my desk, or at least pushing the distracting objects behind my monitor, while I’m writing. I usually keep my sticky notes and a pen nearby in case I need to jot down an idea that has nothing to do with what I’m currently working on. Oh, most importantly … that phone? You know the one. Shove it in a drawer. I still check it every 10 minutes, completely breaking my concentration every time. Stop that.

Get a comfortable chair

Think this has nothing to do with writing? It sure does. I’m currently stuck with the most uncomfortable sitting situation you could imagine. My chair is broken, so it’s constantly sinking down when it’s supposed to lock into place when I adjust the height. I haven’t bought a new cushion for it in at least six years. I’m in this chair a lot. And I’ve stopped complaining about my back and shoulders since it’s my fault I have yet to invest in something that’s not permanently going to damage my spine.

You need to be comfortable when you write. Writing is supposed to take you away from the present and transport you to somewhere else. That can’t happen if you’re constantly having to adjust your sitting position. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive desk chair on the market, but you’re going to get a lot more done writing-wise if you have a comfortable place to do it.

What does your writing space look like? Messy or clean, I’d love to see how you’ve arranged your work station. :) Tweet me a pic @MegDowell. I’ll post one too!

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.

5 Things Killing Your Writing Productivity

You’re doing this to yourself, you know.


How do you become a more productive writer? That’s a loaded question. Productivity, as you hopefully already know, requires a few major attributes in terms of writing well, often, with purpose. One reason many self-proclaimed aspiring writers can’t get any writing done is because they can’t get past common roadblocks to writing productivity … or rather, they don’t even know what these potential roadblocks are.

There are habits and circumstances killing your writing productivity. Here are the most common ones, and how to extinguish them.

1. Self-editing

Self-editing, while you’re writing, is destructive and time-consuming. It’s tempting; I know. I still do it way more often than I should, too. If you’re always stopping to fix what you just wrote five seconds ago, your piece isn’t going to move forward very quickly, if at all. As tempting as it may be, save editing for later. Always finish writing first to make the best use of your writing time.

2. Technology

Too much dependence on tech can distract you and slow down your progress. Sometimes you get caught up in a new writing or productivity app and put your actual writing second instead of making it a priority. I’m not saying tech is evil. I’m not saying you can’t use it. But if it’s taking away from your writing time, you might want to consider relying less on apps and programs to stimulate your creativity.

3. Excuses

What’s your excuse for not getting any writing done yesterday? Mine was “I’ve already been staring at a screen for too long today, this 1000 words can wait.” Excuses are your worst enemy and probably one of the hardest writing hurdles to overcome, especially as a beginner. They’re how you convince yourself to put writing at the bottom of your to-do list. Break them down.

4. Looking for motivation/inspiration

Do you always try to “get inspired” before sitting down to write? You have things a little backwards. Motivation and inspiration are the result of actually doing something. You probably won’t usually feel like writing until you’ve been sitting in a chair writing for awhile. Write, and you will feel motivated to write. Write, and you will feel inspired to keep writing.

5. Lack of focus

Sometimes I realize I’m trying to work on too many writing projects at once, and that’s why I struggle to get more writing done. You’re much better off focusing on one project at a time, even if that means you sit down, spend an hour on one thing, take a break, and then spend another hour on something else. You need to focus on something in order to make real progress with it.

To accomplish everything you want to accomplish as a writer, you need to get as much writing done as possible. Plenty of things can and will get in your way of that. Stuff happens. What’s important is that you try, over time, to stay as consistent and focused as possible. Slow, steady work is better than no work at all. Writing, as a process, is different for everyone. Your ability to be productive despite your current roadblocks is what makes you stand out. We all struggle. It’s part of the journey. You have the power to overcome it, though. Write on.

What’s killing your writing productivity this week? How do you plan on crushing those things to get more done next week?

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.