Nine Keys to Productive Writing

Nine Keys to Productive Writing

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Productive writing could be summarized in one tip. Write a lot of material quickly and don’t let anything else stand in your way. Skip meals, short your sleep, avoid your friends and family, throw your TV in the trash, clean out your home until it looks like a Zen temple dedicated to writing.

Most of us aren’t going to do that. What can a person do to become a more productive writer while still leading a normal life?

1. Write Every Day

Ideally, you should be writing at the same time every day. Even if you can only be certain of a half hour writing slot, use it. That’s enough to make progress. Banana Yoshimoto has published several books while writing for only a half hour each day.

If you can put your daily writing time first thing in the morning, even better. You are at your most creative first thing in the morning. Your brain has re-generated itself and you haven’t had time to fill it with the day’s crap yet.

2. Write A Lot

You might wonder how this could be a key to productive writing. Isn’t it the goal of these keys? Strictly speaking, productive writing is writing you can put to use; a product. You will find there is a limit to how much useful writing you can produce in a day. Do you stop there? If you want to become more productive, you should be doing lots of additional writing.

You have writing you need to produce for a particular topic or genre anyway. Those products I just mentioned. One of the ways to write more is to start more projects. When you have a lot of projects, some won’t work out. On the plus side, you will have more that succeed. More completed work gives you more choices for publication.

There are other ways to get more writing practice. Keep a journal. Write on topics you’d like to work with professionally. Switch between fiction and non-fiction. Write about anything where you have something to say. Feel like ranting about something? Write an article and throw it away when you’re done. Nobody likes rants. Happy about something? Write an article on that. Maybe you’ll find a place for it someday.

3. Write In Chunks

Pick a time limit for working on a writing project. This let’s you ignore distractions because you will be free in 20 minutes or an hour, whatever limit you set. It also gets you writing more because time is running out.

4. Keep Studying How To Write

Unless you’re already a best selling author, you need to keep learning how to write. Writing itself teaches you how to write better. You can see the improvement in your own writing over time. On the other hand, you will grow as a writer even faster when you don’t skimp on the writing books, magazines, and websites.

An important part of studying how to write is reading. Not just reading books on writing, but reading other writers of every flavor. Everything you read is an example of how to write. Learn from it.

5. Set Multiple Writing Goals

It’s better to have too many writing goals than not enough. One of the easiest ways to overcome writer’s block is multiple projects. It’s very difficult to be blocked for both fiction and non-fiction; or both articles and books.

One of the most common causes of writer’s block is a need to think through what comes next in your writing. Maybe the problem needs to go to the back of your mind for a while. You don’t need to sit quietly. You can do something. That something can be another writing project.

6. Run Writing Experiments

Writing experiments are any kind of writing you haven’t done before. A mild form of experiment is similar to what you already do. An article writer who tries a new topic is experimenting.

More exciting experiments involve something you’ve never done before. Have you ever written a poem? A song? Can you write a short story that moves back in time and ends on day one? My Crackhead Karl story was an experiment in spontaneous writing. In the movie version of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, Norton’s character found a pile of articles written in the first person by internal organs. Use “what if…” to come up with your own writing experiments.

7. Free-writing

Free-writing is writing non-stop for a short time period. Five or ten minutes is fine. The odds are against producing good results, but the same could be said of writing in a journal and look at what that’s done for you.

8. Work On Your Writing Ideas

Pick one of your idea files and start creating writing ideas. If you don’t have any great ideas, that’s okay. Start with bad ideas or review the ideas you already have. As you work on ideas, something is going to grab you and you’ll be off to write a first draft.

9. Let Others Know About Your Writing

When you tell your friends and family what you’re writing, they expect to see some results. This gives you external motivation to get the job done.

Beware of telling them what your final products will be. Psychologists have found that when we say, for example, “I’m going to write a book”, it gives us the emotional reward of having finished and we are less motivated to actually finish. Just say you’re writing.

These are a few keys to productive writing. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list. Maybe you can think of a few more.


Article by Ivan Izo.


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