Deadlines, goals, accountability, and schedules can all play important roles toward helping you become a more productive writer. But if you are having trouble achieving your goals or meeting deadlines, then it might be because you don’t know how to effectively work in certain situations.
Every writer has a unique presence, and brings their own systems or approaches to the table. No two writers are alike in their habits, personality traits, project vision, writing process, triggers, strengths, or struggles.
That’s why the generalized statement “set goals” or “find an accountability partner” or “make a deadline” is sometimes not a strong enough motivator. I actually liken it to putting the cart before the horse. You’re focusing on action before you know how to take the action.
If you want to be a more productive writer, then your first step needs to go inward, not outward. Search your writer self. Don’t bother setting goals or deadlines until you understand what kind of a goal-setter or goal-achiever you are.
What does being a more productive writer mean to you?
Everyone regards writing productivity differently. Where are you now in your writing journey and what would you like to see change? The sky is the limit here—you’re simply figuring out what your personal definition is for “more productive writer.”
Next, think about who you are as a person, how you operate in the real world. Examine your personal habits, personality traits, work ethic, triggers, strengths, and flaws. I refer to these collectively as Natural Writing Forces because they directly impact your writing productivity.
How can I increase writing productivity?
Writing productivity is directly affected by your inner self—your natural writing forces. They are always at work, whether you know what they’re up to or not, and they directly affect you in the productivity arena. They determine what time of day you prefer to write. If you finish your projects. Whether you turn to Facebook when the writing isn’t going well. If you let fear stand in your way.
Natural writing forces exist in everyone, but the combinations or systems are unique to each writer. I envision writing forces working like an ocean tide. They rise and they fall; they cause chaos and calm. They might behave different from one day to the next. But they’re always doing something. Somewhere in the midst is you, the writer, a sea god(dess) and you have to decide how you can work best under the ever-changing conditions.
Writing productivity is measured by what we can see happening with our projects. How many words we write per day or if we meet our deadlines. This tempts us into focusing on the result (or lack of) our approach. If all is running smoothly, then that’s fantastic. You’re consistently hitting the range of productivity.
But if things aren’t running smoothly, sometimes you might make the mistake to correct the external forces (changing the time of day you write, or skipping weekends because they’re too busy) before going deeper and making sure that an internal energy/behavior isn’t the reason for poor output.
Internal energies and behaviors such as confidence, motivation, habits and personality traits influence the overall success of our productivity. So doesn’t it make sense to know under which conditions you work best in order to be the most productive?
Through managing and modifying your personal writing forces you can build an effective writing world that works exclusively for you.
For instance, say you discover that you get your best ideas while exercising in the gym, then maybe you could plan to go to the gym anytime you hit writer’s block.
Make writing productivity personal
A writer’s internal writing forces is a complex system of emotions, feelings, desires, and fears. Each writer brings their own personal traits, moods, and energies to their work every day. Because no two days are ever the same (and we don’t feel the same kinds of moods and energies from one day to the next), the writer must figure out how to manage their system of internal writing forces for optimal productivity.
If you look at your productivity and try to align it with the productivity of master storytellers, you will get stuck. They have their own writing forces that affect their output; you have yours. Use yours to help you become a more productive writer. Make it personal.
For example, your internal writing forces could include:
- Motivated by classical music
- Short attention span
- Increased energy midday
- Inspiration from writers’ group
- Overly self-critical
These personality traits and moods and energies (good, bad, and ugly) all influence your work. It is your job to learn how to manage this system so each individual trait, mood, and energy can work effectively. Productivity rises when you tap into the beneficial forces. Negative patterns could emerge if you don’t tame unruly traits such as short attention span or disorganization.
However, what serves as an unruly trait for one writer may not hold back another writer. Take disorganization as an example. Not everyone needs to be organized to be productive. Some people thrive in chaos and disorder. Is that you? How do you know? If it is you, are you using it to its fullest impact on getting stuff done?
Making your productivity personal will help you build writing practices that work for you rather than hold you back. Everyone has flaws and strengths in their writing practices. The most productive writers are the ones who learn which forces actually benefit them and which forces need to be modified or tamed in some way. Never forget that even habits and traits that are stereotypically negative or limiting may actually aid in your productivity. Only you can figure that out for yourself.
How can you develop your natural writing forces to be a more productive writer?
Start by assessing a single work day or single writing block. Pick an average, run-of-the-mill day where you plan to do some writing. The more true to life a day it is the better, because the data you collect won’t be skewed. In other words, don’t go to a café for this self-assessment if you don’t normally write in a café. Don’t write at midnight, knowing you won’t be interrupted by kids, if you don’t normally write at midnight.
The point here is to figure out how to fit your internal writing forces into a true-to-life kind of schedule so that you aren’t stampeded by overwhelm and panic.
Run this self-assessment over a period of 7-10 days and look for trends. Some questions to ask yourself:
- Which habits motivate you to write? Which ones hold you back?
- When you are sitting and writing, what is your predominant feeling? Are you engaged in your story’s world or distracted? Are you feeling joyful and relaxed, or edgy?
- How long is a typical writing block? Is it easy for you to make time for writing, or do you find yourself doing “one more chore” first?
- When you think about finishing your project, what is the feeling that comes to mind? Excitement? Nervousness? Self-doubt? Pride?
Once you discover the internal forces that propel you forward, you can begin setting goals, looking for an accountability partner, scheduling writing blocks—because now you’ll have a solid idea of how you work best.
Can you identify some of your internal writing forces? Are there some that clash with each other? Any that you wish you could strengthen or improve?