In the previous article, I shared some of my experiences on how to design a workspace while stuck at home. In this article, I will share more of the virtual and psychological aspects that impact your productivity as a writer.
2. Creating a Virtual Workplace and Becoming a Productive Writer
Create a virtual workspace is as important as a physical one. In this aspect, I like to mention how to organize your virtual space, the tools you need as well as what attitude you need to have toward a full-time working from the home writer. Tips I can give you can be:
1) Measure your own success by KPIs.
One of the biggest challenges of becoming a writer or working from home is to work by yourself. Working at home without the pressure of being somewhere on time can be challenging for many. Many of us, when working at an office or employed by others, got used to the idea of being managed by others and this brings a new challenge for new full-time writers, people who have to work from home during covid, self-employers and freelancer.
In this case, if you're working for yourself, you need to adopt self-motivated, performance-driven results. Key performance indicators (KPIs), create expectations between employees and employers that are mutually agreed upon, measurable, signals that gauge success over time. Using KPIs as the measuring tool for productivity gives you the freedom to complete your work without strict policies of when and where. Remember, what matters is the result. To do so, you need to answer the following questions using the SMART method:
Is your objective Specific? Are you planning to write a short story? A novel? an article? an essay? A research project? An assignment?
Can you Measure progress towards that goal? How many words a day, are you going to write? 5 sentences? a paragraph? 1000 words? 6 pages?
Is the goal realistically Attainable? Do you have enough time to finish what you plan to? Do you have enough resources? Knowledge? Help?
How Relevant is the goal of your life? Are you writing just for the sake of writing or is it what you want to do? Is it related to your passion, goals, or dreams? Is what you're writing related to that goal? Do you want to be a novelist? a blogger? A scriptwriter? A researcher? What you write in this case needs to be relevant to that specific goal.
What is the Time-Frame for achieving this goal? Do you have a deadline to finish a piece of writing from a publisher? A competition? A magazine? Is it a weekly blog post? Is it a noel that needs to be finished in 1 year? How long do you have time to finish writing a piece?
Tip: Treat Your writing as a business
2) Manage your time
Like any new skill or habit, writing for yourself or working from home takes time to cultivate. But trust me, for writing you don’t need hours. Even fifteen minutes a day will do the trick. What's important is to make your writing practice a priority. How to do so?
Create a shift in how you structure your day or your home. Some writers, like Haruki Murakami, get up early before their household wakes or before work/school, to have a quiet hour for writing. Some like Liana Maeby writes in the middle of the night when there are no distractions or Chuck Palahniuk writes wherever he finds himself.
What is important is to curve some time to dedicate to writing. No matter when or where that's what a writer needs to do.
I personally, write depends on my mood. Sometimes, I need to be in a place that I am involved with people for writing or editing. During Covid-19 and lockdowns, I had to fight this urge by creating my corner as I explained in the previous article to feel more comfortable and in the mood. I dedicate at least an hour to write daily if I have a project but if not, I spend at least half an hour developing ideas, researching, or character developments.
Also, it is important to give you a starting and ending point. Most of the writers work within a specific time frame like an hour or 2 hours. Don't push yourself more than your planned time.
Tip: Dedicate specific Time To Writing and Make it a habbit
3) Trick yourself to writing
As a housewife, I have many chores to do during the day. Cleaning, cooking, washing, and taking care of the cats. These take a lot of time and I prefer to do them according to the schedule. There are days that I don't feel like writing or I'm exhausted or sick. On such days I tell myself I'll write for fifteen minutes, then get a cup of tea, or a piece of chocolate or watch something. I do it to reward myself after what I need to do otherwise if I get them before writing, I won't write a word that day. But during the time that I write I try to remove distractions like the internet, phone or TV.
I also have a reminder on my phone that tells me to write everyday afternoon. This helps to make me feel guilty and push me toward writing if I am wasting time in that period.
Tip: Push yourself by limiting distractions
4) Start an ideas book
This is very common for many writers to have a writer's notebook that they carry everywhere or a section in their phone to type ideas. No matter your situation or previous writing experience, the best place to start is right where you are. It means to give attention to your environment and yourself more. Notice the things happening about you — their sounds, shapes, and smells. Write to them in ya notebook or a note-taking app on your phone. For me, I have both a notebook and I use email. The notebook is in my bag or my desk all the time because sometimes, I'm in a place and I remember some ideas about my book or I hear a conversation, or I taste something inspiring or sometimes in the middle of the night, an exciting idea disrupt my beauty sleep. In such situation I email the idea to myself to read tomorrow. Emails work for me because I check them daily and they're fast to access and you don't need light to write them.
Tip: Write Down Your Idea
5) Don't judge what you write while you write
There's this irritating voice inside that tells you that what you’ve written isn’t good enough. Is trash! Learning to channel that internal censorship is a fundamental part of the writing process. Sometimes during the lockdown, it's just stress and overwhelming emotions that try to push you back. When you learn to overcome that voice, it's usually the time you find the flow.
To do so, I break down my writing into manageable chunks. I start anywhere and see what happens. I won't worry about whether anyone will see it or like it or publish it. I just write the thing I want to write.
Tip: Kill that Internal Judge
6) Notice when your best ideas emerge
Think when ideas come to you? Is it when you’re daydreaming, driving your car, reading news, talking with others, in the middle of the night (like me), or out on a morning walk? By being alert to the conditions that spark your ideas, you can create more of those moments. However, during the lockdown period, it's not easy to just take your writing stuff to a coffee shop where the ideas flow into your mind so how to do it if you can't go out?
What I meant by thinking about the moment that the ideas come, is to understand your feeling at that moment. Normally, it is your own internal emotions, feelings, and thoughts that result in ideas. It is true that the environment can impact those highly but in moments like Covid-19, that we have no choice but mostly stay home, we have to prepare ourself to face such challenge no matter what. Ideas consolidate when you give them time and space to settle. If you feel overwhelmed by an idea or facing writer's block, just give it some time and work on other things while taking a break from the main piece.
As I mentioned, my ideas come in the middle of the night, if I can I turn my phone on and type them down, if not, they will be forgotten. I learned that, in those moments, there's a quiet space to rehearse the words before I type them down, a few moments to gaze into space. That's what I normally do during the day before I write. It's some sort of writer's meditation, I guess.
Tip: Find when ideas flow
In his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000), Stephen King advises: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Many of my students or readers ask me how to become a writer and I tell them exactly what King says. If you don't read, you can't write.
Reading can help you understand what you like and dislike, and what makes a piece of writing effectively. In an article, I mentioned that the key to developing your own style is to read until you find your vibe. Great writing can inspire you and teach you a lesson from a piece you think doesn't work. As I mentioned in that article, you need to first read for pleasure and then read for technique. Now that you have more time in hand, at least you're saving time on transportation, try to read as much as books as you can. Set reading goals for the week. How many books you plan to read in a year. This habit is as important as writing.
8) Don't push yourself when you’re feeling stuck
Yeah, I know I said push yourself but it means to push yourself writing rather than watching TikTok videos. Even great world-famous writers feel at a loss for words sometimes and this is called: writer's block. In this case, you can do the following,
Find yourself some healthy snack, a glass of freshwater, or a cup of coffee, and try to write anything even what feels artificial or flat. This is helpful because when you write no matter what, you finally will reach a state called flow. It is when you write without thinking. For others, like Kelly, taking a break can help to free the block. But keep in mind to do it gently and kindly. Don't judge yourself.
Take care of your mental health: It can be daunting when words stop flowing. Especially during a pandemic like Covid-1, it is a unique challenge, at least for me. If we’re lucky enough not to be directly affected by it, stress, depression, and worries result in uncertainty can block creativity. We have a lot to take in right now processing the news and the impacts of the virus worldwide. Also, for many of us, working and schooling from home, caring responsibilities, keeping the online groceries coming leaves us little free time or headspace. So, the expectation of continued creativity can be another pressure. The goal here is to write for pleasure. Write what makes you happy and is less stressful. Recently I started writing a new story on Twitter as TwitFiction. When I can't work on my novel and anthology, my Ph.D. research, or blog, I just write a short piece of the story on Twitter. That makes me feel better as I know I wrote something creative no matter how short.
If you can't write, stop to consider the reasons why you’re stuck. It might be hunger, undone chores that worry you, cats or kids, physical or mental exhaustion or simply we put the wrong piece or character or idea in the wrong place of the story. Whatever it is, you need to think about it to be able to resolve the issue. Otherwise, you just stuck staring at your screen stressing and overwhelming by an unwritten story. Go eat something, drink something, and look outside or simply close your eyes to relax.
Tip: Don't push yourself too hard