Writing is Hard Work
Let’s just acknowledge from the get-go that while writing can look easy, it really requires effort, focus, and determination. Sometimes, it’s just plain hard work.
Face it – if you’re a writer, you probably spend just as much time (if not more) caving into distraction rather than facing that blank page or empty screen. And when it comes to offering tempting distractions, the internet is the best (or, um, actually the worst).
So I thought I would offer up a short list of a few tools and tips I’ve found that might help you in your quest to amass an ever-increasing word count for your novel, get your freelance writing assignment completed, or just to get your darn blog post done.
Reducing the Temptation of Time Wasters
If you’re a blogger or web writer using WordPress like me (and if you’re not using WordPress, why not??), you can take advantage of the Distraction Free Writing mode. To enable it, just click on the Toggle Full Screen button in the toolbar (it’s the second button from the right, in the first row), or use the keyboard shortcut Alt+Shift+G. This also works on WordPress.org sites.
If you’re a social media hound, or you just use it to avoid the hard work of writing, try installing one of the browser extensions or add-ons for Chrome and Firefox users to block or temporarily disable social media sites and other time wasters. Check out StayFocusd for Windows or Anti-Social for Macs.
For time wasters of the general computer user/web surfer variety, check out tools like RescueTime. RescueTime runs in the background and gathers information on just exactly what it is you’re doing on that darn computer all day long. You may be surprised by what you find out.
You can also try composing using a motivational tool. Write or Die claims to “put the prod in productivity” by using negative reinforcement, including a Kamikaze Mode for the daring in which you either keep writing or your work will “unwrite” itself. Yikes!
If positive reinforcement is more your thing, try Written? Kitten!, which features a rather spartan writing space and rewards your word count with kitten pictures. And if cats aren’t your thing, there’s Write or Bite! featuring puppies. Of course, you can customize Written? Kitten! to show something other than kittens by entering a URL like this: http://writtenkitten.net?search=cupcake. Just replace cupcake with another search term and you’re all set. Or don’t – cupcakes are delicious!
If you’re more into self-expression writing or journaling or just trying to get your Artist’s Way Morning Pages done, check out 750 Words. Or go old school like me and use an actual journal. I do almost all of my writing on my laptop, but I find there’s something about my hand moving across a page that seems to work better for me for journaling.
Set a Timer and a Goal
Set a timer and write until your time is up. Or use a stopwatch to see how long you can keep going or how long it takes to get something done. You can use an app like Toggl or the built-in timer in apps like FreshBooks, or use your smartphone or a simple kitchen timer.
I’ve used the stopwatch on my smartphone, which has worked very well when writing on a deadline or for freelance writing when time is literally money. It’s simple and convenient to use and it helps keep me focused on the task at hand. I don’t know that the stopwatch would work as well for creative writing – I think the timer function would be better-suited to keep your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard for a specific amount of time.
Use Dedicated Writing Tools and Places
Another trick I’ve used successfully is to use a different computer to do my writing. I bought a 10″ netbook a while back and purposefully didn’t install email or anything much other than Word, Scrivener, and Dropbox. It didn’t take long for my brain to “get it” that when I was using the netbook, it was writing time.
In the same vein, I’ve also found that having a “writing place” also cues my brain that it’s time to get words on screen. Writing in a cafe or somewhere other than home can be a great productivity booster. You can’t get up and throw in a load of wash or do the dishes or really do anything other than write. As an added bonus, listening to the conversations and observing the people around you can be great fodder for that next story or piece.
At first I thought I would be distracted by my surroundings, but it actually serves almost as white noise. And you might be surprised by what you can accomplish when it’s just you, your laptop or notebook, and a cup of coffee. There really isn’t anything more you can do than just write.
And that’s where I’ll end. Tools and tips might help (and I hope these do) but it all really just comes down to two words.
What works for you with your writing life? Post your favorite tip in the comments below – you never know what might help or encourage a fellow writer!