“How do you write so much?” asked one young writer. “I struggle so hard to write for even just a few minutes everyday!” Let's face it: writing is hard.
I sat at my laptop this morning, tapping my fingers relentlessly on the keyboard, without actually pressing a single key. There was too much coffee in my system and not enough food.
Oh, and I work in the single most unproductive office ever, complete with a puppy that runs around, a writing client that always misses our meetings, and fifty screaming teenagers camping right outside the building.
How Do You Write When You Feel Like You Can't?
Needless to say, there are days I really just can't write. But I have to—it's not a choice. So, I've developed a few hacks of how to do it when I just can't.
1. Create Goals
This is the most important writing hack for me. When I wake up I need to have a set writing goal, or let's be honest, I'll just surf Buzzfeed and Facebook all day.
Depending on how much time you have, plan accordingly. It's best to look at your longterm goal, and divide that into small tasks you can do daily.
It's not a great idea to put “Write a Book” on your to-do list. (I've done it. It doesn't work.)
On days that I want to slam my head on my keyboard, I've found prioritizing to be key. Make a list of what writing tasks are the most important, and work on those first.
There will always be easier tasks to do. We can always post another picture on Instagram, update our Facebook status, and check our emails, but those aren't our priorities when it comes to the actual writing process.
3. Remember Your Purpose
Remember the reason you're writing. When I get really stuck and hate writing, I remember the purpose, or people I want to help or encourage with my writing.
This will always give you a boost when you need it most. When you've given up hope of getting any work done, remembering your purpose will spur you to concentrate and focus.
4. Use Headphones
You need the noise cancelling kind, because when you don't want to work, you'll find anything to distract yourself. Headphones are some of the greatest inventions for productivity.
Have you ever heard of the Pavlov Theory?
Basically, the theory suggests that our brain can be conditioned, especially by sounds. I suggest you have a writing playlist, and only listen to that music when you write. When I turn on my writing playlist, my brain knows to write. Or at least that's what I've convinced myself. Either way, it works.
5. Reward Yourself
Whatever your goal for the day is, make sure you break it up into even smaller segments. This gives you a chance to reward yourself after each completed task. For the book I'm working on now, I try to transcribe three stories a day. After each story I get a snack, take a power nap, or get up and dance.
When you have an incentive to finish the task, you'll most likely work faster. You simply can't stare at a computer for eight hours a day and be productive and happy. We don't want you to hate writing, so take a break.
6. Realize You're Human
There are going to be days you don't meet your goal or reach your desired word count. Because guess what? You're not a robot.
You have to give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to be a human who sometimes fails.
Learn to laugh at your mistakes, but don't stop pushing yourself. We have to be okay with being human, but not use it as an excuse to slack off and quit.
Take a pause. Give yourself grace. Don't beat yourself up.
Then, go write.
7. Get Off Social Media
No really. Stop. The Instagram posts will be there when you finish your work. Emails? Don't worry, they're not going anywhere. That blinking light on the top of your phone? Flip your phone over.
Seriously, social media is the single most distracting thing keeping you from getting any work done. Here at The Write Practice, we're huge fans of Freedom, an app that will block all your distractions so you simply can't click away from your writing.
If You Really Want to Write, Then You Need to Live Your Life
I strongly believe that if you don't step away from your computer and really live, you'll have nothing to write about.
The best stories are of adventure, self-realization, transformation, reconciliation, and heroism. You won't find that by staring at your laptop all day.
You are a writer. It's the way you are wired, and the way you see the world. Don't be afraid to step away from your computer and live your life. I promise you'll write more.
Which of these hacks do you use? Do you have any writing hacks to share? Let us know in the comments below.
Take five minutes and put down your computer, I know, scary. Observe your surroundings, take a break, reward yourself. When you're done, take the next ten minutes to write about what you did.
Kellie McGann is the founder of Write a Better Book . She partners with leaders to help tell their stories in book form.
On the weekends, she writes poetry and prose.
She contributes to The Write Practice every other Wednesday.