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.

Top Tips to Make You a More Productive Writer in 2017

All the resources you need to maximize writing productivity this year.

Since I’m either sleeping, gaming or traveling as you’re reading this (NOT WORKING – YAY), I’ve gone ahead and rounded up a series of articles to help you maximize your writing productivity in 2017.

Whatever you might have struggled with productivity-wise this year, the resources below should be able to direct you toward strategies you can use to write more, better, happier. Let me know which topics are most helpful to you, so I can write more about them this year.

How to make more time for writing

How to Organize Your Writing Time for Optimal Productivity

How I Find Time to Write Every Day

Why It’s OK to Say, “I Just Don’t Have Time Right Now”

Time Management Tips for Writers

A Different Way to Think About Time Management

How to get more writing done in less time

5 Things Killing Your Writing Productivity

The Trick That Pushed Me to Write 26,000 Words in 3 Days

My Productivity Formula

Writing Productivity Tips: How to Write 5,000+ Words Per Day

How to Write Your Way Into a Flow State, Fast

How to create an optimal writing schedule

How to Structure Your Life to Make Room for Creativity

Productivity Tips for People Who Can Only Write at Night

This Is What a Full-Time Writer’s Schedule Looks Like

How to Train Yourself to Stick to Your Own Deadlines

What to do when you can’t write

A Writer’s Guide to Powering Through Discouragement

Here’s What to Do When You’re Struggling to Focus

Is Tech Hurting Your Writing Productivity?

You Don’t Need Motivation to Write – You Just Need Fewer Distractions

How to Minimize Writing Distractions

Motivation for writers of all disciplines

5 Things to Remember When Writing All the Time Starts Seeming Pointless

How to Turn Inspiration Into Motivation, and Motivation Into Productivity

4 YouTube Videos to Watch When You Desperately Need Writing Inspiration

If You’re Writing, You’re Not Wasting Your Time

4 TED Talks That Will Inspire You to Write Again

Start thinking about your writing goal(s) for the upcoming year. What’s it going to take to achieve them? Rest, recharge, and get ready to write more than you ever have before in the months to come. YOU. CAN. DO. THIS.

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.

How to Structure Your Life to Make Room for Creativity

There’s a lot to balance – but it’s essential that you do it.

Creativity is something many people have, but don’t use. There were times in college I can remember going weeks without doing anything other than homework and consuming other people’s creations. It’s important to continuously exercise your creativity – though you won’t be able to do this everywhere you go. Sometimes work, people and just life in general get in your way. That’s why you have to learn to block out time in your schedule for everything – including your own personal, private time to be creative.

Here are all the things you can expect to have to balance – not including Adult Responsibilities, which you just have to do regardless of whether you want to or not – if you want to live a healthy, fulfilling and vastly creative life.


I’ve turned down way too many chances to spend time with people I like for the sake of writing, and that’s not recommended. Even creative people who consider themselves introverts need a social life. People who go out into the world, form relationships and experience real life are better writers – and more creative, in terms of application, in general. Make time for friends, family, significant others, whoever is in your life that’s important to you. Plan something social outside of school/work at least once a week. Go out to breakfast or lunch or for a drink with someone. You need it. And you DO have time for it, whether you think you do or not.


Writing or being creative at work does not count as a creative project. I don’t even consider more creative freelancing gigs to be creative projects. I think there needs to be a separation between the things you create as part of your job/career and the things you create voluntarily. It’s hard to approach creativity the same way under someone else’s guidance than when you’re calling all the shots. It sounds exhausting, having a creative career working under someone else and then coming home to work on your own projects, but trust me, if you really want to stretch your limits, you’ll make it work. Sometimes, you’ll work jobs you couldn’t care less about. At some point, you might run headfirst into your dream career. Balancing that with your own personal work is still hard – but it’s absolutely possible.


Dedicate time, maybe in the evenings or on weekends, to spend time with your hobbies. Anything you like to do on your own time – usually without any stress or negative pressure to excel – can be considered a hobby. I like to play video games sometimes. It’s fun, it’s stimulating and I can get lost in it for hours at a time (but I usually don’t, because who has time for that? …). I look forward to Saturday nights when I have a few spare hours to do some much-needed zombie slaughtering. Some people play sports. Even things like writing, dancing and music are hobbies – unless you’re working on something specific, like choreographing or writing a poem. Writing in general can be your hobby; writing a poem is technically a creative project.

Creative projects

Creative projects can be hobbies, but the idea behind making time for creativity specifically is that you always have something you’re working on – something with a start and end point. I’m always working on a novel in the background, for example, even if it’s not my priority. It’s not my work, but it’s also not my hobby. A creative project forces you to actually do something with your creative motivations. It’s not always relaxing – sometimes it’s even harder than your actual job. But if you’re a true creative, you’re going to need this time to literally or figuratively sketch out and develop the many ideas popping up in your head.


You can’t forget to take care of yourself – no matter how busy you think you are. Things like cooking, exercising and sleep are not going to take away from your productivity. In fact, the healthier you are, the more productive you are going to be. So set aside at least an hour or so every night just for you. You can watch Netflix or play games on your phone … it doesn’t matter. Stop working. Give your brain a rest. And then PHYSICALLY rest. Go to sleep. Use Bedtime, if you have an iPhone. Set a specific sleep-wake pattern for yourself and stick with it. Sleep deprivation and stress WILL kill your creativity, 100 percent.

Be creative. Make time. It’s worth it – but only if you put as much time and effort into it as you want and need to.

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.

Is Tech Hurting Your Writing Productivity?

Technology is awesome! But too much of a good thing can hurt your productivity as a writer.


Does your tech basically control your whole life? If your answer is no, I don’t believe you. You will, nine times out of 10, stop writing in the middle of a paragraph to respond to a text message. You will gladly open up a new Google search without finishing your thought, because you “need to look something up for your story.” And all those desktop notifications for your apps … they’re great! Until they aren’t.

Technology is awesome! But too much of a good thing can hurt your productivity as a writer. Is it possible that the more we focus on the tools and apps we use to write, the less we focus on our actual writing?

Isn’t it great to be able to track your writing progress?

Of course it is! You can track your word count, your page count, how much progress you’ve made in the last week/month/year – that’s very motivational to many writers. Quantity may not be the most important thing a writer tracks in terms of progress, but in many cases, it helps us measure whether or not we’re doing a good job. Self-accountability. You all know I love self-accountability.

But at what point do these numbers take our eyes off the bigger picture? I still catch myself stopping in the middle of what i’m writing to glance at my word count. It’s a bad habit that I’ve had for, oh, probably about a decade now (*feels old*). It’s a habit anyone can break, but when those numbers are always right there in front of you, it’s not necessarily easy.

Will spending money on an app or program give you more of an incentive to write?

You might think so, but I’m going to have to say no to this one. A few months ago I invested in a new computer, because my laptop was dying and so would my career if I didn’t get better tech to be able to work. Before that, I used a six-year-old Macbook Pro (yeah) to do all my writing and other projects. Once I started freelancing, I saved up for six months before getting the tech I needed. You might not always need a new piece of tech, whether it be a computer, a tablet, a writing program or what have you, but even though I did, I used my writing as an incentive for getting the tech, not the other way around.

You’re much better off starting with what you have, getting into a solid writing routine that works, getting  more comfortable with your writing style and establishing a decent online presence (and in some cases, a decent client base if you’re freelancing) before investing in tech you don’t necessarily need. Treat it like a reward. Don’t treat yourself to the reward before you actually accomplish the task.

Does tech eliminate distractions, or create more of them?

A fancy new writing program doesn’t make you immune to distractions, particularly of the internet and mobile variety. Some apps and online tools are so flashy and capable that they actually end up taking away from your writing experience. In Microsoft Word alone, I have dozens of fonts to choose from and can format my pages any way I want. I could spend 10 minutes making my chapter titles look as professional as they ever will under my control. That’s still 10 minutes I could have spent writing, but didn’t actually get any writing done at all.

There are tools you can use to help you avoid distractions, such as programs that only let you write in one window without fancy functions or formatting buttons. But we can do the exact same thing with a pen and paper, which gives your eyes a break from staring at a screen and your wrists a break from typing (if you have atrocious posture like me, this benefit in particular is huge). My advice? Choose something simple. And log out of Facebook for the afternoon. And stop Googling every little thing. Yes, I know you’re guilty of that, as am I. Write. Research is much less important, in your first draft, than you think.

How to set limits

I’m not here to criticize writing apps or shun you for using technology to boost your writing productivity. We just need to be careful with how much we depend on our tech to help us complete our tasks. Tech may be smart, but it can’t do your work for you. Here are a few ways you can – yes, I’m going there – use technology in moderation to get your work done.

  • Have a good reason for getting a new piece of tech. Ask yourself: what problem am I currently having, related to writing productivity, that this new app or tool will solve? I didn’t start using Google Docs for the majority of my writing until about a year ago. Before that, I found myself going into every writing session feeling stressed. Not because of the writing itself … but because of how disorganized all my files were. I would see that every time I went to open my documents. Google Docs became the quickest and most convenient solution for me. Don’t just download a new app because you think it looks cool. Seriously. Don’t.
  • Set specific cutoff times before and after which you do not use any tech for writing. One of the first things I do when I wake up in the morning is write a few pages in my journal. Yes – writing, by hand, on paper. I am the kind of person who needs to organize thoughts and plan things out before I get my day started. I need to do a little free writing – but not by staring at a screen. It makes your brain tired, after awhile. Give it a rest. Really.
  • Separate out your time between the time it takes you to get organized and the time you actually spend writing. When I open up the document my novel lives in every morning, it honestly takes me longer than it probably should to locate which part of the book I want to start working on. Sometimes I have to read a few preceding pages before I can get started. Sometimes I want to turn a specific feature on or off, or I want to set a timer. Don’t let messing with your tech take away from your actual writing time. When your tech time is up, start writing. When your writing time is up, close out, shut down and read a book. Or something.

Technology makes it possible for writers to communicate with one another, work with teams across the world, prioritize tasks – pretty much anything you can imagine, excluding all the sci-fi stuff you secretly love making up in your spare time (or is that just me?), can be done with tech. It’s a great thing to have. But we can’t forget the most important thing about our writing process: the actual words on those virtual pages. The stories. The characters. Getting lost in those fictional moments, and doing so because you are not a piece of tech. You are a person. A storyteller. Make that a priority above all else, always.

What do you think? Do we rely too much on technology to enhance our writing experience? Which apps and tools do you use? How do you set limits for yourself and still make writing a priority?

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.

Writing Productivity Tips: How to Write 5,000+ Words Per Day

Writing productivity is essential for all elements of a writer’s professional life. But where do you start?


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.

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