Today I’m sharing seven habits that help me have consistently successful writing sessions. Ultimately, like most things in writing, you’re going to have to take the time to figure out what works for you. But these seven tips are a good place to start.
1) Eat good food
And by this, I mean healthy food. Avoid the chocolate and the sugar. I know it might be nice to reward yourself with a treat while you’re working, but save that kind of stuff for after you finish your session. Sugar might give you a boost, but it also burns through your body much faster than protein. Which means you’ll probably crash before you’re finished working. Sticking with a protein-based snack gives your brain power to push through your session. My go-to pre/mid writing snack is a big spoonful of peanut butter (sometimes with an apple).
2) Keep your area distraction free
It’s so easy to get distracted when you’re trying to write. Maybe your ideas aren’t coming as quickly as you’d like, or maybe you just aren’t feeling it that day. Or maybe it’s always hard to get started and stay focused. If this sounds like you, one thing that might help is keeping your work area as distraction-free as possible. If you’ve got a magic eight ball, rubric cube, or Sudoku book, don’t keep them on your desk. In fact, keep as little on your writing surface as possible. If what’s happening outside always pulls your attention, don’t work near a window. This also goes for digital distraction too. Keep your phone out of reach so you don’t habitually check your social media. Maybe even turn off your internet connection altogether if you’re tempted.
3) Silence your phone/computer notifications
Just because your phone isn’t in reach doesn’t mean it isn’t a distraction. You may do a good job keeping your phone out of your area, but that doesn’t mean other people won’t try to contact you. Every time a text, email, or app notification goes off, it’s a creative intrusion. It takes you out of your writing session and back to the real world. Silence your phone and any computer-related notifications that might interrupt your work time.
Of course, completely silencing your phone may not be an option for everyone. Maybe you have kids or older family members you want to be able to reach you in an emergency. If that’s the case, consider making it clear to friends and family that for emergencies they need to call you. Then you can silence all other notifications except for incoming calls.
4) Set a reasonable goal for the session
Goals are important! They keep you motivated. But keep in mind, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged if you have too much to accomplish in the time you set aside. Personally, I’m a constant over planner. I like to move my projects forward, and I have a habit of trying to tackle too much at once. It’s important for my progress that I’m realistic with myself and that I schedule only what I’m 90% sure I can accomplish in the time I have. This way I stay on track and feel a sense of accomplishment. For more tips on setting reasonable writing goals, check out this post!
5) Consider setting a timer
When you have time set aside to write, it can be so easy to waste. I’ve found setting a timer to be a good way to keep myself going. I make a game with myself to either try to accomplish as much as I can before the timer goes off or to accomplish a certain goal before the timer dings. This trick is especially helpful if I’m drafting and trying to get my word count down as fast as possible. Of course, this is something you should stay away from if the ticking clock is less of a game and just adds more pressure. But if you’d like to learn more about this approach, check out this post!
6) Plan for a break or two
If you set time aside for a long writing session, plan a break or two. According to Psychology Today, breaks can help increase productivity and creativity. Breaks don’t have to be long—maybe 10-15 minutes—but definitely take a minute to get up, walk around, get a snack and refresh. It might be hard to stop if you’re on a roll or if you’re falling behind, but small things like this will help keep you from burning out. Personally, I often try to write two to three thousand words a session, depending on the draft and time available. I give myself fifty minutes to write a thousand words, then take a ten-minute break before I start the next thousand. You’ll have to find a balance that works for you, but if you’re looking for a place to start, maybe give this a shot and adjust as you need to.
7) Don’t Judge Your Writing or Your Progress
Every writing session will bring its own successes and struggles. Do your best not to judge yourself for how well you’re writing or how quickly you’re moving. If at the end of the day you can say that did your best to work hard in the time you had, then you had a good writing day. You may have to rewrite the whole scene later, but you learned that scene didn’t work in your story. You may not have gotten as far as you wanted to, but you moved your story forward. This is winning.
I know it’s frustrating when you don’t write as well as you’d like or when you didn’t get as far as you wanted to (trust me, I KNOW!) but focusing on that adds pressure and stress, which isn’t good for your book. All you can do is show up regularly and put the work in. Later, when you’ve finished your project, you can judge and make notes, but that’s not something you have time for during a writing session. Don’t let judgments hold you back.
I hope this helps you have a successful writing session!
Now it’s your turn: What are some habits you have that make your writing session productive? What habits have you ditched that held you back? Tell me about it in the comments!
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