Even the best writers struggle with maintaining their productivity, with translating the rush of a new idea into a habit that can get words down on the page even during their “bad days” and under pressing deadlines. And writers on all levels (at least including myself) are always looking for ways to write more with the limited time they have in their busy days. The obvious solution is to spend time you could be using to write reading articles–so, without further ado, here are ten ways to write more productively both on and off the page.
1. Embrace stream-of-consciousness
I sometimes affectionately call this strategy my daily “word vomit,” given that it’s an uncomfortable process but I often feel better afterwards. What it really means is to set aside any length of time to write what’s on your mind without any restraints and forethought. I don’t even use punctuation half the time. When I’m done, I take what thoughts I can into my draft with me and leave the rest to influence later poems or other projects. You can do this with a generic document or with a more organized personal journal. The reason this works well is that it overrides any perfectionism we might have by allowing us to write a work we have no expectations for.
2. Limit distractions
I can imagine most of us are tired of isolating ourselves by now, but there’s something to be said for writing “in quarantine.” I’m not brave enough to do anything as rash as disconnecting my internet or headphones for all the writing I do, but if you can manage it, all the more power to you. What makes the most difference to me is having a separate place to write, a place that my mind associates with writing. In addition to that, I write most often in the morning and at night–as much as I love multitasking, going back and forth between my day’s to-dos and my draft can actually decrease my productivity, and writing at the same time of day also helps to train your mind to write more effectively.
3. Start fresh (but wherever you want)
When you’re starting out on your day’s writing, try beginning on a blank space instead of rereading what you wrote last time (if you don’t remember where you were, just take a peek at your outline). Too much rereading not only takes time but also puts you back in the same frame of mind you were, which could either be a good or bad thing. However, don’t think you have to start right where you left off. If you’ve been thinking about another scene and are excited to write that one, start there. Writing “out of order” might mean a little more time spent revising later, but it could also mean a more energetic and tight first draft, which is never a bad thing.
4. Write while you write
This tip also comes from the perfectionist in me, who would point out every nagging flaw in the first draft as soon as it had passed my fingers. It got the point where I would be revising only a few chapters behind where I was writing, and if I had to go back and rewrite a certain chapter I would run the risk of cutting polished material and wasting more time. If something really is bothering you while writing, leave a note or comment for later when you can revise the story as a whole. You do want to remember any thoughts or criticisms you have, but you don’t want to have your brain switching from writing to revising mode over and over.
5. Don’t write
As much as this strategy doesn’t seem to make sense, I’ve wasted most of my writing time staring at a half-written page because I was trying to find a fix for a stalled scene that I simply couldn’t find at the time. Those kinds of fixes often come to me when I’m not writing at all–I’m no scientist, but I do know that our minds can be processing problems that we’re dealing with while we’re doing another menial task (after all, there has to be a reason for the seemingly inordinate amount of inspiration we get in the shower). Of course, we shouldn’t depend on our subconscious doing all the work, but we as writers need to have a balance between tying ourselves to our chairs and realizing when we need to step back.
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