Writing, like any other skill, takes time and practice to master. As if the process weren’t already difficult enough, we often seem hell-bent on getting in our own way.
We create obstacles where none existed.
We procrastinate, allowing ourselves to get distracted by things that do not support our goals.
We lose before we even begin.
I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather stop fighting myself and make the process as easy as possible.
Here are nine writing strategies for getting out of your own way and developing a successful writing habit.
1. Create your writing haven.
While it is possible to write anywhere a stress-free environment works wonders.
A clean, organized space will ensure that you are not distracted or tempted to use chores to procrastinate during your writing blocks.
An ergonomic desk setup will keep your body in top shape.
Proper lighting and small touches such as candles or incense can also help keep you inspired and focused.
If possible, try to separate your writing, work, and leisure spaces. Avoid working in bed so that your sleep cycle isn’t thrown off.
Most importantly, choose a quiet place where interruptions are minimal.
2. Write every day.
Writer’s write. It’s as simple as that.
It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you knock something out every day.
Jot a few lines down in a journal. Respond to a writing prompt. Free-write whatever pops into your head.
You don’t have to hit a thousand words. You don’t even have to reach 100. Any amount of words will do as long as you write them.
3. Use deadlines to foster a sense of urgency.
It’s easy to stay on task when you have to get a report to your boss by Monday morning. That’s a tangible goal with clear consequences. But, in the age of freelance, blogging, and self-publishing, things can be a bit tricky.
You might have a to-do list but without deadlines to push towards it’s easy to meander and get lost in the woods.
Find ways to force accountability. Even self-imposed due dates are better than no due dates at all. Sometimes seeing the upcoming date on the calendar is all it takes to get back on track.
4. Commit by blocking out time on your calendar.
Speaking of calendars, treat your writing like any other commitment and schedule time to write during the week.
Treat these blocks as non-negotiable. Whether you are currently getting paid to do so, writing is real work. Creating and sticking to a schedule will signal to others, and to your brain, that what you’re doing is important.Creating and sticking to a schedule will signal to others that what you're doing is important. Click To Tweet
5. Cut out distractions.
There is a time for socializing. There is a time for research. Your writing blocks are not those times.
Put your phone on silent. Stay off social media. Treat Google like the productivity sucker that it is. If you hit a section in your writing that requires more information, make a note to look it up later and keep going.
If you are really struggling with this one, consider using a tool such as Cold Turkey. This program blocks attention hogging websites (like Facebook) for a set amount of a time, allowing you to focus on what matters.
Hint: Writing is what matters.
6. Read smart and often.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” -Stephen King
Mr. King nailed it there. If you want to be a great writer you must read.
Reading exposes us to new concepts. It forces us to question our own assumptions and beliefs. It also shows us what is already successful in the market.
We can then take this wisdom and channel it back into our own efforts. The result is stronger connections with our audience. Well-rounded, relatable characters. Touching stories that have the potential to change lives.
Spend as much time reading as you can. But, be smart about it. Develop a note-taking system. Good notes are a treasure trove of research that you can use to inspire and flesh out your writing.Reading exposes us to new concepts. It forces us to question our own assumptions and beliefs. Click To Tweet
7. Take frequent breaks.
We can only stay focused for so long. Despite what the 9 to 5 ideology tells us, working non-stop for hours at a time does not produce good work. It produces exhausted, distracted, and often unhealthy employees.
A break doesn’t haven’t to be thirty minutes. It can be as simple as standing up and stretching for a bit or walking to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.
Personally, I’m a fan of the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working distraction-free for 25 minutes then taking a 5-minute break. But, to each their own.
As long as you give your brain opportunities to rest and get your body moving now and again, you’re on the right track.
8. Study your competition.
Read bestsellers in your genre. Follow other blogs in your niche. Identify what is working and what isn’t.
Get inspired. Learn from the mistakes of others rather than working it out the hard way.
Use this information to pinpoint best practices in your industry. This is how you hone your craft, establish yourself as an expert, and begin growing a following.
9. Teach others.
Teaching is one of the best ways to master a subject. It forces you to break the subject down into simple, digestible sentences. And, in the process, the core concepts are further ingrained into your own mind.
Join a community and start having conversations with other people in your industry. Answer questions on Quora. Find people interested in your topic or who are still establishing themselves and guide them in the right direction.
Helping others hones your craft. It is also one of the best ways to create loyal brand advocates. These super-fans will stick with you and are instrumental to the success of any writer.
What writing strategies have you had the most success with? Share them with me in the comments below.