Monday, 8 January 2018

Get Past The Blank Page - 5 Productivity Hacks To Kick Start Your Writing

Whether you're trying to write a novel, a poem, a blog post or even an essay, the beginning is always the hardest part. Getting anything onto that perfectly blank page; taking that first step, that is what always seems the most difficult.

I've found that writing, much like a diet, is about your mindset and your self control. It is so easy to sit back and wait for the inspiration to strike but as Stephen King said 'Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.' And as much as we like to say we write for the passion, for the enjoyment, at the end of the day to really be a writer you have to put in the work, you have to treat it like a job. And though most of us hate getting up and going to work (honestly, if we could all just work from bed the world would be a better place), I've compiled a list of hacks to make it that little bit easier, to boost your productivity and get you writing.

1 - Manage Distractions

This hack is something we've all heard many times over, but its true. If you put down your phone, step away from social media and turn off the TV you'll be able to focus so much better. I write on Google Docs, which is great for me because the page still works while you're offline and then saves it to the cloud when you're back online. This means that I can turn off my WiFi for the time that I want to be writing and really cut any distractions - and as the WiFi box is in the other room I really can't be bothered to get up and cheat just for a cheeky scroll through Instagram.

I've heard other people talk about the Forest App to control their distractions. Its an app for your phone where you set a timer, and in that time a tree will grow on your phone, but if you stray off into other apps, answer phone calls or start texting people the tree will die. I never thought this would work for me, one cartoon tree's death won't stop me from getting my social media fix, so hadn't downloaded the app before, however after reading more into the App to talk about it in this post I found out that by using the app and gaining in app coins you can spend them to help plant real trees on Earth! So hearing that this app can help me focus more, but also help the environment at the same time is a huge win win for me.

2 - Start with Free Writing

I've found that a huge help for me when writing is to get all the jumble out of my head first, this way I can really focus on what I actually want to be writing about. To do this I give myself five to ten minutes of free writing. I will start with a writing prompt and then just let my mind ramble from there, not worrying too much about what is coming up but slowly getting my mind into a proper writing state, and because it isn't related to what I'm actually working on I don't have to worry about perfection - I even get some new ideas out of it. In fact, I've found that free writing off of writing prompts helps me so much that I've decided to upload a weekly writing prompt on this blog so you can have a go too. Each Wednesday I'm going to upload a few sentences that you can use as the start of your free writing!

3 - Don't Worry About Perfection - Use The Elephant

The scariest part of writing is the constant worry that it won't be good enough. This is a fear that plagues me whenever I start to type. It holds me back in a huge way. I've found that I will have a sudden burst of writing energy, the words are just pouring out of me, it's all perfect and then I will stumble upon one word or phrase that stops the whole process. Usually I just can't find the right word for the sentence and I will sit and mull over it for hours, not writing anything else. It is a total waste of time. I read somewhere that if this ever happens to you just substitute that word or sentence for Elephant and carry on like nothing happened. Then at the end of your session you can just look up for all the Elephants in your work (of course if you're writing about Elephants you're going to want to use another phrase) and fix them. It stops you getting off track in the middle of a good writing session, and reminds you that it doesn't have to be perfect first time, you can go back and clean up your messes later.

4 - Plan Ahead

So you've set out a specific time to sit down and write, great, but once you get there what are you going to write about? Plan what you're going to do in that writing time so you don't become overwhelmed and give up. Perhaps rather than writing you're actually going to spend the time doing research? Perhaps you're going to spend this time carving out the details of your character, or a specific place within your novel? Plan and set smaller goals for the time you have to write to make it seem more manageable and less scary.

5 - Do It Now - Get Into The Habit

It's cold, you're in bed, tucked up under the covers, the telly is on and it's telling you that another episode of Friends will be on after the break. You should be getting up to write, but why would you do that when you could stay right where you are? You tell yourself that you'll watch just one more episode and then you'll get up to work.
We've all be there, we've all pushed back the thought of something hard in favour of doing something easy. This is really where the will power comes in, you just have to get up and do it. You have to get up and go sit at your desk and write. Once you'er there, once you've started you will have forgotten why you couldn't be bothered in the first place. For the first few week you're going to have to force yourself to do it - but once those few weeks are out of the way you would have set yourself a habit you find hard to break. Get the hard bit out of the way now and let future you have an easy life.

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