Whether you are a student writing an assignment, beginning to write as a hobby, or trying to publish a body of work, any writer can benefit from strategies and techniques that help put your thoughts into words. Many writers begin with the best intentions - they get an idea and begin writing. But this isn’t necessarily going to carry you through the writing process. Many writers will hit a snag at some point or another, whether suffering from writer’s block, feeling tired after a long day of work or classes, or just feeling uncreative. To help with this, we’ve put together a list of strategies to help you become a more focused and organized writer.
Find Your Focus Hours
What Are Focus Hours?
Everyone has times during the day when they are more awake and alert. They go under various names, including prime hours, peak hours, alert hours, and focus hours. Regardless of what they are called, finding and utilizing these times is the tricky part. Some people feel most alert when they first wake up in the morning, for other it takes a couple of hours and a couple cups of coffee before they feel their most alert. For others, these peak hours will be right after work or just before bed. In his article Don’t listen to those productivity gurus: why waking up at 6am won’t make you successful, Aytekin Tank, founder of JotForum, explains the science behind focus hours and ways to find your own. Once you’ve narrowed down which parts of your day you feel the most alert, it’s time to begin putting those hours to use.
Once you’ve identified the parts of the day when you feel the most alert and productive, it is important to block these times off in your calendar. This might mean reorganizing your day, if possible, to maximize this time. If you’re new to this way to working, you might want to begin with 30 minute blocks and build up to 2 hour focus sessions. Make sure that you’re free of distractions during this time - if possible, silence your phone and place it out of reach, sit away from windows, etc. Minimal distractions will allow for more focused work.
Set Yourself Up For Success
Focusing is hard, so the more you can set yourself up for success, the better. Find a comfortable spot that you can sit in for the duration of your writing block (30 minutes to 2 hours). Grab a snack, a glass of water, and a cup or hot tea or coffee so you’ll be well hydrated and won’t need to head to the kitchen halfway through. If you work better while listening to music, find a playlist that will compliment your writing; upbeat instrumentals will often get your brain in the right mood without overwhelming your thinking. It might also help to match your music to the emotion you are trying to get across in the section you are writing such as fear, sadness, anger, etc. Just don’t use your whole writing block making a playlist, try to have it ready before you sit down to write. Now that you’re set up and ready to go, it’s time to start writing.
Jumpstart Your Writing
Come Up With A Plan
Many people think that making a plan or outline will obstruct your creativity and make the writing feel too structured. Instead, come up with general guidelines for your writing. How long will it potentially take to complete your work based on your focused writing hours? What is the objective and general plot line? If there are characters, try to round them out in your mind by making short but detailed character profiles and identifying how you want these characteristics to shine through in your work. Get creative with your plan by using a diagram or visuals.
Include in your plan to use your focus hours to write - even if it isn’t related to your planned work. On days when you just don’t feel like writing, pick a different topic and write about that instead or try freewriting, where you write whatever comes to mind. You might be surprised by how this can jumpstart your creativity and get you back into your own work. You might also be able to incorporate whatever you came up with into your work in ways you hadn’t planned.
Write in Sections
You’d be surprised by the different ways some people’s mind work when it comes to writing. The beginning to end approach may seem the most straightforward, but that doesn’t mean it will work for you. Like everything else, there are pros and cons to writing chronologically. Alternative methods are writing in sections, where you write a sentence, paragraph, or whole chapter. Pick the area that comes to mind the clearest, whether beginning, middle, or end. Don’t be too worried about how the sections will connect together - that’s what editing is for!
First Write, Then Edit
One of the most important things to remember while writing is that it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time around. Getting your ideas out can be a messy process and it will sometimes feel like the work isn’t joining together the way you envisioned. You can take time to clean up sections before moving on, but don’t make this your primary focus. Once your have a solid frame, you can go back polish the story.
Now that you’ve learned some of the ways to get yourself into the writing process, take time to learn how you write best by trying out the strategies above. And remember, most important of all is to have fun with your writing!