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Being a writer takes guts, a lot of motivation and a lot of hard work and hard work is well, hard. But there are ways to make it easier and that’s what this series is going to be about. I don’t know if you’ve heard of ‘brain-hacking’ but it’s where you take different ideas and different things and use them to make whatever you’re doing, ‘better’. In this case, writing obviously, because this is a writing tips website haha.
We’re going to look at:
- How to motivate yourself
- How to have the energy to write
- How to write better prose that flows
You know sometimes you write and the prose is amazing and you’re like.
“O.M.G. I wrote that! How did I do that?”
Let’s look at how you did that. Let’s look at what circumstances lead to that.
Routine & Productivity
For productivity you can’t dismiss routines. Routine is about getting into a pattern of writing where you don’t even think about it anymore. The nice thing about it is you take a lot of the pressure off yourself.
You stop procrastinating.
It’s hard to procrastinate something you’re not thinking about doing. Because when you procrastinate it goes something like this;
I need to get writing done. I really don’t want to right now. Maybe I can find something else productive to do. Don’t I have emails to check?
Before you know it you’re down the rabbit hole and on the other side binge watching t.v.
But a routine goes more like;
Mindlessly grab coffee, sit down, turn on your computer, write something.
I learnt this the hard way you guys. Sure, you can meander through life and probably get a little further than you were, no problem… but not efficiently, not effectively.
You’re wasting time, and when you waste time you waste money and your life.
The birth of my son forced me to learn routine quickly. Before this I had a lax life; I woke up when I wanted; I slept when I wanted; I was productive when I wanted. I had an inbuilt drive I developed as a teenager to get stuff done, but I didn’t need to squeeze it into to a specific time line. Other than long term deadlines of course.
Queue my autistic son who wouldn’t sleep for more than 2 hours and screamed the house down non-stop. He was neurologically ill and the slightest thing would cause a melt-down like nothing else. It still does.
There would be times I would have to leave the room, because the screaming would go on for hours and drive me honestly, insane. No amount of comfort would change the pitch or duration, nothing would distract him.
I had to work quickly and within set hours because I couldn’t get anything done otherwise.
At the time I thought this is motherhood, and my weaknesses prevented me from over coming. I’m honestly glad I didn’t know it wasn’t normal, because it forced me to get tough on myself. If I can’t handle one little baby? Then I am obviously a weak person, how can I be stronger?
Routine, my friend. I had a lot to do, and little time to get it done. I needed mini goals just to get us through the day, the week, the month…our lives.
And although this is an extreme example it has served me well. These days I have a whole team of people who work with my son inside, and outside of the house. The landscape of my sons ‘difference’ has changed.
But I still have routine. Because it works.
What Routine Works Best?
The best routine for you, is what works for you.
Sorry! I can’t tell you to wake up at 5am and be in bed by 9pm because I don’t know your life. What I can tell you is it probably depends on whether you are a morning person, or a night owl.
Writers on my twitter weighed in:
I can also tell you, you may think you’re a night owl, when secretly you enjoy what you do at night more than what you do in the morning.
So you stay up late, and get yourself exhausted and stumble around in the mornings and tell yourself,
“I’m a night owl.”
You won’t really know if you are until you go to bed early and try it out for a while. Or if you finally align your daily routine with what you love.
The only concrete thing I can tell you is how to end a day and how to start it…
To Begin Your Day
Don’t work the second you wake up, or you will procrastinate getting out of bed; because sleep will be way more enticing. Pick something worth waking up for, a favorite breakfast or cup of coffee.
And start your day with intentions!
I know, I know that sounds all new-agey, but it isn’t. Having a goal you want to hit for the day sets the theme of the day. Everything else becomes less important than this goal. Whatever else you have to get done can wait….this also reduces procrastination.
If one thing is more important than anything else, you will pause every so often and kick yourself when you’re not doing it.
End your day with intentions and gratitude
Again, this sounds all hippie and out there but look at it this way. If you end your day knowing what you want to do the next day, you can stop worrying about tomorrow before you sleep.
If you then finish this up with what you are grateful for, you will feel much more at peace with how the day went.
Better sleep, better days. Which leads to…
Your Tired Zones
You know those times in the day when you’re freaking tired? For me this is 2pm in the afternoon, and sometimes by 3pm I take a nap with the kids it’s that bad. For you it might be first thing in the morning, or late at night.
Schedule your most mindless task here.
Mine is social media. Pinning, conversing, networking, connecting, setting up tweets I think will be helpful for people, all that good jazz. This doesn’t take too much thought.
You also want to reduce these tired times as much as possible, obviously.
Which means knowing when to stop.
Oh you can start, but until you know when to stop? Forget it. You will exhaust yourself and burn yourself into a heap of ash. Your engine will stop revving, and the worst part?
You. Will. Get. Sick.
Yup, colds, stomach bugs, you name it.
If you keep getting sick all the time, ask yourself where you can cut back. Because your body is screaming it at you.
Set a point in the day when you don’t work. For me that’s 4pm-9pm. This is the time I sit with the kids, I make dinner, I fold laundry and try to ‘productively-relax’.
9pm is for true relaxation. Television, books, or I talk about my day and try to add silver linings to my issues.
Something to blow off steam.
And when you’ve figured out your tired zones? The rest of the hours in the day are for filling with writing.
For me this is 5am- 8am, 10am-2pm.
Now you’ve worked out that 6am is a good time for you, or 1pm, or 8pm. How long should you write for?
Writing is a draining process, you’re using a lot of your brain to do it.
The people who are most efficient work for no longer than 90 minute increments. But I actually suggest a lot less than that.
My first stint in the day is 90 minutes, my second an hour, after that I work for 20 minutes at a time.
Because my brain is tired and it’s no good working non-stop if what I put out makes little sense. Then I’m giving myself more work later in the editing process.
That’s when the hours catch up with you like debt.
Why work more hours now? To fix mistakes and work more hours later?
Set Deadlines to Propel Routine
Give yourself enough time to achieve a project, but not so much time that you put it off.
It’s a sweet spot, and you won’t know yours until you practice it.
- For me, and novels, it’s 2 months.
- Novella’s, it’s one month.
- Short stories, it’s 2 weeks.
But to find your sweet spot you have to push yourself first. Write as much as possible in your optimal time zones and race yourself.
I’m semi-fast, so your timeline might not look like mine. I’ve been doing this for a decade now, and my typing speed is…fast. Don’t feel you have to complete a project on the above timelines.
But you do need to pick a deadline.
Have to Do Lists and Don’t Wander
You’ve worked out your optimal hours, and how long each stretch of work will be until you rest. Now work out what those stretches of work will look like.
- Write scene 2?
- X amount of words?
- Edit chapter 3?
Don’t check your emails/social media/texts during these stretches, this is for your writing ONLY. If you absolutely feel the desire too, tell yourself you can do this during your break. Then decide if you’d rather do something more fun (like watch an episode of t.v. or go on a walk) because believe me, your emails are not as important as living your life and smashing out your goals.
Routines help you to take charge of your entire day, and for every day you take charge of, it’s one step closer to taking hold of the life you actually want to live. You know, the one where your writing and publishing content and books consistently.
As a recap if you want to try this at home:
- Make to do lists
- Set goals
- Set a deadline
- Take breaks
- Work no longer than 90 minutes
- Set intentions & be grateful
- Find what works for you by pushing yourself
When are your tired zones? And what time do you write?
If you want to read another part in the series choose one here: