There’s no getting around the fact that as a writer you must produce your craft either on paper or on a digital device of some kind. Even if you subscribe to voice recognition software where your dictation becomes your written work, there is time and commitment involved in creating all forms of writing. How, then, does the serious writer stay on task?
In this world where we can click away and change our minds instantly, be distracted by cellular devices, multitask and attend to a wide variety of our needs almost simultaneously, how do we stay on the path of quality writing and be proud of our accomplishments, our creations, and inspire others through our words?
These tips are in no particular order, except the first one, which is absolutely essential! And along the way, here are a few online tools that can aid in your process.
1. Write, write, write
…and then write some more. Nike said it best with “just do it!” There is so much self-doubt and procrastination out there that the best mantra has to be to just write! It takes moments to criticize, but hours to create. Stick those words on a post it … and believe it.
2. Time and place
If you were fortunate enough to have parents that forced you to do homework away from the TV or radio, in a quiet place after having a snack, or after clearing up other tasks, you were on your way to knowing that distraction is a big culprit in preventing your writing from moving along.
Find that perfect place, treat it as your sacred ground, and dedicate yourself while working there. Keep it physically distraction-free, but seasonally, let the space change. If a local coffee shop works in the dead of winter but a lawn chair is better for summer, just use what works. Dealing with a creative process in a busy environment is the topic of http://www.coffitivity.com/.
3. Turn off and tune in
Manually turn off your Internet and electronic devices, and don’t allow yourself interruption. If you can’t do this, take action through software help such as http://www.hogbaysoftware.com/products/writeroom and www.getcoldturkey.com for help.
Take some control…especially over emails. But at the same time, be inspired at the coffee shop by the conversations around you or the animals in the woods near your lawn chair. If you need a physical motivator to start, or at any time during your process, try doing nothing for two whole minutes! Brains need rest too. http://www.donothingfor2minutes.com/
4. Use an outline
Every job can be divided up into manageable tasks. A Table of Contents or Chapter Outline will help with fiction, non-fiction and ebooks, as well as article writing. Try alternating writing tasks with research or fact-checking work. Once you are writing, if you want to save time and don’t like using a mouse, www.writemonkey.com has tips to help you use your keyboard more efficiently.
5. Don’t edit as you go
Writers may disagree about this, but the process of editing in itself is a negative force. Its nature is to look for errors, omissions, and inaccuracies. It can wait! Let the process flow. Sometimes a dictation device is perfect for this, which is a two-step process; one gets the words down as you think them, and the other is the refining of what you said. Take a break between the two as well…it gives perspective. There are online tools to help with editing progress such as www.diffchecker.com.
If you would like to learn more about the quality of your work, one of the best sites out there to try for free is www.gingersoftware.com. To get a better idea of the reading level of your work, www.readability-score.com can do this for your samples.
6. Set Goals
Many famous writers talk about their daily rituals of writing and many involve having goals. Keep it manageable and doable. For fiction, try just writing one page a day. Many days you will likely surpass this … and feel good about it. Give yourself suitable rewards for the goals. A great tool to help you with goal setting and rewards is found at www.writeordie.com. It’s designed for the procrastinator! The discipline of recording your time is invaluable too. Look at www.yast.com for help with record keeping.
7. Record your progress
If you have a large project such as a novel, break it up into chunks. As you work through each chunk, recognize where you are with that portion. Make the editing a separate process where you will also record your progress.
If you can SEE your progress, you will feel you are “making” progress. Progress over time really adds up. It’s like working out, or dieting; get on the scale from time to time and you will see the results. You will stay the course when you SEE the results.
8. Get up!
Physically, writing can commit you to hours at a time over a keyboard or notepad. Your body needs to get out of that physical condition to keep itself supple and to free up your brain. Most professional writers do not commit more than two hours to the task. Take necessary breaks: go for a walk, talk to someone, make something in the kitchen, read a book, do other unrelated tasks… just don’t edit on your breaks.
Need a more disciplined approach? Try an online stopwatch at www.online-stopwatch.com.
One great way to give your brain a break is to absorb the ideas and thoughts of others on your topic. Read other sources about what you are writing, or about the process of writing. Experts have a wealth of knowledge they want to share. Inspiration can come from the tiniest spark to a full-on rethink of a topic. Attend a lecture or workshop about your craft and share when you can. Let yourself feel supported. Sometimes a writing buddy could be just the solution for you.
10. Be a writing entrepreneur!
No one can sell half a manuscript or produce a film with no ending. Once you decide your work is complete, start the next one! Publishers often comment that the best thing an author can do when they have finished writing a book is start the next one.
Bonus tip: Look for inspiration. It’s everywhere… in a song on the radio, in a movie, in people and stories around you. When ideas come to you, write them down. Be a vessel for “what ifs” and use them in your stories, articles and blogs. Some research has shown that creativity can come from distraction. See what they say about this at www.noisli.com.
Mix things up … and go beyond the ordinary. Imagine ordinary things that become extraordinary. In a restaurant… what if an old flame stops to say hello? At the doctor’s… what if the files get mixed up…? Cleaning a closet? What if you find something from the previous owner of your home?
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