Distractions are everywhere, thwarting your writing goals. We wake up every morning, hoping to get words on the page. "Today is the day!"
Then, you open Facebook, start going through emails, or get up and get your 12th snack. Before you know it, the day is gone and no progress was made.
There is no magic answer to how to focus and write. You just need discipline. But sometimes, a few writing productivity tips help.
1. Write down your goals.
Writing your to-do list on paper helps you achieve your goals. Use a daily sticky note to jot down a quick list of things you want to accomplish today. Post it somewhere prominent to be an all-day reminder to shut down Facebook and get your list done. Warning: Be realistic in setting writing goals or you'll get demoralized if you can't meet them.
2. Read screenplays and novels for inspiration.
Look to other authors to inspire you, whether it's a screenplay or a novel. Story is story. Reading also ramps up your creativity. Here's a post showing how to find screenplays online to read for free.
3. Find the time of day your mind is most creative.
Some people are early risers, some are night owls. Some like to sneak time in the middle of the day to write. One of my friends writes during his lunch hour, every day. Figure out when you are most creative, and have at it!
4. Keep a notepad on you at all times, or a phone App.
The old philosophy of a journalist was to have a notepad and a dime on them at all times. The dime was to use a pay phone to call their editor when a story broke. Yeah, we're past that, but the notepad is still a great tip! Keep one in your car, in your purse, in your jacket, or anywhere you can access it when a new idea pops in your head. You can also use the voice App on your phones, which will probably save a few trees.
5. If you're on a roll, keep rolling.
If you're banging out words and having a stellar creative day, keep going! All the other things on your list can wait, because you might be hurting for ideas tomorrow. Unapologetically take advantage of your creative brain while you can.
6. Write every day... or not.
Should you write every day? Sure, if you can. But if you are not the type of person to write every day, don't beat yourself up! You're "writing" when you do other things, like taking a walk, cooking dinner, etc. As long as you "touch" your story often, your characters and plot will be swirling in your head at all times. But try to not use that as an excuse to not put your ass in the seat and write.
7. Never stop at the end of a scene.
My favorite trick is to never stop writing at the end of the scene. I always start the next scene before shutting down for the day, even if it's just a couple of lines. Starting a new day without having to stare at a white page is liberating.
8. Use a time-management tool.
In the age of technology, tons of productivity tools exist. My new favorite is an App called Focus Keeper. You set a timer to write for 25 minutes, then the App automatically gives you a 10-minute break before starting another 25-minute session.
If you're adverse to Apps, set a timer, or a word-count goal for day. Or you could use Tomato-Timer set, which is just like Focus Keeper, without having to download anything.
9. Schedule writing time.
Block out time in your calendar, just as you would do for a doctor's appointment, or work meeting. You can use that time for research, writing, editing, or just brainstorming story ideas. Make your writing time as important as your health. If you don't take your writing seriously enough, no one else will.
Having said that, refer to tip #6 above. You may not be feeling productive on that schedule time slot, so do something else during that time, like read a script, book, or go for a walk. Do something that will help your creativity later. Or, use that time for the next tip...
10. Read industry news.
If you're not feeling productive, spend time educating yourself on the industry. Writing is a business. You need to know the ins and outs in order to have a healthy writing career. Do a search for "film industry news" and make sure to read trades in foreign countries, too. The international market determines box-office success.
11. Dictate instead of typing.
If you're not a fast typist, use dictation software. Lots of dictation software exists to help. It's especially great if you develop carpal tunnel or have another injury.
[Script uses affiliate links.]
12. Let your mind go free.
If you haven't tried stream-of-consciousness writing, you might be blown away by the liberation. The point is to give your mind permission to think of anything and everything, without limitations. Set a timer for 15 minutes and just write. Anything that comes to your mind. Don't backspace or delete, and do not judge anything you put on the page. Just set that timer and go wild! Don't even look at it until you're done. The end result won't be perfect, but your mind will surprise you at the places its able to go without judgment.
13. Get away from your desk.
Train yourself to unblock writer's block by getting out from behind your desk. Whether you do a sweat-breaking exercise, a casual walk, or walk to the basement to fold the laundry, stepping away from your desk will shift your mindset and prepare you for better creativity later. Moving your body helps your mind. You don't need to be an athlete. Just move.
14. Be accountable.
Get a writing productivity partner who you check in with on a weekly basis. Stating your goals out loud to someone helps you feel the pressure to meet those goals. Whether a novelist or screenwriter, there's a supportive writing group called WRAC where you can sign up (for free) and declare your longer-term goals and encourage each other along the way. Follow @TheWRACGroup on Twitter and join the community on their WRAC website.
You can also simply be accountable to yourself. Professional TV writer Greta Heinemann (NCIS New Orleans) created a journal to help writers with their 5-year plan, as well as their daily goals. I have one of her Writer's Write journals, and I love it! She now has a digital download that's super affordable.
15. Use writing prompts.
If you need a little help to get your writing engine revving, try using writing prompts. Here's a list of great sites to find writing prompts to inspire you.
- Writer's Digest Writing Prompts
- Reddit Writing Prompts
- Tumblr Writing Prompts
- The Write Prompts
- The Story Shack Writing Prompt Generator
16. Reward yourself.
For some people, just finishing is reward of its own, but sometimes we need more of a dangling carrot to succeed. Positive reinforcement helps people stay on track with their goals, both writing and otherwise. Give yourself a reward when you achieve a big or small writing goal. Maybe you reward a day of writing with a nice glass of wine, or you praise yourself for finishing that first draft by buying a new book. Find what motivates you and dangle that carrot in front of yourself. Being kind to yourself makes for a happier writer, and a happier writer makes for a productive writer.
Share tips you use to be productive in the comments below. I'd love to hear what helps you be meet your writing goals!