Did I just use the word “hack” in the title? I did. Those of us who have been around for a long time remember when “hack” was a word thrown at writers who had sold out, who wrote crap for money. But now it is more often used (some would say overused) as a synonym for tip, or hint, as in household hints. Trust me, these used to be very popular, things like “cleaning hints for pennies,” or “how to remove photos from an album with a sticky backing.” I took these from the Hints for Heloise site.
Today I do not have any household hints because I’m a bad housewife. (If you could see the cobwebs on the window in my family room, you’d agree.) But I have hacks—and not the bad writer kind, the good productivity kind. The you’ll-get-tons-more-writing-done kind. Because I don’t know about you, but my writing life is often more about making sure my butt gets in the writing chair and stays there than anything else. So here goes.
- Accept your creative process as it is. Your process involves frequent breaks for scouring the web? Or knitting? Or wandering down the block to chat with the neighbors? So be it. If you’re getting the work done (and that’s the most important part of this equation) then accept your nuttiness. I love this post by Danielle LaPorte. She says it much more lyrically than me. Also, if you’re not getting the work done, then keep reading.
- Get your lazy ass up and walk around once in a while. Oh, sorry, that’s what I tell myself all the time. Didn’t mean to be quite so indelicate with you. But maybe that’s what you need to hear, because I know it’s what I have to remind myself. You will be more productive and feel much better at the end of the day if you get up often. I know the stereotype of the writer is the opposite: there we sit, so absorbed in our work we forget to eat, forget to get up to use the bathroom, forget everything but the work. Even if you should be so lucky that you experience that transcendent state regularly, it is not good for you. Sitting is killing us. You must get up regularly.
- Pomodoro yourself. The Pomodoro method is a whole thing, but you don’t need to take their classes or buy their product. You just time yourself—25 minutes working, 5 minutes off. I use this online timer and when it goes off tell my lazy ass to get up (see #2) and walk around the house. Works like a charm, especially if you…
- Stay hydrated. This is my secret weapon for productivity. Because, number one, drinking tons of water makes you feel better. But also it makes you have to pee like a mo-fo. And that requires getting up a lot. (Again, see #2.) I also trick myself by leaving my water in the kitchen, so that I have to go on walkabout to get to it. Oh, the mental gymnastics we do to keep going.
- Keep scratch paper by your computer. This way you have a place on which to write all those brilliant notes about your novel that occur to you while you’re writing a blog post. So as to prevent yourself from switching from said blog post to novel mid-work session, make a note of it.
- Have a way to file those brilliant ideas. If you’re smart and organized, you’ll figure out one system and stick with it. If you’re like me, you’ll constantly search for a new and better technique (just as I search for a new and better calendar). I love One Note and I know others like Evernote, too. But I also love paper. I’ve tried index cards and putting them in a small file box, and I’ve tried notebooks. I just made myself a to-do book that is supposed to contain all my things to do and ideas, too. So far, it’s not working so well. And that would be because, um, I forget to look in it.
- Schedule a few minutes for it. Say you’re busy closing the deal of the century and you are working on a novel at the same time. When the deal heats up, the novel will suffer. But one thing you can do to maintain your productivity is work on your project a few minutes a day. C’mon, you’ve got five extra minutes. Or even 15. Because, as the wonderful Rachael Herron says, “If you gave fifteen minutes a day to moving toward a goal, you’d spend ninety-one hours on your project this year!” Huzzah. Go write for fifteen minutes.
- Last minute bonus hack! Literally as I was finishing this article, an email came in advertising that the Freewrite is now available for purchase. Go check it out—it’s like a typewriter for this millennium, with the bonus of no internet access.
So, those are some ideas that I hope will help you. Got any writing hacks yourself? Please leave a comment and tell more!