Monday, February 13, 2017

Five Little Things that Can Hurt Your Productivity as a Writer

Over the past several months I have been very busy as a writer. You might even say productive. I've gotten so much done: creating marketing plans, contacting dozens of schools about possible visits, nailing down a social media strategy, and so much more. But, when it actually came down to writing, my productivity often suffered.

It is for that reason that I chose focus as my word for 2017. I have decided to be more productive as a writer this year! In order to do that, it was important to nail down the things that were hurting my productivity. So I listed them here, hoping that it will help you be more productive this year too!

1. Distractions

My biggest distractions are text messages from my kids. Social media notifications can also draw my attention away from more important things. Other distractions can be things on my desk, books within arm's reach, etc. It's easy to get distracted when you're not in a writing groove. But you won't get into a writing groove if you let those electronic (or hardbound) sirens draw you away!

My advice: Leave electronic devices in another room. Only answer the phone for the most important people (spouse, children's school, etc). Clear your desk. Look away from those tempting tomes! And make sure the people and pets in your life give you the space you need (this may mean walking the dog before you start and writing during nap time--whatever works).

2. Lack of a routine

Sometimes I let household chores or writing business take over my writing time. Are you spending more time folding laundry, posting on social media, or checking your email than you are on writing? You may be be hurting your productivity when some little voice tells you that you have so many more urgent things to do, and you fall for it.

My advice: Carve out blocks of time for specific tasks. Check emails after meals. Schedule social media posts on the weekend. Browse social media (to like, comment, and retweet) during lunch. Fold laundry before bed. Even if you don't have a rigid schedule, blocking out your time will help you avoid letting your writing time get overrun by mismatched socks.

3. Caring too much

There are times when I get caught up in the quality (or lack thereof) in my writing when I should be focused on getting something down on the page. It's easy to obsess over details even when I'm writing a first draft! Are you getting so hung up on perfection in your early drafts that you're not getting your story written?

My advice: Ignore your inner critic. Remind yourself that first drafts are meant to be rough. That one line you're spending way too much time on will probably change anyway! If you're having trouble shutting up your inner critic, try this: set a timer for five minutes, then write non-stop until the timer goes off. You might be surprised at how much you can get written.

4. Not taking breaks

Sometimes I will feel so determined to reach a certain point in my story that I will stubbornly sit and stare at that spot on the page for far too long. Not only do I not get any writing done, but it's like my brain is stuck in the mud! Do you find yourself stubbornly refusing to quit until you figure something out? It's probably a big waste of time.

My advice: Take regular breaks. This goes beyond getting up to stretch now and then. When you reach the end of that passage, get up and go walk the dog. If you find yourself stuck or struggling with revising a chapter, go take a shower or run the vacuum. Get your mind away from the "problem" and loosen it up with a mundane task. Sometimes the best writing is done when you're not trying.

5. Other people's writing

Most often, when I read something that wows me, I'm inspired. But I admit that there are times when I read other people's work and I think to myself, "Who am I kidding? I'll never be this good!" Do you get caught up in the comparison game and let it crush your confidence? That may be the biggest productivity killer of all!

My advice: Be realistic. Your writing is your own. There will always be people, published and unpublished, of varying skill levels. You may never feel like the most brilliant writer ever, but I'm guessing that those you think ARE the most brilliant ever have had plenty of times when they haven't felt that way. So just be content in becoming the best writer that you can be.

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