How To Increase Your Writing Productivity and Efficiency
Let’s Begin with a Truth
No two writers are the same. You can carve that in stone and put it on Mt. Rushmore. Right next to it you can etch “no two writers have the same aspirations.”
Why do you write? I know why I write and I know what my goals are, and in case I forget them they are on a 3x5 card right above my computer because, let’s face it, I’m getting old and my memory ain’t what it used to be. Now, my goals are in front of me because I want everything that I do to be related to those goals. I don’t have time to waste in my career, and I need to be focused and constantly on the right path.
So I ask you: why do you write? Do you write just for the love of writing, with no thought to making money from it? Great! There is not much reason for you to continue reading then. Do you write to make some passive income on a site like HubPages or Bubblews? Do you write to become a published author, or do you write to make your mark in magazines and maybe get syndicated some day?
Only you can answer that question, but it is important that you can answer that question. Once you have an answer, hopefully these ten strategies will help you to become more productive and more efficient as you aim at your goal.
DEVELOP A STRATEGY
What does it mean to you to be productive in writing? How do you plan to develop a plan that reflects the goals that you have? How do you define being productive? If you accomplish one thing each day, is that productive? Two? Three?
What kind of balance do you have between work and your “other” life? What does your workday look like as a writer? How can you become more productive? What skills, tools and habits will make you more productive?
All of these questions need to be answered, and once they are then you will have a strategy that defines your future writing life.
BECOME YOUR PLATFORM
Your platform is your resume as a writer. It is your portfolio. It is everything that you have written, everything that has been published, your Web presence….everything related to your writing.
If you have a strategy, then your platform needs to be in line with that strategy. Let me give you an example to clarify. Say you want to make your name in writing as a travel writer. Once a week you post an article about travel, but occasionally you get sidetracked and write about car repair, or music, or whatever. If yout strategy and goal is to become a food writer, then everything should be aimed at that. Stop wasting your time writing about Bon Jovi, or Bon Jovi’s car, and concentrate on what Bon Jovi eats. I am being a bit facetious but I think you understand the main point….focus on your strategy/platform/goals and then make everything relate to that goal.
BE TIME EFFICIENT
There is never enough time, is there? I write eight and nine hours each day and still I bemoan the lack of time. I can’t imagine how a full-time parent, or someone with a full-time job, gets any writing done and yet that is a reality for many writers.
Since time is valuable and in short supply, make it work for you. What is your best writing time? Are you a four a.m. writer or do you do best in the evening?
If you have writer’s block then do something else that is related to writing while your brain has shut down. Do research or file or make a to-do list. Work your social media contacts but make sure you limit the time spent there.
My dad, when he thought I was being a bit too lazy, would say: “My God, Bill, do something even if it’s wrong.” I won’t give you the same advice but I will say use your time wisely and be productive in the time you have.
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RELATIONSHIPS ARE GOLD TO A WRITER
I see so many writers fall short in this category and I think it is a crucial mistake. Networking is vital in any business undertaking, and I will add to that by saying that networking on a personal level is very important to a writer. Let other writers know you as a person. Support other writers. Share in their victories and show empathy in their defeats.
Help other writers. Follow through on promises and become a writer who can be relied upon. Support, share, be a cheerleader. Trust me when I say that word will spread about you and you will receive dividends down the road.
Inspiration does not always plop down in bed with us; there are times we have to cultivate it. How do we do that? Simply by learning and observing. Read a book. Listen to a conversation between strangers. Go to classes, go to meetings, get a hobby and become involved in your community. The more well-rounded you are as an individual, the more opportunities you have to become inspired.
For me it’s a walk in the park. For me it’s a great book. For me it’s helping the neighbor with yard work and listening to her stories of life in England. For me it’s being aware as I live my life.
What will it take for you to find inspiration?
DEVELOP AN EFFICIENT SYSTEM
If you have a good system in place your productivity will increase. I live this and I believe in it.
Schedule your writing day and stick to the schedule. Keep track of your submissions and maintain contacts in the industry. Have a place where you keep track of ideas for articles, and always have a notebook close by for new ideas. File things under headings on your computer and be consistent. Have a contacts list explaining who each contact is and what they do in the writing industry.
In other words, treat your writing like the business that it is. Have a business plan and work towards efficiency.
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SEEK THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITIES
If you are a travel writer, don’t waste time reading cookbooks. Don’t go to conferences that do not align to your plan and goals.
It is vitally important to know your market and your value. Sure writing for a content mill might make you a few extra bucks, but does it help to advance your career? If you are constantly writing articles for $5 per piece, and that time spent is taking you away from submitting queries to magazines that pay $200 per piece, are you being efficient with your time?
Would you benefit more by giving a book reading or by joining a reading club? These are the types of decisions you have to make if you are going to advance your overall strategy and plan.
FORGET ABOUT PERFECTION
One of my first mentors used to tell me that perfection is highly overrated, and I believe that to be true intellectually. I will never be a perfect writer and quite frankly, I will never attain the lofty standards I hold for myself. If that is true, then I need to embrace imperfection in my craft and move forward.
Two things happen when I adopt this philosophy towards writing. One, I take the pressure off of myself and yes, there is always pressure for a perfectionist. Two, I practice humility and being humble in the writing business is the only way to achieve sanity. There will always be better writers than me. I can strive to be better but I must always remain realistic.
REPEAT AND REFINE
If you have been successful in some writing venture then repeat it and build upon it. Success breeds success, and on the flip side, failure breeds failure. It what you are doing isn’t working then change it. A business plan should always be fluid. There will come times when you have to change your approach and strategy. That’s okay! Just remember that when you do find success then pound it for all it is worth. Success comes so rarely; it would be a shame to ignore it and let it wither on the vine.
Writing is a tough gig, and few of us have a cheerleading section while we work. Writing is a lonely profession and it is up to us to be the head cheerleader. Develop a positive attitude. Develop a grateful attitude. Develop a willing attitude and develop a successful attitude.
Few in the world are lucky enough to do what we do. We have control of our careers. We work for ourselves and the buck stops on our doorstep. That is so very cool if you think about it. We have no boss nor do we have a set of guidelines that trap us in a state of mediocrity. We have freedom.
We create beauty with our words. We inform and we reflect. We inspire and we commiserate. Long after we have died our words will live on. Our writing is our legacy to the literate world.
Be grateful you are a writer!
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Now Get out There and Be Successful
If you follow these ten suggestions will you be successful? I can’t answer that question for you because only you can define success regarding your writing career. I can say, however, that if you adopt this set of principles you will increase your chances of being successful, and that makes them worthwhile.
However you define success I wish you luck.
We are all brothers and sisters in a worldwide writing family, and as such I want my brothers and sisters to experience positive vibes and benefits from writing. If these suggestions help you then fantastic; if not, then fantastic. Either way the learning process will continue.
Above all, though, enjoy writing. You have been given a gift so embrace it.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”