It’s difficult to keep writing when motivation wavers. Persistence is a key characteristic that separates prolific authors from writers who never finish. Try these simple writing hacks to boost your productivity and keep your motivation to write strong:
1. Make writing non-negotiable
Among writing hacks, this is maybe more of a ‘mindset adjustment’ than a nifty trick. Yet whenever we survey blog readers and Now Novel members, ‘I don’t have time’ is one of the main reasons people give as a reason to not write or give up.
Not having time, as a challenge, makes sense. Work, kids, family commitments and other priorities do easily bump writing down the list. But finding time is making time. Really make writing a non-negotiable necessity, like staying hydrated and nourished.
True, writing productivity may wane when you have mountains of other obligations. It’s far too easy to put errands, housework, social time with friends and catching up on your favourite TV shows ahead of writing, though. Work out what is truly essential, and cut back on a bit of TV here, other entertainment there, to find a balance.
The only solution here is to be ruthless. You have to start thinking of writing as one of those non-negotiable tasks. It is a task, too – as much as it is often a great pleasure.
2. Keep a regular writing appointment
Make your writing sessions regular appointments because this will ensure that you (and close family, friends) view your writing as non-negotiable – as important. Safeguard your writing productivity by showing up. It’s what Maya Angelou did when she rented a room where she would simply sit and type anything until the words started to flow.
In writer Damon Knight’s book Creating Short Fiction, he writes about the value of setting aside a certain time to write on a regular basis because it actually trains the writing part of the brain to ‘show up’ when it needs to. According to Knight, your unconscious mind will eventually get the idea that this is the time when it is invited to turn up and do what it does best by providing you with stories. This echoes Angelou’s own methods.
To keep a regular writing appointment, it also helps to have an accountability partner. This is one of the most frequent values Now Novel members report gaining from working with a writing coach. That sense of commitment and external accountability that comes with enlisting someone to help you stay true to your goals.
3. Create a dedicated writing space
Virginia Woolf famously wrote that every woman writer should have a room of her own. Although this was more about the need for every writer to have the means, the space, the freedom to write, a dedicated space helps. Even if you don’t have one of your own, you can set aside a spot for your writing whether it’s a corner of your kitchen or a table at the local library.
Creating a dedicated writing space has a few advantages:
- There’s a sense of ritual involved, which is itself an act of re-dedication, of renewing your focus
- The combination of a dedicated writing time with a dedicated writing space gets you into the rhythm of perpetually telling great stories
- Practically speaking, a dedicated writing space gets you away from distractions so that you can focus on telling your story.
Some people, of course, see this idea as silly, preferring Agatha Christie’s advice that the best time to plan a novel is while washing the dishes!
4. Funnel other tasks into your writing
Christie’s advice leads on to this important idea: A writer is always writing. Because story ideas are everywhere. You may not always be able to grab a pen and paper or open a laptop. Yet there’s a lot you can achieve during monotonous tasks that we engage in most days without much thought.
Driving, chopping vegetables and other chores or mundane activities are all opportunities to multi-task and mull over stories. You can brainstorm plot twists, figure out how to get your characters out of the sticky situation you left them in or plan your next writing session.
In doing this, you’ll increase your writing productivity, because you’ll spend more of your writing time getting words down on the page, rather than working out plot problems.
5. Have a plan for every writing session
Whenever you sit down to write, try to have a plan of some sort about what you want to do with that day’s writing. Optimize your writing time for getting words on the page.
This could mean outlining each scene in advance. Or else building a story outline – a blueprint of ideas – that you can keep as a reference guide. [The Now Novel writing process, the member dashboard, walks you through this task, step by step.]
Sometimes a blank is as good as a plan too – it can also be an invitation to continue. Ernest Hemingway advised writers to stop for the day when writing is going well and the writer knows what will happen next. Some writers even advocate stopping in the middle of a paragraph or sentence.
However you approach planning, keeping a bit of a bird’s eye view of your task will help you control and structure how you spend your writing time more.
6. Track your writing goals and progress
This is one of the best writing hacks to increase productivity. By setting and tracking concrete goals, you have something to reach for and you can also see how far you have come.
You can choose how best to do this tracking: You can:
- Use Excel spreadsheets to track daily word counts and other targets
- Make notes to yourself in a writing journal
- Set a deadline in the profile area (by clicking ‘Your Profile’) in Now Novel’s members area
Set realistic goals that you can reach. Even if that’s just 250 words or one page per day, then after a year, you’ll have more than 300 pages. Sure, it’ll take longer than, say, NaNoWriMo. Yet not churning a book out in 30 days also has its advantages. Some ideas develop at their own pace.
You might also find it useful to note your moods and writing conditions and see the effect these have on productivity. You might write more productively in a noisy or quiet spot, with or without a cup of coffee, or before or just after exercising.
7. Be accountable to someone
Tracking your goals and progress creates accountability, but it also helps to appoint someone as a kind of accountability overseer. If you have a writing friend either online or offline, check in with each other. You can even create little challenges and competitions. Some writers even meet for ‘writing dates.’ If a social component, and having someone who checks in on how its going helps, a writing coach is also a sound option. There are writing productivity apps, too, that help you keep accountable. Some even fine you if you don’t reach the goal you have set.
8. Stay passionate about your book
If you can keep your enthusiasm high you are more likely to be productive. You might find it helpful to make a list of the things you love about your novel and about writing to refer to when you are feeling your passion flag. Keep it in a journal you page through for inspiration. Find one thing you like in each scene you write, that makes you say ‘I did that’. And remember that you can and will do more.
9. To become a productive writer avoid burnout
Notice whether any sense of lethargy or lack of inspiration regarding your work is ongoing or just lasts a writing session or two. If you can’t push through that feeling, you may be truly burned out and you will need to take a day or two off. You may lose this time, but you’ll come back more productive. Writing hacks alone won’t get you to done. Self-care is key, too.
10. Take care of yourself
As important as it is to make time to write, you also have to take care of yourself. You’ll get more done in a shorter period of time if you are well-rested, eating right and getting some exercise even if it’s just a short daily walk.
Realistically, you can’t always fit all of these things into your regular life plus writing, but keeping them as a goal and falling back on these basics when your energy and productivity are lagging will bring results.
Set concrete goals to increase your productivity, but choose goals that are realistic. If you’ve been tracking your progress for a while, you’ll have some sense of how much you can increase. Don’t expect to double your output in a single session or two. If you normally write three pages at a time, just add a third or quarter of a page to your next session. Incremental increases will add up more quickly than you realize.
Writing productivity is a combination of making sure you have the time and space to write, setting concrete goals, and being conscious about your methods and how effective they are in bringing your goal closer.
Do you have any writing hacks that have served you well? Please comment and share if so. Join Now Novel for help with staying motivated and accountable to your writing goals.