If you’re a freelance writer, you probably have editors and clients who set deadlines for you.
But if you’re a writer who is trying to write a novel or just get some articles posted to your blog on a regular basis, or submit queries to magazine markets every week, you probably need some tricks to help you stay on track.
Here are a few that work for me and other writers I coach:
1. Set Self-Imposed Deadlines.
If you set deadlines for everything you want to do, chances are you’ll be more likely to finish each of these tasks. That’s because anything we choose to do tends to take as much time to complete as we allow it. That means if you don’t set a deadline for finishing that next chapter of your novel, you could be working on that chapter for weeks, months, or even (gulp) years! Set a tight deadline for that next chapter instead. Then make a point to meet that deadline.
2. Find a writing buddy or accountability partner.
You’ll be more likely to meet your self-imposed deadlines if you have someone to be accountable to for these deadlines. A writing buddy or accountability partner is perfect for this. Tell this person the date of your next deadline, then check in with him when that deadline rolls around and report your progress. After doing this a few times, you’ll start to feel like a real slug if you aren’t meeting your deadlines, especially if your partner is always meeting his.
3. Set up short chunks of time for each project.
Generally, you’ll get more writing done when you don’t have all day to write. If you have all day, you’ll waste time because, well, you’ve got all day, so what’s the rush? But if you set aside specific chunks of time to get your writing done, you’ll know you don’t have all day and you’ll be more likely to get right to work and get something done.
4. Pare Down Your Daily To-Do List
When your to-do list for the day is too long, you’ll feel so stressed and overwhelmed, you may decide, “I can’t possibly get all this stuff done today” and, guess what? You’ll probably just sit there and do nothing! Sounds weird, I know. But I’ve seen it happen. Heck. I’ve even been guilty of this myself.
5. Write in a Relaxed State
Before you sit down to write, take a few moments to just sit and relax. Close your eyes, take deep breaths. Let go of thoughts of everything else in your life, so you can just concentrate on the writing you need to do. If you've followed Tip 3 – by setting up short chunks of time for each project – you should be able to relax and focus once you sit down to write because there isn't anything else you should be doing at this time.
Following these tips should help you get and stay focused on your writing so you get some work done each week. But first, DECIDE that you will be a productive writer. Whether you realize it or not, when you waste time or allow yourself to lose focus on your writing, you're DECIDING to let this happen. Now simply choose to be a focused, productive writer instead.
Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She is a former classroom teacher and was an instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature for over 8 years.
Lieurance has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications. She lives and writes by the sea in Jensen Beach, Florida. Visit her blog at www.writebythesea.com or find out about her coaching for writers at www.workingwriterscoach.com.