Writing Productivity Tip #1—SHUT UP AND WRITE!

The first of eleven tips to help you get more time for writing, and to produce more writing when you do have time.

A writer’s Muse is supposed to be a delicate, ethereal woman with a gentle voice who drops hints and ideas that might eventually find their way into a story or a novel.  Right?  We all know the stereotype.  Writers don’t do much more than sit around, mulling over esoterica, occasionally jotting down a phrase or two when the muse inspires them…

I, on the other hand, have been blessed (or cursed) with a muse who’s more like a bristle-haired, gravel-voiced drill sergeant who says, “Quit dinking around, Anderson!  Sit down, shut up, and WRITE!” 

 No puttering, no procrastinating.  Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, eyeballs on screen.

This means that if writing is a priority for you, then writing should take priority over reading the morning paper, sharing joke emails, talking to a friend on the phone, watching game shows on TV, going to a movie, making scrapbooks of last year’s family vacation, playing with the cats (or dogs, or fish, as your particular case may be), cleaning the kitchen, or going shopping. 

 The other stuff can wait until you get your pages done, and if you don’t believe that, then writing isn’t your priority.

Procrastination is the writer’s deadliest enemy.  Learn how to spot when you’re finding excuses when you should be writing.  Or—to use a technical term—dinking around.

Writers are the only people in the world who would rather be cleaning the bathroom than doing their job. When you do get a spare moment to write, whether it be late at night, at lunch, or early in the morning, don’t find excuses and waste time for “just one little thing.”  As the drill-sergeant muse says, Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, eyeballs on screen.

If this means keeping a regular writing schedule, do it—and make sure that you *write* during those times (i.e., produce words that line up into sentences that are stacked in paragraphs).  Don’t stare out the window like a kid on a rainy day—get to work.  Everybody else has to go to a job and put in their time. If you aim to be a professional writer, you have to do the same.

Be tough on yourself and on the people around you. Make sure that your chatty friends know that you are not to be disturbed during your writing time.  “Sorry, I can’t talk right now.  This is my writing time.”  Turn off the ringer on the phone if you need to, or at the very least let the voicemail do what it’s supposed to.

If you don’t take your own work seriously, you can’t expect others to.

Dust jacket for new Spanish translation of Terra Incognita #2, The Map of All Things

This blog series is part of a lecture I’ll be presenting at the Superstars Writing Seminar in January 13–15 in Salt Lake City, a three-day intensive workshop focused on business and careers in writing.  Other instructors include Brandon Sanderson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, David Farland, Rebecca Moesta, and Eric Flint.  We hope to see you there.  www.superstarswritingseminars.com Note that Early Bird pricing goes up on December 1.


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