By Kristin Nador/@KristinNador
Does finding time for writing leave you overwhelmed?
The tug of your creative life versus ‘regular life’ got you feeling guilty?
You’re not alone.
I’ve had a year of frustration and guilt concerning my creative endeavors. 2014 was a year of upheaval for me. An unexpected move, medical issues, financial worries. And lots of procrastination on my writing.
It’s not that I didn’t want to be writing. I longed to be ‘in the flow’, words dripping off my fingertips, or traveling to all sorts of Write Anywhere venues. But after spending days at doctor appointments, dealing with symptoms, adapting to a new living situation, being far from family, and even my kitty dying, I was sometimes too physically and emotionally drained to do any writing. But I also didn’t make it one of my non-negotiables. My perfectionist all-or-nothing tendencies also let me give in too easily to the thinking that my poor time management skills were to blame.
I’m setting the bar higher for 2015. Writing is a non-negotiable. I intend to finish my thriller novella, make good progress on my generational historical, write a non-fiction e-book, have a solid outline for a collection of memoir short stories, and write consistently for the blog this year. This sounds ambitious, and good on paper, but the daily execution is where it counts.
I’ve had good success the last two months using what I call a ’shotgun method’ of several different organizational techniques all at once to blow away this procrastination cloud for good.
It seems to be working. My daily word count is growing. My self-confidence is coming back. The words are flowing. Most of these techniques are simple and have been around for a while, but sometimes it’s the simple ideas that can become the profound turnarounds in your life.
Here are 10 ideas you can use to set the stage for writing productivity in your day:
- Plan a Repeatable Morning Routine
By repeatable I mean you don’t want to keep reinventing the wheel with a new plan each morning that takes half the day to figure out. (Been there!)
Be practical and positive about your daily schedule. What does your ideal day look like? What does your typical day look like? These are not the same. You want to combine the best of what will probably happen and what you hope to happen. Don’t consider days when you aren’t doing typical things, like doctor appointments or getting the car fixed.
What time are you waking up, eating, going to an outside job, doing chores? Where would writing or other creative activities fit in? Write this schedule down, breaking it down in hours or even half hours, and keep it somewhere you can see it each day. Maybe you’ll spot a few free minutes or see all that time you’re spending watching television could be better put to use. Set this new schedule as your goal for your days. You have to create a vision, writing it down to make it clear, before you can reach it.
- Clear Your Creativity Palate with Morning Pages
One of Julia Cameron’s ‘tools’ from her The Artist’s Way series of books, Morning Pages are three pages of stream-of-consciousness longhand writing that can clear the brain clutter and emotional baggage trying to keep you from productivity. Natalie Goldberg calls it taming ‘Wild Mind’. Write, unfiltered, unedited, unplanned, just let whatever floats to the surface be written.
You won’t be writing words for your WIP, but you’ll be surprised how it helps give you clarity for the serious writing you want to do. And though it’s called Morning Pages, with the goal being to dump the clutter first thing, if that doesn’t work for you, don’t give up. Try journaling one page a day, at any time of day you like. Clearing mind clutter is the goal, however it happens.
- Theme Your Days/Hours
Do you have several projects to complete? Think about declaring theme days. When I homeschooled my children, we worked with thematic units on a regular basis. When dinosaurs were our theme, we read about dinosaurs, wrote about dinosaurs, drew dinosaurs, and even sang about dinosaurs. And you can bet we learned a lot about dinosaurs. Instead of jumping from project to project making small bits of progress, what if you saturated your Thursdays in your fantasy novel, and Tuesdays were for cranking out blog posts? Would you make better progress?
- Speak Your Writing Future
Some may think speaking affirmations a little radical or new-agey, but you can set your attitude with your words. You know all that energy you’re using by telling everyone how hard it is, how you just can’t find the time, and you’ll never get your novel written? Who hears you the most? You! Talk positively instead, and frame your world with your words. If you’re not comfortable speaking out loud, write your affirmations on post-its and put them on your mirrors or cabinets as a reminder to think about your creative life positively.
- Set Your Brain With Rituals
Cue your brain when you are ready to write with writing rituals. A ritual is just a group of actions you take every time you write designed to trigger your brain into creative mode. I’ve experimented with several rituals, from wearing a special hat to writing in a beautiful leather bound journal. My current ritual includes lighting a candle, a cup of hot tea at the ready, Mozart on the playlist, and turning off the internet. A ritual could be as small as using a special pen or closing a door.
- Take It In Small Bites
Feel like you can’t just can’t squeeze enough time out of your day to impact your word count? Then start with a small word count goal. 750 words. 500 words. Even 250 words. Once you start writing, more often than not you’ll be in the zone and write more than you planned.
- Have a Pomodoro Day ***
If you don’t try any other tip on this list, try this one. Using the Pomodoro Technique has changed the entire way I focus on my writing. The Pomodoro Technique is so simple, but helps you focus. All you need is a timer, and if you have a smartphone, you already have one of those. Typically broken into 25min segments, you write (and do nothing else) until the timer goes off and take a 5 minute break. Each 25min segment is called a round. After a group of rounds, you can set a longer break, like 15 minutes, to do a few things like load a dishwasher, fold some clothes, check email or make a phone call. Before you know it, you’ll be challenging yourself to more rounds, and writing gets done. There’s even an app for that.
- Schedule Down Time and Appointment Days
You know you’re going to have days when you can’t get any writing done. Don’t let them knock you off the path. Plan for them, and feel free from frustration. Something that has also worked for me is to make only one day per week for doctor and other appointments, grocery shopping, etc. That’s a busy day, but I don’t feel any guilt for not working on my creative projects, because I pre-planned it.
- Set Up a No Distractions Zone
Social media distractions are a big one for writers. We know we have to build a platform on social media, but sometimes that’s an easy excuse to just let Facebook or Twitter eat our time away with funny memes, political debates, and cat videos. When it’s time to write, turn off the internet. I know, I know, but you have to research, you need Google. Then give research a set time of its own. Write without it, you can go back to find out what kind of draperies your character would have in their bedroom AFTER you get some of the story written. That way the temptation to stare mindlessly as the tweets roll by won’t be there.
- Simplify Meals and Chores
Look for simple recipes. Think about using a Saturday to make meals to freeze for later. This will free up that daily prep time for getting in a few more words. Simple, homemade meals are usually cheaper and more healthy. Do a few simple chores at the end of the day. It’s hard when you’re tired, but when you have a clean slate the next morning you’ll be happy you took the time. If you have younger children, let them feel like they help with Mom or Dad’s writing by getting chores done or playing quietly so you can write.
These are not necessarily for everyone. Pick one that fits your style, and give it a chance. I think you will be pleased with the results.
The most important thing to remember when using these types of techniques:
Don’t stress when things fall apart, because they will. You are probably going to have more imperfect days than perfect ones, because that’s life. Get out of short-term thinking and think long term. Yes, today went bad, but other days will go good. If you end up writing 4 out of 7 days at 500 words, that’s 8,000 words after a month. In 7 to 8 months, you’ll have enough words for a novel, and any words above the minimum will get you there faster!
- Do you use any of these tips? How are they working for you? Do you have a tip to help writers be more productive? Let us know in the comments, or stop by our Facebook page and chat.