“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
—Virginia Woolf

10 Tips to Get Things Done (for Writers)

As you may know, I spend my days as a lawyer. Despite all the articles about how going to law school is waste of time and money;  I personally don’t think it was a complete waste. For one thing, it taught me how to get things done. 10 Tips to Get Things Done (for Writers)

Being a lawyer has taught me that discipline. So instead of blogging to you writer to writer, today I’m posting from my lawyer side.

Ten Tips to Get Things Done from a Lawyer to a Writer

  1. Just because you have completed a first draft does not mean you are done.  Edit, revise, review, scrutinize.
  2. Create a schedule with small achievable goals and stick to it.  Be sure to include fun on the schedule.  But stick to it.
  3. Don’t pull all-nighters.  And certainly do not PLAN to pull an all-nighter.  All it does is take you out the next day and mess up your entire sleep, digestive, and other systems.  It’s not worth it!
  4. Pay limited attention to the practices of your peers with the same goal as you (whether to complete a novel, find an agent or complete a blog post).  It’s useful to see what is or is not working for others, but you’ll never have the whole story.  You don’t where they started or what else they have on their plate.  Just re-read tip number two and keep it moving.
  5. When stressed, alcohol (despite its relaxation effects) is a bad choice.  This is because it will make you fall asleep, meaning you will cease to make any progress.
  6. If you find yourself reading the same line over and over again for fifteen minutes or more, stop what you’re doing and go to the gym (or for a run, or put in your yoga video).
  7. Food is a distraction.  You think you can eat and work, but you really can’t (I’m not saying that I don’t continue to try, but that’s probably because I’m looking for a distraction).
  8. Try to remember why you are working so hard.  There must be a reason- use that to drive you.  If you don’t have a reason then maybe you should be devoting you energy to something else.
  9. Do not cancel plans with friends or neglect family.  This is crucial.  What’s the point of achieving your goal if you no one to share it with?
  10. Facebook is a distraction. If you truly want to complete something, do not log onto Facebook.  Or at least force yourself to work for an hour before you do.  If that’s too difficult, start with 15 minutes and then work your way up.

What tips do you have to help writers get things done? Please share them in the comments.

PRACTICE

Take fifteen minutes to start something that you’ve been putting off lately (a novel, a query letter, an article- anything!).  Share in the comments section below!

About Monica M. Clark

Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).

  • Chantel DaCosta

    Thanks Monica for sharing. I have been procrastinating so much lately. I have notes and sketches for so many projects and I simply been putting off the writing. Today I am going to time myself (15 minutes) and write. And try (again) to be consistent, 15 minutes everyday.

    My main practice tips/strategy is timing myself, those 15-30 minute sessions are very important. Also turn off the online distractions, turn off the WiFi, if necessary.

  • Elena Brabant

    Monica, I have recently been thinking about a cup of hot water I cook myself before writing. Majority of times, I go online while the water is boiling and.. should I even explain? So the food point resonated a lot with me and I haven’t thought about it before. Thank you!!! No more tea with writing. Sit and work.

  • Frederick Fuller

    Author Mary Heaton Vorse is credited with saying, “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. Translation: sit down and write.

    That’s the dictum that gives me reason to write. Even now when I am deep into a writer’s block, I write everyday. I have a friend and mentor, a very successful novelist, who lost her 21-year-old daughter suddenly. Totally destroyed, she found she could not write. Another friend of ours, an equally successful author, told my friend to write, just write anything about anything, and to keep writing no matter how she felt. It worked. My friend just recently published another novel.

    So, writing is like any other art form — gotta keep doing it against all odds. I appreciate the ten tips above, and I agree with them. However, I think Mary Heaton Vorse’s statement is number one. Without it, the other tips do not matter.

  • JanetBiery

    But there are so many useful tips on how to write, takes a lot of time to read them all.

  • A great list of things 🙂 Some I expected, others i didn’t.

  • #7… too true! Though I keep trying, every morning.

    I was a bit surprised to see that I actually follow most of the tips on this list. The hardest thing for me is keeping to a schedule. And, well… I guess Facebook really can be a bit distracting at times… 🙂

  • The only thing I can think of to add is an addendum to #1. Do not edit and write at the some time.

  • Danushka Labuschagne

    Number 10 -oh hell yes it is!!!

  • Thanks for your article, Monica.

    Though it might fall into the same general category as Facebook and “paying attention to peers,” I have enjoyed participating in sites like The Write Practice in the past but have lost that habit over the last few months. Your post inspired me to spend the last 15 minutes visiting some old haunts to stoke my creative fires.

    Thank you!

  • Jamal

    To get my writing done, I usually start the day with
    reading books that turn my mind on. That means the books that help me practice
    deep thinking, which leads to strange but interesting ideas. It’s the ideas I
    very much need to get start a meaningful session of writing.

    • Trudi McKinney

      Would you like to share some if those book titles? I’m curious.

  • Sam

    All 10 steps are really nicely observed. Applies perfectly. I want to become a writer. I have started writing in my native language and want to write more n become the renowned writer but my major distraction is I am very ‘stressed’ if I start practicing it daily. Sometimes I am totally blank with all my thoughts. And especially when i decide to write that time it really disturbs me enough to turn it into stressful headache. Finally I have to drop the idea of writing for that moment. I only can write if it comes naturally. Can anyone suggest me what to do?

  • dumspirospero

    I love Tips #2 and #4. I stopped creating endless task lists that got me nowhere and started blocking things off on my schedule, and it super-charged my productivity in general. With respect to my writing, I got up earlier to create more time and space for it. Tip #4 resonates with me as well–we compare ourselves to others too much. Particularly when you’re comparing someone else’s middle to your beginning, the exercise is completely useless. Thank you for sharing.

    Dekera Greene Rodriguez
    @dekerag

  • I actually wrote a post on this a few months back. 🙂 It focuses more on productivity in general, but with writing in mind. Here’s the link if anyone’s curious:
    https://ofwitandwriting.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/5-tips-to-boost-productivity/

    I liked these tips–very concise, but all very important. Write or Die is another way to get things done. Anyone ever use it?

  • Any distraction is a distraction. I am learning this as I review the piles of writing starts over the months, rather years. The piles consist of writings in pens fountain and ballpoint, markers of various colors, pencils with different shades of grey written on sheets of paper lined and blank, post it notes, torn pages, etc. Okay, so I have been distracted. I get an profound thought and jot it down. Inbetween distractions from life or otherwise I sit to write and become overwhelmed as to which thought from the stack I will expand my writing. Where’s the story? So just this week I landed on my serious bone — we all have one. I entered a writing contest, wrote with NO distractions, finished, edited, and submitted my first 500 word story. Whew! Next……. 🙂

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