Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before. —Franz Kafka

The Real Writing Life

Based on questions I get at cocktail parties, much of the non-writing world seems to imagine that the writer’s life involves sitting under a tree with a notebook and quill pen waiting for inspiration to strike. But all of the writers I know are incredibly busy people juggling multiple projects, family, home care, volunteer work, a job, and various other commitments. They have limited time, and they want to use it well. So, based on my own process, I put together a list of my top six tips for getting the most out of your writing time.

Get The Most Out Of Your Writing Time

1. Start with a plan. Many writers try to brainstorm as they write. For me, a blank page often creates a blank mind. So I always separate brainstorming time from writing time. Of course, both are writing, but brainstorming is about capturing good, usable ideas, and writing is about developing and communicating them. When I write, I usually draft from six to twelve pages a day. When I brainstorm, I’ll capture one to three paragraphs in the same amount of time. But each of those paragraphs will later translate into six to twelve pages. Knowing what I’m trying to accomplish before I get to work helps the work go faster.

2. Don’t look back until you’ve reached the end. Once I write a scene, I move on to the next scene. Occasionally, I’ll realize that I need to change something that I wrote earlier. If it’s something I can accomplish easily, I’ll do it. If not, I’ll make a note to go back once I reach the end of the manuscript. I only revise once I have a full draft. This is because I sometimes realize that I’ll need to cut or rewrite entire scenes or even groups of scenes. There’s little point in laboring to revise something if there’s a chance you might just throw it out. In fact, I almost always consider my first chapter a placeholder that will be completely rewritten after I’ve reached the end. Revising at the right moment can save a great deal of time and effort. 

3. Sleep on it. The day before I plan to write, I read my brainstorming notes. I’ve found that when I face the work the next day, my subconscious has often done a little preparation for me and the writing goes faster. In fact, I’ll often wake up with some great ideas for the piece, and I’ll want to get to work right away.

4. Go distraction-free. I’ve written before about how I begin by shutting off my social media with an app blocker. I use Freedom, but there are others. This is, for me, essential. It’s simply too easy to click a new tab and descend into a black hole of pointless scrolling. There are no ideas to be found there; move on.

5. Write at your best time of day. For me, this is before noon. After lunch is for meetings, marketing, shooting videos, replying to emails, etc, etc. I try to never schedule a get-together, meeting, or personal appointment during my best idea time. Some people are evening people. Some are afternoon people. Reflect on your prime creative time, and protect it.

6. Set a clear goal. This could mean word count, time period, or some other goal. I try to write a complete scene or piece within my allotted amount of time. I don’t like to break it up. If I am dealing with a very long scene, I will sometimes try to find a beat in the center of the scene and break there. But, it’s vital to get into the flow and stay there until the moment feels complete.


If you’ve got a tip to help other writers get the most out of their writing time, we’d love to hear about it on our private facebook page, The Creative Wave: Encouragement and Support for Writers. It’s open to all newsletter subscribers, so join us for a daily dose of inspiration!