Friday, January 11, 2013

My Top 10 Tips to Increase Writing Productivity

I've been in a very productive writing mode lately.  One book project just got put to bed (sort of, waiting on page proofs) and I have been writing like mad on a new book project.  I thought I would share with you my top 10 pieces of advice for increasing writing productivity that I have used the last several years.

1.  Set goals and deadlines.  Yes, I know that this is a common piece of advice, but it is so important.  Figure out your deadlines and work backward.  Set daily writing goals based on the required deadline and meet them.  When I am in hyperproductive mode, I don't go home until I get the goal done--period.  I don’t care what the day throws at me, I get my goal done.

2.  Make your goals realistic.  There is nothing worse than setting goals that are unattainable.  It sets you up for failure and makes you feel like you cannot finish a project.  Make sure that the goals can be accomplished in a few hours.  I usually try to set a daily writing goal of 1500-3000 words.  I can usually get this done in two to three hours, leaving the rest of the day for working on correspondence, teaching, background research and reading, or other writing that is not within the goal of my main writing project.  Figure out how many words you can get done in about the same amount of time and base your writing schedule on that figure.

3.  Tune out.  I turn off my cell and don’t look at the Internet or email while I am writing.  I try to work where I know I won’t be interrupted.

4.  Outline.  I outline as much as possible prior to sitting down to write.  This makes the act of writing so much easier.

5.  Don’t worry about perfection.  I don’t worry about the quality of the writing as I write.  I know I can edit it later.  Having bumpy writing that needs editing is way better than not having anything at all.

6.  Look at writing as a job, not an art.  If you think too much about what you are writing, you’ll get bogged down.  Just write and get it done.

7.  Keep writing.  If you get stuck, keep writing. Something…anything.  Start a blog, write a letter, something.  Then go back to your professional writing.  But, make sure that you write every day and keep to your goals.

8.  Look at yourself as a professional writer.  Do not think of yourself as a professor, engineer, scientist, social worker, whatever.  If you are writing lots of words a day as part of your job, you are a professional writer.  Treat yourself as a writer and you’ll have a different relationship with your work.

9.  Don’t worry about what others think about your writing.  This can slow you down and make you unproductive.

10.  Get help.  Years ago, I took a writing workshop with Julia Cameron, the author of The Artists Way.  That experience transformed my professional life and made me much more productive.  It was a simple 3-hour workshop that gave me a few tips and suggestions.  Those tips and suggestions made all the difference and gave me an entire new outlook on my career.  There are all kinds of writing groups and workshops all over the world.  Get involved if you feel that you need help.

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