There’s so much irony to being a writer – either professional or otherwise. You love writing, you think about it around the clock, but when it comes to actually sitting in front of your laptop and getting that wordcount up, you so often find yourself unable to get the words that are fizzing around in your mind actually onto the page.
I had a writing deadline that I needed to meet in the last month which was a chunk and a half! There was no specific wordcount that was required, however the project itself felt so overwhelmingly unfeasible that I knew I was going to have to take definite steps in order to complete it.
It’s worth noting that these steps were taken during the month in which I completed the project, as well as in the two weeks leading up to that timeframe. I spent the fortnight beforehand almost training myself in preparation, so that my mind was already where I needed it to be when it came to the project itself.
The wise choices need to start the night before you want to write. A good, restful sleep gives your mind the best chance of focussing the following day. For me, an evening routine of a HIIT workout, light dinner, shower, then a read in bed gives me the most refreshing sleep. This, however, is personal so working out your ideal nighttime routine is the best first step for smashing that wordcount goal.
Get Up Early
A good sleep followed by an early alarm is far more conducive of a productive environment, than lounging around until mid-morning. I get up at 6am, walk then workout, have breakfast and shower, all before sitting down to write at 8.30am. Having that time to wake up well before I’m due to start writing means that, by the time it comes to sitting in front of my laptop, I’m more than energized. On a couple of occasions I skipped the gym and walk in favour of an extra hour in bed – predictably, I was able to write far less on these days.
Set A Daily Word Count Goal
Set yourself a word count goal that has to, come what may, be met on a daily basis. These don’t necessarily have to be words that are part of a particular project – they can be in the form of a blog post, a short story, a poem, a personal letter, a diary entry. It really does not matter! So long as those words have been written, you are training your mind to churn out copy. My daily goal was 1,000, however on most days I surpassed that. Especially after the first week when I was on more of a roll. If 400 is more realistic for you to start with, then go with that and build on it week after week.
On a couple of days during the month in which I needed to focus on my specific project, I just could not bring myself to write words towards that brief. Fatigue had set in and my head really was not in it. Therefore, I forgot about the project for a day and instead just wrote a blog post or a diary entry. Those days were not wasted – they were palette cleansers. By the next day, I was refreshed enough to settle back into the project and type up much more than my goal. Had I been hellbent on sticking to the project on those days where motivation had dried up, I’d have just spent hours at my laptop staring aimlessly into space. Instead, I kept my mind fit by continuing to write, whilst also giving it time to reset.
Write When Motivation Strikes
There are moments when, for no explicable reason, the words just come flooding out of you. When that happens, prioritize your writing! I’ve literally found myself pulling off the motorway and into a service station in order to scribble down what has suddenly sprung into mind. Don’t try to hold it in your head until later because, by then, that flash of motivation will have wilted and you’ll have some vague, watered-down recollection of the brilliant idea you’d had. Whether it’s on the back of an old receipt, in the notes on your phone or in the notebook you keep in your bag, just get the words down.
Read, Read, Read!
It an be tempting to spend all of your free time writing, however you must consider time spent reading as time spent investing in your overall writing goal. Words flow that much more freely, when you’re consuming them as much as you are writing them. Find an author whose style motivates you to write, and lap up as much of their work as you can. My go-to authors for a motivation boost are Dawn O’Porter, Tyler Jenkins Reid, Ruth Jones, Dolly Alderton and Kate Fowley.
Don’t Look Back Over Work
When working on a first draft, your priority should be to get the words on the page. The rest can wait until later. Don’t start that day’s writing session by editing your work from the day before. This will only bog you down into the nitty gritty without allowing you to progress with meeting your goal. The edit will come later, but for now just keep looking ahead.
If you’re having a sluggish day where you realise it’s taken forty-five minutes to write half a paragraph, switch up your format. Write the type of piece which is easy for you to knock out quickly. For example, a listicle is a very effective format for a blog post, as they are favoured by readers and are generally quick to write because you’re not wading through chunky pieces of text. Even if I’m writing fiction and I’m finding it difficult to pick up the pace, I’ll switch to just bashing out the dialogue. No filler. No grammar. I’ll just write it like a script until I reach the end of that section. By the time I’ve reached the end, I am on a roll and ready to fill out all of the bits in between because my mind has warmed up.
Against the Clock
If you find yourself completely stuck, to the point where no words will come to you whatsoever then set a timer for two minutes. In those two minutes, you have to be typing throughout. Not a second can go past where you are not bashing at the keys. Just type out whatever words come to you. The sentences do not have to make any sort of sense – to start with, they almost definitely will not. But you have to be writing just for those two minutes. If you get to the end of those two minutes and the text you have written is completely incoherent, give yourself a minute’s rest then do it all again. Keep going with this until something in your brain has kickstarted and actual sentences begin to form.
Consistency is Key
You cannot expect to make great progress if you have a few good writing days here and there. Consistency is far more effective than sporadic flashes of brilliance. Every day, make good choices that will create an overall productive environment so that, when you do come to sit down and write, you are not trying to scrape together shreds of inspiration here and there. That means being strict with yourself, because overall success is just the product of a sequence of wise choices. Instead of thinking ‘watching TikTok for an hour in bed won’t hurt just for one night’, realise that by making that momentary decision to be strict with yourself and pick up a book instead of your phone is actually one whole step you have taken towards smashing your goal. Every small decision is key.
Go Out and Live
You will never feel inspired if you just stare at a screen all day. Go out and appreciate the world. Call a friend. Go for a walk. Bake something. Live your life, so that when the time does come to be at your desk typing, your mind is replenished with new experiences and emotions.