Productivity is one heck of a battle for any writer, especially when fear and resistance want to take hold of you and make it that you don’t write. I don’t believe in writer’s block, and neither should you. A lot of the time — all the time, writer’s block is actually fear dressed up, and it can kill your productivity.
But how can you be a writer if you aren’t productive and don’t write?
I am not talking to you here as one of those self-help gurus who’ll tell you getting up at 4 am will fix your writing, because honestly, if you’re not in for that, it probably won’t. But if you want to be a writer, then you have to produce, and that means productivity at any level.
I know, duh. If you want to be a writer, you need to write. Of course, you do. Can’t be a singer if you can’t sing, right? So, you can’t be a writer if you don’t write. But there’s more to this than just writing. Because writing is hard. You have to face this fear dead on and just allow yourself to write. I know it sounds odd for me to say this, but how many times do you tell yourself you’re going to write, but then you find every reason possible not to?
This is what you have to stop. You have to make a date with yourself and turn up. Think of writing, like meeting your best friend for coffee. Would you be late for the coffee because the goldfish needed walking? No. You’d make time for them and fit them into your schedule, and so you have to now. Even if you only commit to ten minutes a day, do it. Start little, get bigger. Baby steps. Set a goal for ten minutes a day, and no matter how you feel, show up.
This one works for me. Nothing kills my writing more than writing at a snail pace. When I sit and write, I literally, sit and dump everything out of my brain onto the page. I don’t care for typos or errors. I just sit, set a timer and write as much as I can in that allotted time.
It means I don’t have my internal editor beating at my door telling me everything I am writing is rubbish, because he can’t catch me. It means I don’t have time to think so much and what comes out, is pure writing. Yeah, it might be a load of rubbish, but who cares? Its writing and I am doing it.
See my post here about free writing. It is an excellent tool to get your going and free your mind.
Get in the flow.
How many times have you been in the flow or writing and the words have just come pouring out? I love those days. It is when I am most excited to write. You need to get excited about your writing. If you’re not, it’ll drag, but also your readers can tell you didn’t put your heart into it. It shows, it comes through on the page whether you try and edit it out or not. So be excited to write, put yourself in that flow state and go for it.
Announce to the world what you’re going to do. As creatures, we have this fundamental need not to let people down. I don’t really know why, but it is there, and you can use it to your advantage. Make a promise to the public at what you’re going too. Announce it. It’ll make it harder for you to back out. It’s okay when you’re making excuses to yourself, but when you have to give those excuses to your friends and family, you hear how lame they sound, and it keeps your gong.
Last month, I had a book coming out, and the deadline was super close. I had no choice but to get my writing head-on, or I was going to be penalised by Amazon, but not only that, I was going to lose months of pre-orders for my book. It meant I had to get my backside on the chair and get writing. I managed to write 34k in three days.
If you’re new to writing and you don’t have a deadline as such, make one for yourself. Mark it on the calendrer. Use the accountability and tell someone what your plan is and by what date. When I first started writing, it was writing for my website, and I slowly gained fans there, and the more I wrote, the more fans I got, until eventually, I was being demanded. It’s one of those situations where you need to self-imposed deadline first, and the deadlines that follow will come from organic growth.
This includes the deadlines, the accountability, and the writing faster. See how they all tie in? You set yourself a deadline or goal. You tell the world about it, and then you write as fast as you can to achieve it, and to do that you have to be harsh with yourself. You have to be disciplined.
As I write this, I am on a self-imposed internet surfing ban. I have to because I am killing my own brain with my aimless scrolling and in turn, killing my productivity as a writer. For you, this may mean turning off the internet for an hour, putting your phone in another room. But you have to show up to the page and work.
I write for a living, and so it is easy for me not to write, and then to spend the day watching Netflix. No one is going to tell me off for it. No one will really shout at me. I can’t be fired from my job for doing that, but I have to discipline myself. Writing for me, is my job. It’s my career, and so I have to show up at the same time every day and get on with it, whether I feel like it or not. Same goes for you.
Stephen King talks about this in his memoir, On writing. He writes every day, including Christmas and birthdays. He tells new writers to start small, but show up at the same time, every day, and turn off distractions.
Disconnect and honour your time.
Not everyone has all day to write, and that’s fine. You may have a family, a full-time job, both. People have different commitments in their lives, and only they know what they are and how they affect them. But when you know, you can write.
Say you have two hours in the evening that you have set for writing time. Don’t waste it by surfing the internet and catching up on emails. Use it. Honour it. Turn off the internet, put your phone in flight mode, tell the kids to stay downstairs. Whatever it is. Disconnect from the world for an hour and give that time to your writing.
This one works for me. Depending on what I am doing, I set a goal of anything between 5,000 and 10,000 words per day. That may be too much for you, and that’s okay. What’s your optimal? 250 words per day? Fantastic. Set that goal then.
Daily targets keep me motived. I know I have something to work toward, and I know I have a moment when I am going to stop. You may have to experiment with this one and see what works best for you. But get your number and work at it. Don’t give yourself a number that’s too high, though. It’ll only demotivate you, and that does no one any favours.
This is perhaps the simplest one for me. I have read so many books on productivity, and one thing they all seem to have in common is writing lists and sticking to them. This is what I do. I discovered the art of bullet journaling about two years back and it clicked with me. Search YouTube; you’ll find loads of videos on it. I don’t make mine all artsy as they do on there. Mine is simple, a list, but the same idea.
I have a bullet journal for every part of my life I want to work on. I am training for a marathon; you bet there is a journal page to track my progress on that.
I am trying to recover from an eating disorder, so yes, even that has a tracker to make sure I eat right.
And my writing. Probably has the biggest spread of them all.
I plan, I schedule and then I break it all down into lists and work away at it every day.
If you don’t want to use a bullet journal, a simple diary works too. This year I have actually been using the Happy Planner for all my organisation needs. A friend bought it for me for Christmas, and it has been with me every single day since.
I’d show you a picture, but it looks like a spider went skiing across my pages.
You can do this.