Six Steps to Maximize Writing Productivity

by | Writer's Block Tips | 4 comments

Sometimes, my writing isn’t as productive as it should be. For example, last Friday, I sat down at 10:00 pm and vowed not to stop until I had written 2,000 words. At 6:00 am, I gave up with less with 1,000 words and went to bed.

Why did I fail?

In my hurry to get started, I skipped my normal steps to maximize my writing productivity. Here’s what I normally do.

1. Complete More Important Tasks First

During my Friday night failure, my thoughts about other important tasks, like taxes, day-job priorities and the stack of bills on my desk distracted me.

If I had spent Friday evening dispatching those obligations and dedicated Saturday night to writing, the results would have been better.

2. Clear Your Work Area

Clutter on your desktop and in your work area can distract you from your writing.

For example, during my Friday fiasco, I thought a lot paying bills. In reality, it made no difference whether I paid the bills on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. So why was I preoccupied with these? The sight of the bills stacked on the corner of my desk called my name. That’s all it took.

I am not recommending that you become an obsessive-compulsive neat freak. You simply need to remove any potential distractions.

image of Maximum Writing Effectiveness Checklist

Maximum Writing Effectiveness Checklist

3. Clear Your Mind

Continuing the concept of eliminating distractions, you will be more effective if you wipe your mind clean of any thoughts unrelated to writing.

There are many ways of doing this. I like to flood my brain with music. Usually, when I first start, I like to crank the volume to the max while playing face-paced songs with a heavy back beat. This crowds out any competing thoughts.

Later, when I’m already in the zone, I’ll switch to instrumental music, especially when writing dialog, where I need to “hear” the cadence of the conversation.

I spend a lot of time on airplanes. It used to be unproductive time. However, I have applied this technique with great success, even when crammed into the middle seat. I simply get out my laptop, don my noise-canceling ear buds, turn on the music and tune out the distractions.

4. Do Research Before Starting

Early on, I would start my writing sessions without all the needed information. When I came to a section that required research. I would jump on the Internet or comb through books in my library. In either case, I’d often get distracted, especially on the Internet. Before long, I’d be checking Facebook, Twitter and email for messages. It was easy to lose an hour or more before I got back to writing.

Now, I separate research from writing. Before I start writing a scene, I gather all of my notes and make sure I am properly prepared to write.

5. Clearly Define Session Goals

Here is another tip I picked up along the way. Before you start, write what you plan to accomplish during your writing session.

Personally, I’ve found it much more productive to set a goal like: “Complete Chapter 34” than to set a word count objective. For me, I write scenes, and while I have a rough word count in mind before I start each, the finish line isn’t tied to the number of words.

Update: Dina Santorelli comments similarly on this in her post Word Counts Are Not for Everyone on her website Making ‘Baby Grand,’ the Novel.

6. Reward Yourself

Part way through a session, my mind often begins to wander. Thought like: I’m hungry! or, I should check Facebook jump into my head.

Experience has demonstrated that yielding to those temptations is guaranteed to waste at least a half hour.

You are better off waiting until you accomplish your goals first – then rewarding yourself.

I find it beneficial to list my rewards along with my session goals before starting. For some reason, this make reaching the goal much more compelling.

Summary

Using these steps I maximize my writing effectiveness. You may have other things that work for you. Take a moment and share them with us below.

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