Quote of the Day:
Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration. The rest of us get up and go to work.
– Stephen King
A Few Ground Rules for Productive Writers
When it comes to accomplishing goals and forming habits that lead to success, one of the biggest hindrances is ego depletion. We all draw from the same reservoir of willpower, but that reservoir is not bottomless. Making choices and sticking to them is not always easy, so it is important that we avoid the pitfalls of ego depletion by limiting the number of choices that we have to make. In doing so, we will save more creative energy for writing.
Another helpful practice when starting the writing habit is to adopt the Pomodoro Technique. Invented by Francisco Cirillo, this technique involves blocking off specific amounts of time for work, and then taking a short break between each block. Furthermore, a longer break is scheduled after a number of blocks have been completed. This technique helps you remain fresh, alert, and productive, and has been a vital element in Steve’s writing success. More information about the Pomodoro Technique is available at www.pomodortechnique.com.
Finally, it is essential to turn off ALL notifications when working. Think of your writing time as sacred and you will find that your productivity increases exponentially
Basics of Writing Habit Creation
Here are a few tips to help you establish the writing habit and make it a part of your daily life:
- Consistency is key. Habits are only formed through repetition, so the sooner you start, the sooner that habit will be formed.
- Start small. Make your initial writing goal so small that you can commit to doing it at the same time every day. For people starting out, 5—10 minutes per day is enough. The idea here is to establish the habit, and to start out with easily accomplishable tasks that will build your confidence.
- Use triggers. The best habits build on other habitual behavior. By coming to associate one activity with another, you are reinforcing the behaviors you wish to perpetuate. So for example, you may choose to start writing immediately after having your morning cup of coffee. Once this becomes a habit, that cup of coffee will serve as a trigger to get you in the writing mood, even if you don’t feel particularly productive one morning.
- Outlining. Write down everything. Use index cards and shuffle them around, the type what’s on those index cards into a document and start from the top. Use the outline as a prompt on what you want to write about.
- Reward yourself. Positive reinforcement works! When you accomplish a goal, give yourself a reward. This can be as simple as a walk in the park or a pleasant evening relaxing in front of the fire. Websites such as www.Coach.me and www.chains.cc help to reinforce positive behavior, and each reward you give yourself can serve as a mini-celebration of your success.
- Don’t compare yourself with others. When it comes to productivity, word count, etc., develop a standard that is specific to you, and then stick to it. But don’t get caught in the trap of trying to work to someone else’s standard, or getting down on yourself for not writing as much as some other author. You are a unique individual with your own strengths and weaknesses. Hold yourself accountable, but don’t be hard on yourself for being you.
- Track your habit. One of the best ways to hold yourself accountable is to track your progress. Use an Excel spreadsheet to record the date, location, block of time worked, number of words produced, and your word per block rate. Review this data each month to see if there are any changes you could make to your work habits that would make you more productive.
- Develop your flow. Different people work better under different conditions, but we all have the ability to enter into what many refer to as a “state of flow”—when you are fully engaged in an activity and don’t even notice time passing. This is your most productive state, and should be the goal when you are writing. Figure out what works best for you—silence, music, solitude, a social environment—and then make decisions about your work environment based on your preferences. (This also includes the time of day that you choose to work. Different people are more productive at different times. Figure out when you write the best, and then make that part of your writing ritual.)
- Don’t let writer’s block get you down. It happens to everyone, and the important thing is what you do about it. Just keep writing. Don’t worry if what comes out isn’t exactly Pulitzer material. The act of writing is inspiring and gets your creative juices flowing. Even if it’s a struggle at first, by using your writing muscle, you will eventually get the words to come. Push through it.
- Bring in an accountability partner. It’s a lot easier to be lazy when you don’t have anyone to answer to. But if someone has expectations of you, you will be much more motivated, and won’t want to let them down. Set milestones, and ask a friend or member of a mastermind group to check up on you each week to make sure you have met them.
- Write down everything! Record every single idea that pops into your head, either with pen and paper or with a digital tool such as Evernote. While a lot of your ideas might prove to be rubbish, there will be diamonds in the rough that might prove to be the element that takes your writing to the next level.
Writing is an ongoing process—one that is never mastered, and only gets better with time and experience. Make a daily habit of writing—you will be surprised how quickly you progress.
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