The tips you’re about to devour come from 11 of the world’s most savvy writers. And I owe this entire blog post to Sharon Crosby – a language tutor, with 6 years experience, and young writer, who is currently working on her first science fiction novel (watch this space!)
11 secrets from leading experts on how to increase writing productivity (by sharon crosby)
Writers are getting tired of all the articles revealing ‘magical ways on how to increase writing productivity’. The reason is that not all of the suggested tips on the Internet can be effective and appropriate; very often they have a generic approach and are written by inexperienced writers.
#1. Mary Jaksch
When you try to write your first draft well, you are creating and editing at the same time (activities which activate different areas of the brain). This is like being in a car and stepping on the accelerator and the brake at the same time. You won’t get anywhere fast!
I would recommend a simple way on how to improve your writing – carry a notebook with you at all times. Capture ideas in it, doodle in it, and collect snippets of dialog around you, and use it for your daily writing practice. You can use a digital notebook, or buy an attractive real notebook to handwrite your ideas.
#2. Kristen Lamb
When we are new, we must work with self-imposed deadlines so no one will “fire” us if we don’t write. But, make the goal public to friends, family and social media and then peer pressure is fabulous for motivation.
How much material we have to draw upon depends on how aggressive we are at “filling the reservoir.” Then write. Keep going. Do NOT stop and edit. We learn by DOING and most people cannot WRITE a full eight hours a day (even us pros). So parcel out time for learning and researching, then write, write, and write some more. We can’t edit what we never WRITE. No half-finished “perfect” book has ever become a runaway success.
#3. Jo Linsdell
#4. Jessica Millis
“I have always believed that the secret of high productivity lies mainly in two things – discipline and motivation. Your lifestyle does affect your work and as long as you have the wrong life schedule your productivity will not achieve its maximum potential.
Also you need to be highly motivated by the right goals; you need to replace such general goal as “to get fame and popularity” by small ones like “to write 1000 words per day” or “to get published till the next month”. Only practical goals can motivate enough.
I would recommend to all young writers to work a lot for their dream as no one ever truly succeeded without hardworking. You should not be satisfied with what you’ve got, but should always seek for more. Seek for any helpful contacts, attend additional workshops, look for publishing opportunities and for any other chance to get experience”.
#5. Therese Walsh
“I increase my writing productivity tremendously by turning off social media and sometimes shutting down my Internet access all together. I’ll then do a set of noise-cancelling headphones, listen to something meditative and without words, and begin writing.
I would recommend young writers to be willing to hear criticism of their work, and know that going into writing can be a humbling profession. Consider that there are better ways to write (a character, a scene, a story) than the way you’ve chosen. Do the hard slog that is revision when you know in your gut that it’s the right thing for the story”.
#6. Bamidele onibalusi
For example, if I want to write a 30,000 words ebook, it is much more productive to focus on writing 1,000 words daily no matter what, every day for 30 days, than to try to write a lot on a particular day, and then miss some days or weeks in between.
As writers, we tend to focus a lot on what we can do in the short term, and we fail to realize the impact of short, consistent action in the long run. Focusing too much on doing a lot right NOW will often result in overwhelm, staring at the blank page for hours and eventually doing nothing for a day.
However, aiming to write just 500 words, or just 1,000 words for the day is practical. It is very easy for your brain to grasp that, and very soon you would have developed an habit that will help you achieve a lot more”.
#7. Phil James
“Ask yourself this simple question: Can I complete what I need to complete in the next five minutes? If so, do it; if not, write down step-by-step what you need to do and set a five minute goal for completing every step.
I would like to advise young writers to be adventurous and experimental, but don’t stop writing when you feel tired or self-conscious about your work. Train to resist the urge to stop. Laziness is a far more harmful deterrent than a lack of skill.”
The Struggle With Distractions
You have scheduled the ideal writing time to start on your book. It could be early in the morning or late at night when everyone in your home has gone to bed. You show up at your keyboard, outline in hand, ready to get those words out of your head and down on paper.
If this drama sounds like you, your case is not unusual. In the age of social media, email, notifications, and every other form of digital media that is wrapped up in shiny armor to attract users, we all fall into the trap of instant urgency. When it comes to time management, that is right out the window when it comes to our need to feed the instant gratification addiction.
But dealing with the online digital warfare is not the only obstacle. Many writers, either just starting out or who write for a living, have to navigate around family obligations, work schedules, and the multiple barrage of ‘life events’ that hold us back from working on our writing.
I know what it is like to waste time drifting down the river of endless distractions, feeling as if your limited time to write is being stolen from you every time you sit down to get to work. If you follow the strategies and key suggestion in this post, not only will you get your book written in 30 days but, you will create the productive habit of daily writing. But this isn’t just about being a productive typist. We will look at the tools to simplify and organize your work. You will be able to cancel out the time thieves coming for your valuable time over and over again.
Distractions are everywhere. We can’t avoid them, but we can limit the amount of influence they have in our lives. The good news is, you can control most of the devices and systems set up to pull you into a time-suck oblivion.
The ‘Block Your Time’ Strategy for Writing Productivity
“When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “One word at a time,” and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time.”
You can only be productive if you are committed to a course of action for finishing your project. When asked, “How do you write so many books?” Stephen King replied: “One word at a time.” Sounds too simple but, when we narrow it down, there is no other way.
Set up a 30-minute block of time to write. I would recommend not using your phone for this. I used to do that and what happened is, I continuously checked it for messages. If I had one, I got sucked into responding. So the first thing is, phone off. Non-negotiable. You might think you need it for using some fancy app but actually, people have been writing and publishing books for thousands of years. They had nothing but basic tools. We can do the same.
Buy an alarm clock. Use your watch. Whatever it takes, but use something not connected to the Net. isolate your writing time at all costs. Now, you might not be using the Wordstar 4.0 like George R.R. Martin, and that is okay, you don’t have to.
So the next step is to disengage from the internet . Turn off the wifi. Pull out the hardline. Disconnect from that monster. You can still write your book offline. Later I’ll introduce you to my favorite distraction free apps.
There will be no research while writing. You are writing one word at a time until you hit 1000 words. Research comes later. Make a notation in your book that you have to check something. Then, when you have several items that need to be researched, block in a time for that.
I know what you are thinking. This system is too easy, it can’t work. There must be a trick. The only trick is to isolate yourself for a very limited time from the world that is robbing you of your one precious resource: Time. Yes, it is being taken from you, and now, you are claiming it back. That’s it.
Don’t allow anything to dictate your schedule during this valuable block of time. Treat it like real estate. Mark it into your calendar. Be diligent with this habit and you will stop the excuses for why you didn’t get your work done today.
If you struggle with time management here is one strategy for making time to finish your work. The 4-step Eisenhower Matrix of Time and Task Management, which aligns tasks by importance and urgency, has helped many professionals make priorities and increase productivity. It may help you become a more prolific writer as well.
How to Improve Your Writing Productivity With These 9 No-Nonsense Tips
Let’s be real, achieving optimal productivity can be a challenge. We have more tools than ever at our fingertips and with endless streams of smart devices, apps, calendars and planners, we should, in theory, be infinitely productive. But, how many of us are consistently hitting the mark? Our brains simply aren’t wired for the constant noise, consumption of information, and screen time. At the end of the work day, most writers are left tired, scattered and distracted. So, what can be done to enhance your craft? No matter what kind of writer you are, this article will outline tips to help you at any stage in your creative journey.
If you’re a writer who is struggling to meet your word count, would like to write more efficiently while boosting the quality of your project, or are looking for general productivity tips, you’ve come to the right place. Improving productivity in your content creation should not mean sacrificing your craft or creativity – in fact, they should enhance each other. There are countless ways to become a better and more disciplined writer. We’ve compiled a short list of nine tips to get you started in your new rhythm:
1 | Turn Off The Noise
The average Gen Zer is used to two screens playing in front of them at any given time. Two screens, two audiovisual sources, two steady streams of information and distractions. The devices playing before us are complicated: while they can entertain and educate, they also are designed to sell us products and services. To increase your writing productivity and generate mental output, you need to mute the input. Consuming constant advertisements competing for your time, money and attention is not the recipe a writer will benefit from. If you feel that your writing is unoriginal, you may be a victim of content overload.
2 | Take Care Of Your Body
Hydrate, feed your brain and eyes with proper nutrition, get adequate sleep, adopt good posture, stretch, get your heart pumping and your blood flowing, experience the outdoors and breathe fresh air. Your body is the temple that houses your mind and soul. If it’s stressed, unhealthy, or failing, you can guarantee that your writing and productivity will suffer as a result. If you have big ideas but find yourself too sluggish or hazy to execute on those ideas, chances are you need to devote some attention to your own self care before trying to push yourself harder. Once you’re taking your physical and mental health seriously, you can develop consistent habits and become more disciplined.
3 | Read More Books
Twitter has not replaced books and it never will. While it’s important to consume others’ writing to improve your own, the research shows that you need to limit the amount of content that you consume. And if you limit what you consume, that means you need to prioritize what you read. What would it look like for you to thoughtfully curate the words that you allowed into your mind? As the saying goes, you are what you eat. Similarly, you write what you read.
4 | Write Every Day, No Exceptions
When we say every day, we mean every single day. Julia Cameron, the author of the classic book The Artist’s Way, encourages a concept called “morning pages,” the practice of handwriting three physical pages of what are essentially journal entries – every morning. While not necessarily focused on word count (being handwritten and all) she emphasizes no less than three pages. This discipline opens up the mind and allows a writer’s thoughts and ideas to flow, creating a daily habit on a schedule, a habit which then becomes the writer’s tool. It’s believed that there’s something to writing by hand, because of the slower pace that allows our brain to outrun our hand on the page, avoiding constant starting and stopping and thus pulling our writing ever forward.
Set an alarm clock and a word count goal. We suggest at least 1,000 words per day during one hour per day. It doesn’t need to be handwritten. It doesn’t have to be your magnum opus. It doesn’t need to appear anywhere on social media. It just needs to look like words escaping your brain and onto the page (or keyboard). If you commit to writing every day, you’ll find that, over time, you’ll write faster and more efficiently. So get on a writing schedule. Set hard and fast goals. Crank out that first draft on a schedule; it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece but a first step is always better than nothing.
5 | Work With Accountability Partner
An accountability partner has a huge potential to increase your writing productivity. Procrastination is easy to sweep under the rug when no one is watching, but when you have a partner keeping tabs on your writing output, it means you can no longer mess around or be lazy. Make a habit of meeting up one-on-one on zoom or at a coffee shop or library (when it’s safe to do so). Discuss your project outlines before proceeding with your first drafts. Vet each other’s ideas, send each other articles, bookmark titles to read, and other examples of great written content as well. As fellow writers, you can help each other with everything from brainstorming to hashing out an outline to revising that final draft.
Keep A To-Do List
All of these mundane ideas belong to a single productivity tool. The reassuring ding or swoosh of completing an item in Things, Trello, or Asana should fill you with an alarming sense of satisfaction. Like an artful gardener, take special pride in weeding out items from your to-do list that you’ve no intention of completing.
Writers can choose from a plethora of productivity tools. Far better to pick one and stick to it. It might not be perfect, but your time is best spent writing. Jumping from one productivity app or tool to the next is a form of procrastination.
If in doubt, get into the habit of recording tasks throughout the day on a spreadsheet, the notes app on your computer, or in a dedicated productivity app like Trello or ToDoist. That way you can focus on writing and not on administrative tasks.
Think In Terms of Systems
Former U.S. Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink gets up at 4-4:30 a.m. every morning to train, so he doesn’t have to worry about becoming unfit. (Visit his Instagram feed for motivational images that will get you out of bed!) He’s also an accomplished business and children’s book author!
Warren Buffet reads every day for almost the entire day, so he recognises smart investments before his competitors. Whatever your most important work looks like, create a system, so you focus on it, almost exclusively, at the same time or place. You’ll know you’ve succeeded when it’s become a habit you follow without question.
Use software if you must. For example, say you spend thirty minutes trying to arrange important calls with interviewees or writing clients. These calls and interviews are important, but logistics are less so. You could put a time-saving system that automatically helps clients or interviewees book times in your calendar using a tool like Calendly or Booklikeaboss.
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Season 3, Episode 3 – Christine Tulley, Writing Productivity Strategies
Christine: I know even at Findlay, when I teach faculty writers, I’ll say “Let’s have a 30-day period on this thing. And it’s going to be terrible. It’ll be like a juice cleanse, but we’re going to all get over it and you’re going to get rid of that yucky projects and get it off your desk so that you can do something that you really want to.”
Minseok: And I’m Minseok Choi. Composing written work can often prove to be a challenge, even to those of us who study and teach writing. To help faculty and students think about strategies for overcoming difficulties they face during the writing process, we are going to hear from Christine Tulley, Professor of English and Director of the Masters in Rhetoric and Writing Program at the University of Findlay. Her advice may be helpful to those of you looking to adopt more effective writing strategies to finish your own projects. You may even be able to offer some of these tips to your own students who struggle to complete assignments in your class.
Michael: Prof. Tulley is the author of How Writing Faculty Write: Strategies for Process, Product, and Productivity, a book that features 15 interviews with superstars in the field of rhetoric and composition. These interviewees include past and present journal editors, disciplinary organization presidents, and intellectual leaders. The thread that really ties these writing superstars together is that they are prolific. They produce a volume of work that many of us find admirable, shocking, or both. By publishing her interviews with these folks, Prof. Tulley has made the writing practices of these superstars a bit more transparent. In a few moments we are going to hear some of the key insights and strategies Prof. Tulley gained from interviewing these scholars and practitioners of writing. But first, here’s Prof. Tulley describing her inspiration for writing the book:
Christine: Just as a side reading project, I found this old book in the library and it was the Paris Review interviews. It was from 1958, I believe. Anyway, I was kind of interested in these interviews with people like Hemingway and stuff like that. And once I did it, and I read these interviews, they were all about the writing process, but they were with novelists and creative writers. And at the time when I read it, I was like “This is the coolest thing ever! Why don’t we ever do this with our own writing processes in rhet/comp?” I don’t know this about anybody in my field and we make writing and we make the textbooks and I’ve never had this conversation with anyone. So that’s where I got the idea and then did kind of the same project where I set out to interview the big names in the field just like the Paris Review did.
Minseok: Prof. Tulley’s book is the first of its kind. Although scholars in rhetoric and composition have long discussed the need for publications about the composing practices of experts in the field, How Writing Faculty Write is the first text to address this need. And as Prof. Tulley highlights, the desire to hear more about these productivity strategies is strongly felt, even among the people she interviewed.
Christine: This is one thing that was really interesting about it – when I asked these superstars to do these interviews, I didn’t have a single person turn me down. Everybody was like “Well, no one’s ever asked me that before.” Sometimes I would get “I talk about this with other people in the field and we kind of talk about it over dinner every once in a while. Like ‘What are you working on? What are some things?’” But they say “We don’t really talk about: what do you do at 10 a.m. when you’re supposed to be writing and that’s supposed to be your sweet spot, and it’s not sweet today and it’s not doing anything for you? How do you get going again?” We talked a lot about that. And you find out that with these scholars, no one’s really asked them about that. They might be secretly talking about it. I will say one thing that was kind of funny about it was that a lot of the people that participated in the project – when I told them they were all going to get a copy of the book, they were like “Oh, good! Who else is in it?” They wanted to know who else was telling about their writing process. They do want to know. I don’t know why it’s been such a secret.
Michael: While the specific writing productivity practices and strategies may differ from scholar to scholar, Prof. Tulley identifies three main takeaways that kept returning throughout her interviews.
Minseok: As a writing scholar herself, Prof. Tulley also has writing habits that she uses to sustain writing projects. Her response highlights that some people need to find a space and place where they can comfortably compose their work.
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Torture until chapter 11, then golden!
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What listeners say about The Writing Productivity Bundle
Badly Needs an Editor
There is some great and useful information in all 3 of the books included in this set. However, the books are about twice as long as they need to be and audio is not really the best format for the material. I recommend buying the ebooks instead.
If the author had actually edited this script for audio instead of just having the book read (including reading all the many URLs, an unbearably long section of outlining on a tedious story, and a long appendix), this could have been a good listen.
Inspiring and Practical
Having taken 9 years to publish my first novel (Full Speed), I’m excited by the idea of writing faster and Monica Leonelle gave me a tonne of practical – and easy-to-implement – ideas that should speed things up for me. I’ve already implemented her ideas on dictation – something that has both upped my output and, just as importantly, helped me get away (at least for solid chunks of time) from the computer screen.
One thing that is different about The Writing Productivity Bundle is that it is very personal. Monica Leonelle takes you through the day-to-day ups and downs of her writing journey, sharing with you the things that both worked and didn’t work for her. Since I’ve wrestled with many of the challenges that confronted her, I found this both encouraging and inspiring. In fact, it has motivated me to give even more time and love to my writing career.
If you are after books on writing technique (i.e. how to craft a better sentence) then this bundle is not for you. If you want to learn to increase your writing output and make a living from writing, then you’ll find it extremely practical.