One of the things I find most interesting about this new foray into the realm of self-publishing is the writer’s community. Not just for the people — not just because of all of the hoops we have to jump through to get our work seen, and the various strategies we must employ (though, that is a part of it). What I find most interesting are the subjects and struggles that seem to be uniquely “just writer things.”
Every forum and Facebook group can be seen touting the same three questions: “how can I make this book sell well?”, “Can you recommend a cover artist/editor/formatter, etc.”, and “how do you get yourself to just sit down and do the damn thing?”
By that, of course, I mean writing.
You’d think that, as writers, putting words on paper comes as naturally as breathing air. But let me tell you, nothing could be further from the truth. Writers, honestly, tend to spend more time talking and thinking about writing than actually doing it.
Doing The Damn Thing Is The Hardest Part
Between the kids chasing each other down the hallway with bottles of cleaning supplies, animals leaving presents on the freshly vacuumed carpet, so many binge-worthy, depression-nest shows on Netflix, and an overburdened to-do list, there’s a lot on a writer’s plate. A lot of us feel like we can’t get anything done until everything else is done. Which of course, puts us into a self-feeding cycle of never getting “the damn thing” done. Or, taking eight times longer than anticipated.
To make matters worse, when the time comes to finally sit down and start giving life to the prose that has been dancing behind our eyes since they opened that morning, there’s always something else. Five thousand emails, a few Facebook notifications, and while you’re at it, you may as well scroll through Instagram and answer your DMs.
A few months ago, a friend of mine linked me to the strangest device. It’s called the “Hemingwrite“, and one look at the website filled my page with many writers lauding it as the best thing to ever happen to their productivity as a writer. Now, don’t worry. This blog isn’t an advertisement for any gadgets or services (especially nothing with a price tag near a grand). But, this product did get me thinking. Chiefly about how to combat the distraction monster to do (you guessed it) the damn thing.
1. Find The Space
Take it from me, there is nothing more important than having a space that is designated specifically for writing. Many of my friends complained about not being able to focus when Covid hit and they were forced to work digitally for the first time in their lives. “There are so many distractions — my cats, Ivy. They need constant love and attention.”
Trust me, I hear you. Especially on the, “my cat needs constant love and attention” front. No one can say “no” to some cute little beans. But that is all beside the point!
When you create a space that is intended just for work, it’s easier to shut off your “I’m at home” voice. You know, the one screaming about the leftover Oreos or the garbage that needs to be taken out? The same one that encourages you to scroll through TikTok instead of reading your work emails? Yeah. That little voice has to stay at the threshold of your space.
This space is your writing space. Maybe decorate it with some inspiring quotes or pictures. Or Hell, maybe just leave the walls bare! But, I promise, carving out a space that’s just for you and this intended purpose is going to help out. A lot.
2. Focus Apps
When all else fails, there’s an app for that. I’m personally not the biggest fan of Focus Apps. I haven’t found one that suits my needs specifically, and I’m sure there are a few of you out there who feel the same. But, there are likely just as many people who would benefit from using one!
They are quite handy, in theory! They mute all of your notifications while “work mode” is toggled, or while the timer is still running. This allows you to continue to write without Great Aunt-Gerty’s politically incorrect meme tearing your family apart.
3. The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is my tried and true. It’s seen me through many study sessions and many stressful deadlines in my day. This technique will designate certain lengths of time for working (or in this instance, writing), and other periods for rest. The standard is 25 minutes on, and 5 minutes off. After a few repetitions, it will allow you a longer break (usually about fifteen minutes). You can set up your increments for however long you’d like — perhaps, you’d like to start off smaller, with 15 minutes on and 5 minutes off?
There are plenty of apps out there to use, though, for writing I prefer pomofocus.io!
4. Make (Detailed) Lists
Sometimes it’s the enormity of what has to be done that stops people dead in their tracks. Particularly in the middle of their book, where the beginning is behind them and now they’re worried about getting to the end. Or, maybe, there’s just a lot going on that requires your attention and you simply can’t focus until those things are done — totally fair.
Make a list. Make a detailed list. Write down everything, no matter how big or small. And then check them off until your mind feels clear enough to climb the mountain. Which brings us to our next point.
5. Eat The Frog
“Eat the Frog” is a productivity method, created by Brian Tracy, and revealed in his book Eat That Frog. The idea is that you get the ugliest thing done at the beginning of the day so that everything else feels like a cakewalk. And if you have two frogs to eat that day, start with the ugliest one first.
It’s easier to maintain motivation when the most difficult thing is done. For me, that’s working out. If I get out a workout in the morning, I’m not necessarily worried about writing two thousand words in my manuscript. Why? Because the hardest part of my day is already over. Everything else is easy-peasy lemon-squeezee.
6. Climate Control
I know what you’re thinking — what would a temperate environment have to do with my ability to maintain focus while trying to write? And you’d be wrong.
By “climate control” I mean controlling the scenery around you. This means the television, the Google Nest. And yes, maybe the temperature of the room you’re in. Cultivate a climate in which you can focus. If you’re too cold, uncomfortable, or otherwise annoyed… it’s not surprising that you can’t get any writing done. Your mental energy is drifting off to a thousand other places.
7. Find the Right Time
I absolutely swear that finding the right time is a complete game-changer. I have a set time I like to write — which is in the morning before anyone else is awake. Before I’m inundated with questions about where things are located, even when they’re looking right at it. Before anyone is awake to send me sixty messages in a row (because no one sends one long text message anymore). The morning time is my time. Where I can be at peace to drink my coffee, and yes, do the damn thing.
8. Set Goals, and Reward Accomplishments
Last, but not least, set goals. Make sure they’re realistic goals, too. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure. As anyone who has tried to or has written a book in the past, you know it’s no small feat. Every success should be celebrated, whether that be twenty words or two thousand. And then when you’ve reached that goal? Reward yourself.
With a break.
What about you? What sort of things do you do to make sure that you can do the damn thing? Have you tried any of these methods before? Have they worked for you? Let me know in the comment section down below.
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