School is back in session, the summer is coming to an end, and this is the time of year when we kick off the flip-flops, slip on the pumps and get back to business. If you’re a writer and you still have school-aged children at home, summer can wreak havoc on your writing schedule. Your daily word-count goals eventually go out of the window as you become occupied with keeping your kids, fed, entertained and occupied.
If you are, like me, all ready to dive back in and make your writing a priority again, it’s time to set some new priorities and guidelines for your writing practice. Here are ten tips to inspire you to crank up your writing productivity and get back on track to achieving your goals:
1. Set Daily Goals
Whether you set a daily word count goal or a page count goal, decide what you can realistically accomplish at first and set this as your goal. Now, I’m all for stretch goals that make you sweat, but for now let’s just set a goal that you can keep consistently. After a few weeks you can revisit it and see if maybe it’s time to expand that goal a bit to challenge yourself.
2. Set aside a writing space
If you don’t already have a private writing space where you can go in and close the door when it’s time to write, set aside a space in your home where you can write every day. This is important in establishing the habit of writing to be able to go to the same spot each day and write. After awhile you’re going to want a change of scenery, and that is fine. Maybe there’s a coffee shop nearby that has wifi and good soy chai, or maybe there’s a spot in your local library where you can sit at a table near an electrical outlet and write uninterrupted. Regardless of those places that you get away to to write, you need your comfortable, inspiring home base writing spot.
3. Make an appointment with yourself every day to write
Open up the calendar on your phone and set a daily appointment with an alarm for your writing session. If you have a paper calendar on your wall, mark off the days you sit down to write and your word or page count. Draw an, “X” through those days when you don’t show up and write at all. If you start seeing too many X’s on your calendar, it might be time to re-visit your commitment to your writing practice.
4. Write first thing in the morning every morning
For those people who can’t seem to find any room in their calendar to write, getting up an hour earlier in the morning solves that dilemma. Unless your work schedule doesn’t allow for it, writing first thing in the morning virtually guarantees that you will not be disturbed. An added bonus is that wonderful feeling of accomplishment that you get when you close the book on your daily word count. When you get your creative work done first thing in the morning it can energize and inspire the remainder of your day.
5. Find an Accountability Partner
Join a writing forum and make a connection with another writer who is willing to be an accountability partner for you. You don’t need this person to be your BFF, all you need is for them to agree to ask you about where you are on your writing goals, and you can do the same for them. If you are having trouble working with a peer and want to hire a coach instead, a writing coach will hold you accountable for the goals you have set for yourself, and reflect back to you when you start coming up with excuses about why you aren’t writing.
6. Get inspired & stay inspired
Do you ever feel blocked when you sit down to write? Most writers deal with writer’s block in one form or another. The best way to handle this is to prevent it. Take the time to give some thought to what inspires your creativity and keep yourself steeped in these things at all times. When you get down to the root of it, writer’s block is really just fear, or resistance, which you will have to let go of if you want to be a writer and get your work done.
Take out a piece of paper and make a list of the things that inspire you to write. Here are some of mine:
- Attending poetry readings
- Visiting art museums
- Walking in the park
- Reading poetry
- Listening to interviews with authors
- Free writing
Make your own list. Buy a book or two of writing prompts. I have one that’s got 365 days of writing prompts. There’s no rule that says you’ve got to use the prompt for that day. Just find a prompt and use it as a jumping-off point.
7. Gather your tools
Aside from your pen and notebook, or laptop, there are some other writer’s tools that might be helpful to you as you seek to establish and maintain a daily, productive writing practice:
- Smart phone apps:
Evernote: I would not want to be without my evernote. It’s a website clipping utility that lets you store and categorize things you find online along with notes, photos and other bits of information from your daily life. Snap a photo with your phone and save it in Evernote. You can save clips of blog posts and other research. This is a great tool and it’s free.
If you are walking along and a bit of inspiration strikes, pull out your phone and speak it into the voice recorder and listen to it later.
This handy app will transcribe what you say and then you can email the text to yourself.
8. Join a writing group
Writing is a solitary activity, so it’s good sometimes to interact with other writers who are on the same path. You can find an accountability partner, or just enjoy the support of being around other writers, getting their feedback and offering your expertise where you can.
9. Reward yourself at the milestones
Don’t just keep your nose to the grindstone, day in and day out. Every few weeks reward yourself when you achieve certain milestones. Buy that book everyone is talking about, or maybe a fancy pen, or a leather bound writing journal. Find small ways to encourage yourself and keep you motivated to stay on task. Of course, we know that at the heart of it, writing should be its own reward, but the promise of a fun prize can help you to push yourself towards your goals.
10. Encourage another writer
Encouragement is like food to the soul of a writer. Was it Mark Twain who said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” So often the negative, discouraging words that we have heard ring more loudly in our ears than the compliments we have received about our work. A solid, constructive compliment from another writer means more than you can imagine to someone who has been struggling to gain the confidence to write and put their work out there. Take the time to encourage someone else and you might be surprised how good it makes you feel. I can’t really say that this will directly boost your productivity as a writer, but it will make you feel good as a human being, which can only be helpful to your writing endeavors.
Try meditation before you sit down to write
If you don’t have a regular writing practice, this might sound a bit strange, but taking the time–five to twenty minutes or so in silent or guided meditation before you start writing can do wonders for your productivity–not just for your writing but for your whole day. Meditation quiets and calms the mind, it centers you and gives you precious moments of silence where you can connect to your Source, or just bask in the blissful, peaceful silence. Meditation has countless mental and physical health benefits, but for the writer, it can help create a lovely space in which to begin your writing each day. There’s a free, MeditationFest coming up next week where you can listen to and be inspired by some meditation masters and grab some free, guided meditation audios.
I hope you found these tips useful. Please feel free to share your favorite productivity tips, your favorite writing tools, or some encouragement in the comments. Most of all, I hope that you find a way to commit to a regular, daily writing practice.
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