How to Maximize Your Writing Time Like a Pro
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Frustrated with your productivity as a writer?
Whether you’re struggling to find the time to write or failing to utilize the time you already have, today I’m going to share a few tips to help you level up the hours you spend creating. I won’t say these tips are universal, but I do think you’ll find them helpful. So whether you’re a newbie, an established writer, or a published author, let’s talk about maximizing the time we have to bring our stories to life!
New to writing? It’s time to commit to the craft.
If you’re new to writing, you likely approach the blank page with a passion, typing up a storm as you kick off your writing journey full of creative energy. But what happens when the going gets tough? When the words don’t seem to flow so easily? Would this mean you aren’t truly cut out to be a writer? Not at all.
No matter how cheerfully you begin your writing journey, there will come a day when writing begins to feel like work. Hard work. And that’s okay. Writing is a marathon, and often the work is painful, but crossing that finish line — a completed manuscript, a book deal, a successful self-publishing launch — makes every effort worthwhile.
But how do you work your way to the first of many finish lines when your creative energies no longer flow so freely?
Tip #1: Make Writing A Priority.
The word priority is often unhappily associated with responsibility and work — two items no one wants to heap anew atop their already busy schedules. But when you’re passionate about writing, holding yourself accountable to your craft is key to creative fulfillment.
Like strength training or distance running, writing gains are made slowly over time and with near-daily consistent effort. If writing is an avenue you know you’d like to pursue (no matter your definition of success), commit to making creative work a priority in your life today.
Tip #2: Discover Your Process.
One common writing tip states that you should carry a notebook or cell phone with you at all times, allowing you to sneak in a little writing at any time of day. For some, this very well may be a great tip. But for others, writing in short bursts leads far more to frustration than gains in productivity.
Every writer has their own process, the unique way in which their creative energies manifest. Figuring out your own process — the time of day you feel most creative, the amount of prep you need before writing a scene, what you like to listen to as you work, etc. — is a major key to maximizing your writing time.
Finding your process won’t happen overnight and it will require a little experimentation, but don’t hesitate to invest time in discovering your process. Doing so may just revolutionize your writing life.
Tip #3: Establish a Routine.
Ah, routine. Like priority, this word has a nasty habit of sounding nothing like fun. But remember, writing isn’t always going to be fun. Sometimes, it’s going to be damn hard work — and if you give up every time the going gets tough, you’ll fail to achieve even the smallest of your writing goals. So if you’ve committed to prioritizing writing in your life, take the time to establish a routine. It’s an effort you won’t regret.
Tip #4: Identify your finish line.
Earlier, I said that writing is a marathon. But in truth, it’s more like a series of marathons. Every draft, every project, every publication — they’re each massive finish lines that require months or even years of your life to reach. And that knowledge? Well, it can be more than a little intimidating, right?
That’s why it’s important to find the nearest finish line and throw all of your creative energy into crossing it, even going so far as to break that goal down into smaller finish lines you can reach on a daily or weekly basis.
Want to finish your first draft? Set your mile markers. Commit to writing at least 500 words a session, drafting for 30 minutes a day, or getting 5,000 words on paper a week, for example. Then, when you’ve chosen your goal, take a moment to review tip number one. Make writing a priority in your life, then get to work.
Long-time writers, let’s refine your writing focus.
You’ve long since committed to building your best writing life, but despite having skin in the game, you still feel as if you aren’t making the most of your writing time. Whether you’re struggling with procrastination, juggling far too many projects, or failing to find creative fulfillment despite years of hard work, let’s talk about where you might be going wrong, writer.
Tip #1: Ensure you’ve laid a strong foundation.
If your creative energies often feel frantic or fried, you’ve likely committed to your work without first establishing strong boundaries. Perhaps you’re trying to emulate another writer’s process, picking up the pen only when the muse comes out to play, or struggling to understand what you want from your writing life.
Whatever the case, you can’t move forward without first turning back. Head back up to the first section of today’s article and spend some time figuring out how best to commit to your craft.
Tip #2: Set Intentions for your writing sessions.
If you’re paying your writing dues but failing to produce a fulfilling output, chances are that you aren’t writing with intention. Working on your manuscript for an hour isn’t the same thing as working to refine your prose in chapter twelve for an hour, after all.
By understanding exactly what you’d like to accomplish when you sit down to write, you’re more than likely to reach that goal — and to find fulfillment in your work. Purpose, when acted upon, equals progress. Always.
Tip #3: Know the difference between Writing & Writing Well.
Reaching your writing goals may be exciting, but if you’ve had to rush your way through your creative process to achieve them, they likely aren’t worth their salt. After all, what good is an 80,000-word draft written in x number of days if you already know half of it needs to be cut?
Again, this goes back to knowing your creative process. I fast-draft my novels because I know I do my best work in revisions, and I only begin drafting when I’ve fully pre-written my idea. If your process doesn’t look like mine, writing an entire draft in a month isn’t going to do you any good. Instead, choose to pace yourself according to your creative process. In doing so, you’ll have no trouble crossing finish line after finish line.
Tip #4: Create a Drafting Cycle.
There are very few writers in this world who can successfully work on multiple projects at once, especially projects of similar natures. Rotating between drafts of projects, however, is a great way to gain the objectivity most writers need to edit well and to keep your writing life feeling fresh.
The process of rotating between projects is something I like to call a drafting cycle. If you’re struggling to manage multiple projects, establishing your own drafting cycle may just provide you with the mental clarity you need to make some much-needed progress.
Tip #5: Recognize the Signs of Burnout.
Nothing will kill your efficiency and the quality of your work like writing burnout. This pesky trap can appear as a writing block, a doubt or fear that wedges itself between you and your creative muse, or demotivation that results from overworking yourself.
The longer you allow burnout to tamper with your writing life, the more it will wreak havoc on your work — and the harder it will be to overcome. Instead, learn to recognize the signs of writing burnout and to pay mind to your creative energies. A little writerly self-care can go a long way!
Going pro? It’s time to build balance in your career.
Whether you’ve snagged a book deal with a big-name publishing house, chosen to self-publish with success in mind, or found that a path somewhere in between is the right one for you, there’s no denying that the strains on your time are suddenly manifold. Publishing brings with it a multitude of tasks, not to mention the everlasting mammoth that is marketing your work.
How can you maximize your writing time when it seems like, despite going pro, there’s suddenly so much less of it? Let’s talk about finding balance in our careers and side hustles, writers.
Tip #1: Prioritize and Batch.
When your work suddenly demands of you so much more than simply sitting down to write, finding balance can seem impossible. But you know how to eat an elephant, right? Working one task at a time can certainly be helpful, but, to be honest, your responsibilities are now a bit more complicated than even that.
Some tasks, such as writing your next book, will be ongoing, while others can be completed in as little as five minutes. The best way to tackle all of these tasks is to wade through them one by one, making a list of your one-time and ongoing tasks, then reordering them by priority. What needs to get done ASAP?
From there, you may also wish to batch certain tasks by nature. Are some passively administrative while others require a lot of mental energy? Group these tasks, then use one as a break from the other throughout your day.
Tip #2: Create New Goals.
You may experience demotivation as a newly-published author (or even a well-established one). After all, you’ve spent years chasing a single goal: to publish your first book. Now that you have that milestone under your belt, figuring out what to do next can be tough.
“I’m going to publish another book, of course!” you might say. And that’s fantastic!
But for some, a more specific goal may be necessary. So what’s next? Do you want to build a backlist of five books in five years? Do you want to do all you can to ensure the six books in your planned series get picked up by your publishing house? Do you want to build an online presence to help you better promote your books?
This tip may at first seem lacking in the time-management & productivity department, but we’re talking all about reinvigorating our motivations as newly-minted authors here. There’s nothing more integral to maximizing our writing time than a few healthy doses of motivation.
Tip #3: Put Passion First.
The publishing industry is just that: an industry. Even as a self-published author, if you’re working to build a career, you should be working with business savvy in mind. And where there is business, there are numbers, algorithms, audiences, marketing tactics, and a whole lot of other things that can quickly kill creativity.
It’s far from abnormal for you to feel a bit worn on the business side of your writing career, and that can certainly affect your stories as well. Even with business aside, you may experience the pressure to produce like never before, if not to pay your bills, then to please your adoring readers.
I certainly won’t tell you to cast aside that business savvy anytime soon. But if you aren’t maximizing your writing time because you’re striving to create work that appeals more to current marketing trends or potential readers than your own interests, STOP. You can manage your time like a pro, but if you aren’t writing to fulfill your creative spirit, you’ll never be at peace with your productivity.
We’ve covered a lot in today’s article, writers, no doubt about it. Even if you’ve only read the section that most pertains to your current writing status, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. If that’s the case, don’t walk away without taking one tiny step.
You don’t need to master every tip I’ve included in this article overnight. Instead, choose just one — or part of one — and commit to integrating it into your writing life. Work at it each and every day. Then, when you’re ready, make your way back to this article and choose another tip to conquer. Slowly but surely, step by step, you will begin to build your very best writing life.