It doesn’t happen by staring at the paper and willing it into being. Or by clicking your ruby slippers together three times and chanting: “There’s no place like Hemingway’s mind.”
In order to be a productive writer, you must start by simply writing. Seems easy enough, right?
But sometimes it’s much easier said than done. So let’s examine how to keep your writing engine chugging along when you’re feeling less than inspired.
1 – Write Every Day
One of the best ways to be a more productive writer is simply by writing every day. Writing regularly helps generate new ideas, and getting them down on paper means they won’t dissipate into the ether, never to be thought of again.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: I don’t have the time to write every day!
But the thing is, you probably do. Instead of endlessly scrolling your Twitter feed or glazing over in front of the television, slate in some time each day to write, preferably at the same time every day so that it becomes easier to develop a habit.
What you write doesn’t have to be spectacular or even particularly lengthy, it just needs to be a consistent practice. A great way to do this is to set a daily quota, either a set amount of time or a set number of words and then stick to it.
If you’re struggling to find the time each day, try writing in the beginning of the day before you begin your daily routines. Hitting your quota early will boost your confidence and set you up for a more productive day ahead.
2 – Try Stream of Consciousness Writing
If you’re having trouble thinking of what to write, stop thinking and just start writing. This stream of consciousness style writing is a great warm-up exercise and can be really effective for getting your thoughts flowing.
The key is to truly go with the flow. Don’t stop and analyze or concern yourself over proper grammar and punctuation; just keep writing. Because as many writers hate to admit, spell-checking and constantly going back to tweak words when you’re in the middle of the thought isn’t actually writing, it’s editing. Save the editing for later once you’ve gotten the thoughts down. For now, just get something down. Literally anything. Word vomit on the page and worry about the clean up later.
After some time doing this, you’ll find that your mind is cleared of clutter and that will open you up to some really creative thinking.
3 – Tune Out Distractions
You know how it goes. You were going to finish penning the Great American Novel last night, but that was before you got sucked into the Pinterest wedding board void followed by binge-eating while catching the season premier of Catfish (which you swore you weren’t going to miss this time), and before you knew it, you were waking up on the couch at 4:00 a.m. with cheese doodles stuck to the back of your arm.
Distractions can be debilitating to a writer, especially if they become a constant occurrence. So avoid them by turning off your web browser, silencing your phone, and tuning out anything that’s hindering you from getting those words down on the paper. Try giving yourself little rewards, e.g. “Once I hit 600 words, I can check my Facebook feed or watch a cats video on YouTube." Whatever motivates you and keeps the pen moving.
4 – Set Deadlines
Part of the reason you may be struggling to produce any real results with your writing is because you haven’t established any sort of structure for yourself. You start here or there, give it up for a few weeks, and then return with no memory of why you thought your ideas were any good in the first place.
You need discipline, and a great way to get it is by setting deadlines. If you have actual deadlines you need to meet for a specific project, great. But when you don’t, create them for yourself so that you have a set framework to work toward so your writing doesn’t go haywire.
If you know you only have a set time to get something down, you’ll be more likely to just get it down, and then you can worry about editing later.
5 – Get Feedback
So you did it; you wrote something every day, avoided the distractions, and finished your work by deadline. Congrats! But before you go practice your Pulitzer prize speech, make sure you get a second (and even third) pair of eyes on your work. Remember, writing is a process, and even though you may think you’ve written the best thing since A Farewell to Arms, getting a fresh pair of eyes on your work will help put things in perspective, and identify gaps you may have overlooked.
By following these simple steps, you’ll keep your creative juices flowing and get more writing accomplished each day; no ruby slippers required.