If you’re not writing enough, do yourself a favor. Put just one of these tips for disorganized, distracted writers into action – and watch your productivity skyrocket!
“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends,” writes Stephen King in On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft. “In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.
“The hardest part of writing is starting, especially if the project is daunting,” says freelance copywriter Brenda Ebel Kruse, author of John Deere Collectibles. “I often feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of a big project, and tend to put off the simple process of starting. Then, it looms even larger in my mind and I begin to fear it. If it involves either long copy or a long process with multiple approvals, I often procrastinate and begin to dread the project.”
Sure, starting a 75,000-word novel – or even a 500-word blog post – can be intimidating. And, the thought of returning to it day in and day out can make you want to drink gin straight out of the cat’s dish (an Anne Lamott quip!).
Not Writing Enough? 5 Tips for Disorganized, Distracted Writers
If you take Stephen King’s advice about approaching the blank page, you’ll increase the chances of enjoying yourself while the Muse tackles you…
“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart,” writes Stephen King in On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft. “You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”
What does “do not come lightly to the blank page” mean to Stephen King? It doesn’t matter. What it means to you is what matters!
Here are a few tips for approaching the blank page with strength, reverence, and faith…
Ease up on writing – spend 40% of your time planning
Published author and freelance book editor Laura Cross brings us a study conducted by McLuhan and Davies, a communications training firm. Their research shows that “efficient writers spend 40% of their time planning, 25% of their time writing, and 35% of their time revising. Less efficient writers spend more time on their projects – tinkering and wandering – and are less satisfied with the results. They distribute their time by planning 20%, writing 60%, and revising 20%.”
The more time writers spend planning (which might involve letting chocolate melt in your mouth or wine roll around your tongue), the more pleased you’ll be with the results. If you’re not writing enough, take time to create a mind map for writers.
Write your book like you’d build a house
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“You have to plan (outline), pour the foundation (start writing), erect a building (keep writing), allow inspectors to review the structure (editors and readers), and be willing to tear down the flawed parts and rebuild them correctly (revise, edit, revise, edit),” says David Cristofano, author of The Girl She Used to Be. “Set a schedule, just like a builder, and follow it as closely as possible.”
Cristofano also thinks writers need to be able to say, “All I can get done this week is set the foundation.” If you’re not writing enough, don’t beat yourself up. An easy tip for disorganized, distracted writers it to write your goals down. Recognize your milestones, celebrate your accomplishments, and move on to the next task.
Write letters to specific readers, like Gramma or your BFF
Editor and ghostwriter Jami Carpenter knows what it’s like to feel like you’re not writing enough. She taught writing to high school students who had problems getting started and keeping going. But, she found, if they pretended they were just writing letters their words flowed.
“To stay focused so you write more, figure out the audience, and start each chapter as if you are writing a letter to that person or type of person,” she says. “If the book is for older women, for example, start the chapter with ‘Dear Gramma.’ That keeps your writing focused on who the reader is.”
But before you submit your chapters to agents, editors, or publishers, make sure you ditch dear old Gramma!
Gnaw on bite-sized bits – and remember that a little goes a long way
“Eating a whole elephant at once is too much, but broken into bites, it’s easier to digest,” says Kruse. “I divide large projects into mini parts and set deadlines for those. I’ll create perhaps six or seven smaller, more manageable projects instead of one huge job.”
Cross adds, “Your detailed plan has to be realistic. If you have a full-time job, two small children, and a dog to care for, it may be difficult to fit three pages of writing in each day. Set yourself up for success by creating a practical plan.” She figures that if you write one hour a day (after the kids go to bed), five times a week – or five hours one day a week (on Sunday when the kids are at Gramma’s house) – you’ll write five pages a week. In less than a year, you’ll have written a 250-page book!
Organize your physical space (a key tip for disorganized writers)
“Does your home have a room for everything, except for you to write? Are you looking out a window where you can get easily distracted?” asks DeAnna Radaj, author of Designing the Life of Your Dreams from the Outside In. “Get rid of ALL distractions on your desk not related to writing (bills, emails/letters, work, video games, etc). Close the curtains and turn off the phone. Don’t have talk radio on in the background; play music if it motivates you. Have pictures of inspiring quotes or scenery to keep you writing, not a picture of your disapproving or critical mother.
If you’re not writing enough, make sure your space is supportive, calming and inspiring – not filled with the negative energy of unfinished tasks, distractions and “to-do” lists that constipate you.
What works for you when you feel disorganized or distracted? Comments welcome below…