Ernest Hemingway once wrote to F. Scott Fitzgerald,
“However am now going to write a swell novel – will not talk about it on acct. the greater ease of talking about it than writing it and consequent danger of doing same.”
As a professional writer, I completely understand how much easier it is to talk about writing than to actually do it. Whether it’s procrastination, an overwhelming feeling, distraction, or writer’s block holding you back, sometimes it’s hard to sit at the computer and start a project. Follow these tips for increasing your productivity.
Productive Writers Organize their Desks.
To improve your productivity, start with your workspace. If you know where everything is, you won’t waste time looking for things. Dr. Dennis Hensley, author of How To Manage Your Time and director of the professional writing program at Taylor University, recommends purging your office of clutter. When I interviewed him several years ago for Times Union, Hensley said,
“Throw out outdated files. Give away books you’ve already read. Rip outdated materials off bulletin boards. Empty wastebaskets. Donate clothes that no longer fit. Gut the in-files. Pitch old manuals and outdated reference materials. You’ll be able to locate vital materials much faster.”
Productive Writers Track Projects and Deadlines.
You should organize your most important writing materials. The Internet offers some great organizational tools. You can scan your published manuscripts and store them on Dropbox , back up your computer’s hard drive or individual files on Carbonite, and access your works-in-progress anywhere using Google Docs. Many e-mail providers also offer online calendars, and you can write to-do lists on sites like scribbless.com.
Microsoft Excel is great for keeping track of where you’ve submitted articles, who’s published them, and how much you’ve been paid. Google also has an online spreadsheet program.
Besides using technology to increase productivity, a simple calendar can help keep you organized. Author Sally Stuart wrote in her book, Sally Stuart’s Guide to Getting Published “I use a monthly calendar to set the daily priorities, and a yearly wall calendar to plot the big picture.”
Organized Writers Manage their Time.
Stuart also lists time-saving ideas in her book, including utilizing your answering machine, setting aside specific hours for your writing to decrease interruptions, and cutting out time-wasters, such as surfing the Web, reading mail and checking e-mail.
Dr. Hensley also suggests breaking up your projects into segments so they’re not as overwhelming.
“Like everyone, I have certain jobs I must do that I dread. I don’t look at the overall task, but at a lot of little projects. For example, in writing a book, I won’t tell myself that I have to produce 300 pages of finished manuscript. Instead, I’ll say that it is going to consist of 24 chapters and that each chapter is actually no more than one good-sized article. So, by doing one article every two weeks, I wind up with a book completed at the end of each year.”
If you still have too much to do, delegate minor tasks to others. Certain projects, like maintaining a presence on social media sites and updating your professional Web site, may warrant the help of an article writing service.