The biggest secret of writing (and almost all creative pursuits) is that creativity work is just that: work. Sure, every once in awhile, you’ll reach a blissful state in which creativity just flows magically into something cogent on the page. That’s a feeling you want to replicate, but most of the time, you can’t expect to. Conquering the blank page is effort, and almost any distraction can be more appealing. Here are some writing tips that help me when I want to be productive, with or without inspiration.
Time Your Writing
I find it easier to concentrate if I tell myself I only have to focus for so long. I like to burn a stick of incense and write until it goes out (20-25 minutes). Other writers I know use Pomodoro timers, which ding to announce it’s time for a 5-minute break before you go back to work. You can find writing timers and apps online that replicate this rhythm.
Divide Writing Into Manageable Pieces
One year, I committed to write a chapter of a book-in-progress every day, in the half hour before I went to work. I then did the same thing with editing each chapter. By the end of a few months, I’d completed two books. Set consistent but small goals, and resolve to accomplish them daily–the pieces will add up to the whole. If you need external motivation, try working toward a communal goal, like NaNoWriMo, a friendly competition with built-in camaraderie and community support.
Write on Deadline
Being a former journalist, I’ll say there’s just no substitute for a deadline when it comes to cranking out a finished piece. Knowing you’ve got to produce something “good enough” in a specific time frame as opposed to something perfect in an indefinite timeframe can free you. Don’t wait for the perfect phrasing to get your ideas down. Get something out, even if it’s bad. You can edit it later. Also, try not to think “if I only had more time to write.” When I was starting out, I thought if it weren’t for the distractions of work and life, I would have tons more time to write. But after cutting back, I found it was even harder to be disciplined. Now I work more than ever, but I find more time than ever to write. Knowing exactly when my compartmentalized writing time means I can’t put it off.
Clear a Creative Space for Your Writing
I have one room that I use solely for writing. It’s separate from my office and family rooms and I abide by a rule never to do any “work” in this space. Since writing is the only thing done there, when I come into the room, it’s easy to switch into the zone.
Let Technology Motivate Your Writing
I wanted to help market Pressbooks because it helped me be productive as a writer, and I became passionate about spreading the word. Sometimes an intuitive writing interface can be inspired in itself. I use Celtx for scriptwriting, Medium and WordPress for blogging and, of course, Pressbooks for book writing.
Elizabeth Mays is the marketing manager for Pressbooks and a self-published author. She is passionate about helping other writers publish.