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Write Smart: Productivity Strategies for Authors

Happy New Year! Here we are again with a full year ahead trying to not be unproductive.

I'm lazy, I procrastinate, I write in my head: That sums up the life of a writer. That sums up my life.

But we're living a real life here, we're grown ass adults and we gotta get job done whether its obligatory daily chores and our full time jobs to achieving personal goals and dreams. In my case, becoming a full time fiction author. It was last year that I decided I'm gonna write as much as I can and I ended up writing over a million words. Majority of it is useless but I did prove myself that I can do it despite feeling unmotivated and lazy struggling with imposter syndrome. In this post, I'm gonna share what I learned and what is 'Write Smart' mean and how to achieve it. I hope it help you with your writing journey in 2024.

Writing smart, not hard!

"Writing smart, not hard" is a concept that encourages efficiency and effectiveness in writing without unnecessary exertion or strain. This philosophy, yeah I call it that, focuses on optimizing the writing process to achieve better results with less effort. How to achieve it? Not simple. I'm not here to give you a shortcut to anything. But giving you the path I took.

1. Establish a Routine

Ironically, for writers, being consistent is both incredibly obvious and surprisingly challenging. It's like being told to drink water for good health – we all know it, yet often forget to do it or in my case, replace water with coffee.

Setting a regular writing schedule and sticking to it turns into a sort of ritual, almost like a superstition for productivity. Reward yourself with a coffee (don't forget to drink some water too) or a break for hitting a word count, and you're basically 'Pavlov'ing yourself – but hey, it works. These repeated routines are like water slowly shaping a canyon, gradually yet powerfully. They're called keystone habits because, like the central stone in an arch, they hold everything else in place. Consistently practicing them can, in a twist of fate, turn the solitary act of writing into a well-oiled machine of productivity and creativity.

How I did? I simplified.

I used my phone and typed the story or random scenes and conversations daily whenever I had time or normally after work while waiting for my dinner to cook. I emailed them to myself in Gmail. This way, I didn't have to make sure the text makes sense, it is grammatically correct, has no spelling errors, or makes sense. I just wrote for the sake of writing and habit building.

2. Create a Conducive Writing Environment

As writers, we often seek the chaos of coffee shops or the discomfort of a cramped desk, yet studies show a simple truth: a comfy, personalized workspace does wonders. It's like we're Goldilocks in our own home, finding that chair that's just right, the lighting that doesn't make us squint, and the level of quiet that doesn't remind us of a tomb. It's funny how a few cushions, a desk lamp, and maybe a plant can trick our brains into productivity mode. So, go ahead, make that space your own little fortress of solitude - minus the icy decor of Superman's hideout, of course.

simple writing workspace

How I did? I used what I had.

I recently moved to France and this wasn't easy as we had to renovate our little house. So we've been in a very small apartment (20sqm) for 7 months before we move to our own place. In that little place I had a small sofa to relax on and I worked and wrote on that very sofa for 7 months. However, it's where I discovered writing on my phone and how amazing it was. It was tough on my neck and shoulders but I had to do what I had to do. Later when we moved, I still don't have a dedicated desk for writing and work. I can't complain. I work on the kitchen table. While cooking, I work and write. But it's comfortable, I got a nice chair and good natural lighting, not Batman dungeon as I wish it to be but it get the job done.

3. Set Realistic Goals

Yes! I wrote 1 million words in 2023 but I didn't set that goal for myself. Trust me if I did, I would have paralyzed myself and would end up wiring nothing. It was like planning to run a marathon by not thinking about the marathon.

I have a another post on topic of why I think setting goals is better than planning. Personally, I hate planning. I just write a task list in Google Tasks and tick them off when I'm done. Set deadline for the ones I have to finish a certain deadline. For work, it's the same.

How I did? I just did it.

So, I recommend setting achievable goals for each writing session, like a daily writing no matter the word count, is actually a productivity booster. It's the classic tale of the tortoise and the hare - slow and steady wins the race. You’re not planning the Great American Novel in one sitting; you're just chipping away at it, one small, manageable chunk at a time.

This approach is a bit like walking through a maze with your eyes on your feet instead of the exit; you’re more focused on the steps you’re taking right now than the daunting finish line. So, whether it’s writing a sentence, a paragraph, or a page, it’s all about those small victories that eventually add up to a million words.

4. Use Technology Wisely

While technology can aid writing, it can also be a source of distraction. Digital distractions can be managed by using apps that limit access to social media during writing sessions. As I mentioned, I used Gmail to email myself every scene I wrote. The next day, I copied and pasted all and then fixed what needed to fix on my laptop (Microsoft Word, nothing fancy). Trust me, you don't need complicated and expensive tools to get the writing done. Use what you have and just write. I will share another post next week I free writing tools I recommend for fiction writers.

5. Practice Self-Care

So, in a twist of irony, while experts preach about the holy trinity of a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and regular exercise for mental stamina, we as writers (at least majority of us and most of transgressive writers) shrug off half the advice. I personally eat whatever sparks joy (Marie Kondo style) and compensating with a mix of thrice-weekly workout sessions or leisurely strolls through town.

It's like acknowledging the rulebook and then cheerfully writing in the margins. Sure, a balanced diet is ideal, but if a slice of pizza brings more happiness than a kale salad, who's to argue? The key here is to find what works for you personally, whether that aligns with the guidelines or not. It's a bit like dancing to the beat of your own drum, but making sure you're still dancing — or in this case, walking and occasionally lifting weights.

So, while science might wag its finger at deviating from the dietary script, there’s something to be said for the mental boost that comes from eating what you love, as long as you’re moving your body too. It’s a less conventional path to wellness, perhaps, but hey, if it works, it works! Trust me, it does.

6. Read Regularly

As a writer, you need to read. Why? Who has time for it? Well, no one who has a full time job, daily adult daily chores, three cats and a dream for becoming a fulltime author. But I've found that reading books, articles, and blogs, of all genres and styles, is like opening windows in a stuffy room, letting in fresh perspectives and ideas.

Sure, I might pick up a novel and think, "I'd never write like this," but then, a few pages in, I'm hit with a phrase or a concept that sparks something new in my own work or if lucky I would read a book that makes me tell myself, "damn, I write much better."

This practice is a bit like being a chef sampling the world's cuisines; you get a taste of different flavors and techniques, and then you bring them back to your kitchen. Films, YouTube videos, etc. do the same trick TBH. But reading helps you learn about tone, style, vocabulary use, themes, symbols, how to write certain scenes, how to use dialogue and some times, how to not do the same the author did because it was crap!

So, while it might seem like I'm just lounging with a book, I'm actually on a covert mission, gathering secret ingredients that'll add some zing to my writing recipe. And the best part? There's always more to read, more styles to explore, more ideas to uncover. It's an endless, exhilarating cycle that keeps my writing fresh and exciting.

One note:

Read everything if you're new to writing and reading.

Read niche if you're a well read person and wanna improve your own writing. Int his case read books in genres and styles that you're writing or you wanna write.

7. Engage with Other Writers

Joining writing groups or online forums for feedback and encouragement can boost motivation and reduce the feelings of isolation often experienced by writers. But not all of the FB groups are really communicating anything. They're just posting their own books, promoting themselves to other writers without taking initiatives or time to engage with other people. As if, they're the only important person in the room. Trust me, there are a lot of 'the only important person in the room' online.

neda aria twitter

So what I recommend is to grow your Twitter (X) wisely. I began doing it in December and I focused on cleaning my account from irrelevant accounts and only follow writers and readers or thinkers.

I also created a Facebook group, which isn't that active, focusing on transgressive fiction (include dark romance, horror, magical realism, postmodernism, etc.)

I also recommend groups like Women Writers, Women's Books that are more niche to your group of interest.

8. Mindfulness and Mental Health

Mindfulness, eh?

So, according to research, zoning out with some deep breathing or meditation is supposed to boost my creativity and resilience. Incorporating this into your routine is like acknowledging that your mind needs a break too, not just my Netflix account.

By giving this mindfulness thing a go, I can tell you I'm not just sitting quietly; I'm supposedly wiring my brain to be more productive and creative. And who would've thought that sitting still and focusing on my breath could make me a better writer? It's almost counterintuitive – spend time doing nothing to do more.

This whole idea ties back to that age-old wisdom of balance. It's not just about pounding the keyboard relentlessly. It’s about mixing in some brain downtime with the grind. Continuous learning, a bit of Zen, and not working myself into oblivion seem to be the not-so-secret ingredients to writing success. So, here's to mindfulness – the art of sitting still to run faster in the world of words.

In conclusion, I can say my journey through 2023 has been an enlightening dive into what it means to 'Write Smart.' This odyssey wasn't about following a strict regimen or meticulously planning every step. Instead, it was about embracing the chaos of creativity, understanding my unique rhythms, and finding joy in the little achievements along the way. I've learned that sometimes, the best way to be productive is to throw the rulebook out the window and write in a way that resonates with your own style and life circumstances.

If you enjoyed this post or have anything to add or tell me, please comment. I'll be happy to see what you think.

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