It’s easy to call yourself a writer. It’s harder to have something to show for it.
Many writers struggle with productivity (we can’t all be James Patterson). Even if you have an absolutely amazing idea for a book, it can be hard to motivate yourself to actually start writing it. You might write daily, but if you’re only able to write a few hundred words before you lose focus, it’ll take a long time to produce something more substantial.
Fortunately, there are a number of writing hacks that can help you boost your productivity. When you employ these methods, you may find that you’re better able to stay “in the zone,” leading to longer, more productive sessions. Try these tips to see if they help unlock your potential as a writer.
Create a Dedicated Work Space
One of the best ways to improve your writing productivity is to create a space where you can work comfortably. It may take some time to figure out what type of work space you like best, and you may need to adjust the environment according to your needs or your budget.
The right work space will help keep you focused and motivated. Once you find a setup that works for you, it’s much easier to dive right in when you sit down to write. The following are some examples of what your ideal writing environment could potentially include:
Sitting at a spacious desk in your home office, opening the windows to let in the fresh air, and closing the door to ensure privacy and limit distractions.
Heading to your favorite local coffee shop or café where you snag your favorite table, order a hot cup of tea, and put your headphones in to listen to a curated playlist.
Reserving a private study room at the public library where you can enjoy easy access to research materials, a super-quiet space, and a giant thermos of coffee.
Cozying up on the couch with your computer on your lap, a scented candle burning nearby, and a few snacks within reach.
Each of these work space options is about more than just the setting. It’s all part of the ritual you create to trigger your “writing mode.” Try to develop your own writing rituals that help you work at a more productive level.
Find Your Best Writing Time
Are you a night owl or an early bird?
When do you get your best ideas?
What time of day do you feel the most focused?
The answers to these questions can hold the secret to becoming a more productive writer. If you try to write for one hour every morning but you can barely keep your eyes open, it could end up being a waste of time. If you’re trying to flesh out your story during your lunch hour but you have trouble switching from work mode to creative mode, you might not be producing your best writing.
It’s not enough to say you’re committed to writing a certain number of words per day. Blocking out time to write helps, but it might not deliver the results you’re hoping for. In order for these efforts to work, you need to find your optimal writing time during the day. Arrange your schedule so you can focus solely on your craft during this time and you’ll start to see your writing flourish.
Are you a morning writer?Late night? Or somewhere in between? Let us know!
Cut the Distractions
We’ve all heard this one before—all it takes to write more is limiting distractions, right? Easier said than done. Simply trying to block out all the other things vying for your attention is actually pretty complicated. That’s why you might need to employ some specialized tools to get the job done.
While some people might just say to turn your smartphone off, that’s not a realistic option for most people. More realistic, however, is the option to turn off your phone notifications. Many smartphones allow you to only permit notifications for texts and calls from certain people. You can also use helpful tools like OFFTIME to block particularly tempting smartphone apps.
Your computer also needs to feature fewer distractions during your writing time. Hide the bookmarks bar on your browser, and use programs like StayFocusd or Freedom to block certain sites or even temporarily disable your internet access.
Finally, there’s the holy grail of productivity: noise-cancelling headphones. No, these won’t automatically make you more prolific, but they can create an instant barrier between you and the outside world. Once you’re settled into your silent little universe, it’s a lot easier to let your mind run wild with creative possibilities.
Does music help or hinder your writing?
Speaking of technological tools, it’s time to consider whether typing is really the best way to get your ideas out on digital paper. Some people simply aren’t the best typists, while others can’t move their fingers fast enough to keep up with their train of thought. In that case, why not try dictating your writing instead?
You might be surprised to learn that you don’t need any expensive, fancy software to get speech-to-text capabilities on your computer. You can use speech recognition on any Windows PC or Mac, and there are numerous programs and apps that offer the same functionality on Androids and iPhones.
Dictation doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, but it’s definitely worth giving a shot if you’re looking for ways to be more productive as a writer. Plus, it gives you the option of writing while you complete other (relatively mindless) activities, like washing dishes or folding laundry. Using dictation programs on a phone or computer can be a convenient solution for people who struggle with productivity due to their busy schedules.
Keep a Journal
Now that we’ve covered a bunch of high-tech tools, let’s kick it old school and talk about the magic of journals. Writing in a journal can be a great way to get your creative juices flowing. If you struggle to sit down at your computer and just start writing, you could use your journal as a kind of writing prompt. Think of it like a warm-up activity—just as athletes stretch before they play, you might need to flex your creative muscles a bit with freewriting in your journal before you really get going on your main writing project.
Journals are also handy for keeping track of your ideas. It’s wise to carry one with you at all times or use an app on your phone to jot down things that inspire you or story concepts that come to mind throughout the day. This allows you to note those thoughts and then put them on pause until you can flesh them out later on. With a journal by your side, it’s much easier to jump into your writing since you already have an inventory of ideas ready to go.
Virginia Woolf, C.S. Lewis, Susan Sontag, and Ray Bradbury all kept journals, just to name a few.
Need that extra push to actually get some words down on paper? It might be time to team up with another writer. Having an accountability partner can be a great way to become more motivated. In addition to encouraging each other to be more productive, writing partners can be a great source of feedback and camaraderie while you’re working on your own projects.
There are lots of ways to find accountability partners for your writing, including:
Asking a friend or family member to check in with you weekly to ask about your progress.
Texting with a fellow writer and sharing how many words you write each day.
Joining an online writers’ group where you can get inspiration and feedback from others.
Going on a writing retreat where you’ll have dedicated time to write and a community of fellow writers to bond with.
Give Yourself an Incentive
You can try all the writing hacks in the world, but sometimes, the thing that works best is a good old-fashioned bribe. Even if you absolutely adore writing, even if it’s your true passion in life, even if you’re hell-bent on getting a book deal…you might still feel a lack of motivation sometimes, and that’s okay. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, make it fun by coming up with a reward for all your hard work.
Think about what would persuade you to get going with your writing. You can set both short-term and long-term incentives to keep yourself motivated. Assign specific rewards for reaching each goal you have in mind. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about what rewards will work best for you:
Write 1,000 words: Enjoy a few pieces of candy or watch an episode of your favorite show.
Finish a chapter: Rent a movie and get your favorite meal delivered.
Write 10,000 words: Plan a fun night out with friends.
Write 25,000 words: Book a massage or get a manicure.
Finish a book: Treat yourself to a weekend vacation out of town.
As you can see, these rewards offer ongoing incentives to keep pushing toward your ultimate goal. The payoff becomes increasingly enticing, and you get new things to look forward to as you progress through each step. Consider coming up with your own list of incentives to help stay on track with your productivity.
Need an incentive? How about 10 percent off a manuscript critique if you mention this blog post when you request your next edit.
What will inspire you to write more? Use the tips in this article to come up with a system that works for you and helps you to become a better, more prolific writer.
about the author
Ashley Henshaw has been a contributing writer for a number of online publications, including The Huffington Post, USA Today, and AOL City's Best. She has a BA in English from Loyola University Chicago and previously worked for a publishing house. She is an avid fiction reader and loves to edit fiction and nonfiction alike. If she could, she'd spend every spare minute on the beaches of Lake Michigan, but Chicago's weather has proven uncooperative.
Check out Ashley’s other blog posts: “Ready to Branch Out? Try Writing Conferences, Retreats, & Workshops” and “How to Use Modern Tech in Your Novel.”