When you sit down for a writing session, it can either be a time of great productivity or great procrastination. Unfortunately, it’s not often find yourself somewhere between the two. Staying focused and getting stuff done tends to be more challenging than it seems. So what’s a writer to do?
Here are 5 strategies to help you cut out distractions, stay motivated, and increase your productivity so you can finish your novel in no time!
- Create an Internet-Free Zone
It’s so easy to get distracted by the internet when you’re trying to write. Trust me, I know—I spent an hour on Pinterest before forcing myself to sit down and write this post! But why is this? Why do we let ourselves get distracted when writing is something we love?
Even though we might enjoy writing, it’s still hard work and it’s natural for humans to procrastinate and try to avoid doing work. On our toughest of writing days, Twitter and Pinterest may just be too tempting to resist. During your writing sessions, disable the wi-fi on your laptop and shut off your phone to avoid the temptation. Without access to these distractions you’ll be forced to focus on your work and get ‘er done!
- Create Goals or a Checklist
Give yourself a visual of what you want to accomplish during your session by writing it down. This could be a goal like “Write for an hour” or “Write 300 words.” Or, you could create a check-list of smaller tasks you want to accomplish, like “Fix opening paragraph, Edit chapter 2, and Develop setting.” Seeing it on paper gives you a specific goal to strive toward, and can help get you motivated. Strangely, I find checklists extremely motivating because I love the feeling of accomplishment I get after checking things off!
- Write in the Morning
I’ll be the first to admit I’m really bad out this one, being a natural-born night owl. I have a love-hate relationship with mornings. I love them because when I get up early to write, I get a lot more done. But me and mornings are still trying to figure out how to get along. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of early morning writing sessions, I can’t deny the benefits:
- It’s sometimes easier to write at the beginning of your day rather than at the end when you might be tired.
- It’s a low-distraction time. Not many people are awake so there’s not much going on…social media is pretty quiet, and you can’t text or chat with friends.
- There’s not really anything else to do early in the morning, so it kind of forces you to be productive. This helps you avoid procrastination, and when you get an early start you get more done.
- Control Your Inner Editor
Write your first draft with all your heart, and don’t look back. Forge straight ahead relentlessly. I know how tempting it can be to go back and edit, but you can do that later. In your first draft, just focusing on getting the story out. Then you can tweak it and make it sound good. I hate first drafts because they always make me feel like a crappy writer, and that sort of feeling can stop you in your tracks. Keep reminding yourself that first drafts are supposed to be crap, and give yourself permission to suck. Actually, dare yourself to suck. Write the most suck-tastic draft you possibly can. By making a sort of game out of it you take a lot of the pressure off of yourself, freeing your inner creativity to do its thing on the page.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique
This is my favorite productivity strategy, and since I’ve been using it I’ve been accomplishing a lot more during my writing sessions. So how does it work? It’s really simple! All you need is a timer (you can even use your phone, or download a free Pomodoro Timer app). The idea is to time your writing sessions for 25 minutes, with a 5 minute break in-between each one.
And that’s it! Told you it was simple. But don’t underestimate this technique—it’s very effective! Knowing a timer is going helps you to stay focused and adds a little accountability—you know this is a time to work, and you want to have something to show for it before the timer sounds! Plus, the short breaks in-between sessions help to keep you from getting burnt out. It’s genius, really.
So how do you know which strategies to use? Really, it’s a matter of testing them out for yourself and seeing what works best for you. Each writer is different, and what works for someone else may not work for you and vice versa. Know your strengths (like being a morning person) and your weaknesses (like being tempted by the internet) and try to use strategies that work with them. And most importantly of all, never stop writing!
Have you tried any of the above strategies? How did it work for you?
Kaitlin Hillerich is Young Adult writer with a BFA in Creative Writing/History. She helps writers learn how to tell captivating stories on her blog, Ink and Quills. You can learn more about Kaitlin here, or check out her free e-book “How to Write Epic, Evil Villains.” When she’s not writing, she also enjoys archery, yoga, and snuggling with her pet hedgehog.