10 Powerful Ways to Increase Your Writing Productivity

I’m nearly finished writing my fifth book, but I quickly discovered one thing has remained consistent with every title I’ve penned: the pull of distractions, threatening to hamper my work.

I’ve had to exercise intentional practices to help me maintain momentum. And through dedication and determination, I’ve discovered the following 10 powerful ways to increase your writing productivity. 

  1. Schedule writing as an event on your calendar. If it’s a priority, formalize your intent by putting it in black and white with a time stamp.
  2. Prepare in advance. The evening before, fix energizing food and drink that will provide convenient and easy sustenance. Lay out comfortable clothes to help you get right to work. Make sure all of your tools are organized and ready. Then get a good night’s rest. (I use a touch of lavender essential oil to help me sleep deeply.)
  3. Keep your word. Often, we are mindful to keep our promises to others, but don’t think anything of breaking the vows we make to ourselves. When you tell yourself you are going to write — just do it!
  4. Create your own writer’s cave. When I started out, this was a very specific place in my house. For me, the word cave fit, because my writing room was first located in a basement bedroom. There were no windows, it felt isolated, and frankly, I had to force myself to stay in what often felt like a dungeon. But by practicing discipline, I learned something important — I can write anywhere.
  5. Clearly communicate writing rules to family and close friends. When I started writing passionately, my loving peeps did not consider it a serious endeavor. To some, working from home meant I was available for them to pop in for extended visits, to call or text about random things, or to pressure me to participate in endeavors I had neither the time or inclination for. Didn’t they know I needed to write? I fought frustration until I remembered a rule I had incorporated for my business coaching. So, I told family and friends that when I closed the door to my office or posted cave-dwelling on social media, that this was a Do Not Disturb symbol. I asked my peeps not to bother me, unless it was important enough that they would call me out of a meeting 500 miles away. It took a couple of weeks for training, but now it works beautifully.
  6. Protect your writing time fiercely. Beware of interruptions — especially from yourself. I love the J.K. Rowling quote above, but I would have to add, sometimes the endless requests come from an internal voice. Guard yourself against distraction through unnecessary activities like television, social media, or scrubbing the toilet.
  7. Turn off the tube. This may sound silly and simple, but how many of us have lost volumes of time to mindless television shows. If it isn’t feeding what you are writing about, flip the switch to off.
  8. What's on Your Bucket ListGet up and move on a regular basis. I do one-minute intervals at least hourly when writing. Running in place, jumping jacks, leg kicks, and air boxing all keep my blood pumping and my mind working.
  9. Don’t fall prey to overwhelm. Break your work into chunk-sized fragments. Instead of focusing on the entire chapter you need to write, just set a goal to write the next paragraph. If a whole paragraph still throws you into a tailspin, pen your next sentence.
  10. Enjoy the experience. Remind yourself of that younger version of you who dreamed of this opportunity. Most people never get to mark this off their bucket list. Relish these moments — they’re what you were made for.

How do you protect your productivity?

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Defining Real Writing Success

The new year has come and gone, and we’re in the full throes of fresh starts, new goals, and updated resolutions. This has me thinking about the definition of success — and more specifically, defining real writing success.

Most authors would say success is selling thousands of books, which means reaching thousands of people. It’s a worthy goal and necessary if you want to write professionally, long-term. But lately, as I’ve considered the time and energy required from an author, I realize the importance of balance. I’ll explain.

The more contracts I sign, as speaking engagements multiply, and because I’m selling more books, I’ve gotten a glimpse of the future. And it can go in one of two ways.

I don’t struggle with self-discipline as some do; instead, lately I’ve noticed my struggle to relax. When I can’t unwind, it’s time to make a change.

I have a choice. I can pour even more of my time and energy into my writing and speaking career, and to a degree, I need to, but I must exercise caution. As a natural workaholic, I could slip into a regular routine of fourteen to seventeen-hour work days. Because of deadlines, commitments, and special opportunities, there are times when I need to pull a writing day like that, but if it becomes the norm, I’m in danger. There’s a fine line between protecting your writing/speaking time and neglecting your family and close friends.

Life is Better with Friends

Recently, I imagined what it might look like to work myself into a frenzy, reaching success as many would define it, only to realize I might stand alone at the top. If we don’t have friends and family to share and celebrate with, what are we working so hard for?

This epiphany has put me on a mission to usher some balance back into my life. I adore the days I get to sequester and write, but I equally love spending down time with my family and friends. Both are valued activities to me, and they deserve equal time.

My work ethics and integrity are intact, but I am choosing to slow down enough to breathe  deeply, while on this crazy, thrilling, and daunting writing ride. To me, defining real writing success is simple.

I have goals to write and sell many more books, but part of my planning strategies now include more time set aside to enjoy walks with friends, cups of coffee with people I respect, and to laugh often with my family. I want to catch up on life, and I believe by doing so, I’ll have even more to write about. I don’t want to “make it” as a writer, only to look around and discover I’m perched in a precarious position — standing all alone.

How do you maintain balance between your writing and real life? 

12 Unique Last Minute Gift Ideas Writers Can Give for Christmas

Has the date snuck up on you? Maybe you were hunkered down all of November to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge. Or perhaps you’ve got a book deadline, and the focus on your writing sphere has kept you from realizing what’s going on in the real world. Yikes!

If you are a writer who’s run out of time and you still have a list of people to get gifts for, then this post might just give you hope. I’ve compiled some unique gift ideas for writers — since we have the ability to give thoughtful words. Not only are these personalized items special, but they are inexpensive (some nearly free), and they hold the potential to make a lasting impact. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get writing and giving!

12 Last Minute Gift Ideas for Writers

  1. The Story of Us: Write a condensed version of your special moments with the gift recipient, the traits or talents you especially appreciate in them, or a shared dream. How did you meet? Did you watch them enter the world?
  2. 12 Things I Love About You: Write one for each month and print them on cardstock — if you add pictures, you can make a calendar.
  3. Crazy Love Directional Christmas: You can use the sample template here, or write your own from scratch. But however you craft the story, have your family members bring a $10 or less, unisex, wrapped gift for the game. Stand in a circle, and every time the words right, left, back, or forward are read from the story, everyone passes their gift in that direction. When right or left is said, each person should hand off to the person on that side of them. When they hear back, the gift goes back to the person who had it last. Each time forward is said, pass the gift to the person across from you. Whatever you’re holding when the story ends, becomes your gift. 
  4. Dedicate a Blog Post or Series to Your Recipient’s Favorite Cause: In honor of your loved one, spotlight a social issue they care about. 
  5. Write a Personal Tribute or Family History: Write an accolade or look up the origin of family names. Print on decorative paper, then frame for hanging.
  6. Warm Up Cold Cash With a Personalized Touch: Fold up bills and place them and coins in the slots of an empty candy box, like Whitman’s. Add a customized note, that you place on top, using monetary terms to define the way you feel about the relationship. A few lines to consider: You can’t appreciate me a quarter as much as I appreciate you. I’m ten-fold better off because you are in my life.
  7. Money Balloons: This is another unique twist on giving money. Place folded up bills, coins, and appreciation notes inside un-aired balloons, then blow them up no more than a few hours before your special someones will open their gifts.
  8. Blessing Cookies: Make your own fortune cookies with special messages just for the person you’re gifting inside. Instructions here.
  9. Willy Wonka Golden Ticket: Make up your own golden ticket based on something your recipient likes. Include a note about why you want them to have this. Research and write out economical ways to visit one of their dream vacations.
  10. Punny Gifts: Add humor to the holidays and make Christmas a little bright and funny with these delightfully punny gift ideas.
  11. 5 Things That Make Me Grateful I Know You: Write out a gratitude list specific to the person you are gifting. (Use the examples listed below or come up with your own complimentary comments.)
    1. The way you make me laugh
    2. Your kind heart in helping others
    3. Your generosity with strangers as well as friends
    4. Your talent with a hammer and nails
    5. The special way your nose crinkles when you smile
  12. Check Out More Creative Money Ideas here: Just put your special writing twist on whatever you give. The gifts of our words can be the most priceless present of all.

What’s your favorite gift idea from the list? Do you have a unique way to use writing for gifting?

16 Things I Would Tell My Younger Writing Self

Writer ComparisonsWhen I was starting out, I learned some of my expectations were myth instead of facts. For me, it’s another reminder that there are things in life I don’t know I don’t know, until I experience for myself. Can you relate? In hindsight, there are several things I would tell my younger writing self.

Sixteen Things That Surprised Me As a New Writer

  1. Book signings rarely spur big sales — they’re more hype than help. But good speaking events still consistently drive buyers to your book tables.
  2. Once you succeed as a published author, at least 25% of the people you meet will want you to help them write the book they’ve always dreamed of writing. For free.
  3. You will need to protect your writing time fiercely. The more you achieve, the more other things will try to impede.
  4. Publishing success is not always fair. A good book can struggle to find an audience, while a poorly written book can go viral.
  5. You will probably never feel like your book is truly good enough. But there does come a time you must say, “It’s good and it’s enough.” Otherwise, you’ll never publish anything.
  6. Once you learn the essentials of the writing craft, you will never read someone else’s book in quite the same way.
  7. Some people simply won’t like what you write, no matter how well you’ve penned it. A small percentage will even make their criticism a personal attack, but you must decide in advance to rise above the opinions of others, otherwise, they can crush you. Remember, there are as many varying perspectives as there are various personalities.
  8. There are a lot more givers than takers in the publishing industry — resolve to fall into the giving category, and you won’t have to struggle as much to get.
  9. When you succeed as a writer, a small group of trusted family and friends may accuse you of changing, when in reality, they’ve simply changed their way of looking at you.
  10. Real WritersIt’s often harder to sell books than to write them, until you publish enough titles. The more you write, the more your followers tell their friends, who tell their friends, and so on, and so on. Many writers don’t stick it out that long.
  11. Best sellers are often on the market for two years or more before they catch fire.
  12. Not all retailers that move books are bookstores or coffee shops. A lot of niche shops and online organizational groups can sell plenty of books if the content fits their interests.
  13. No one will care about your book as much as you — not even your publisher. You must take on the role of book advocate for every title you write.
  14. Writing provides the most daunting and thrilling roller coaster of emotions you will ever ride.
  15. You will need to involve yourself with a writer’s community, otherwise you may feel very lonely. Unless someone has experienced this crazy world with the intense interest of a passionate wordsmith, they won’t get it. Don’t hold this against your family and friends.
  16. The average overnight success takes about ten years. But the reward is worth the effort. It’s important not to give up!

What would you teach your younger writing self about the industry or craft?

Conversations on the Page

The longer I write, the more I realize my best work comes when I use my voice just as I would if I were sitting across from the reader in a relaxed setting. I’m actually imagining you and I chatting together right now, as I pretend we are enthralled in a deep, funny, poignant, or otherwise stimulating conversation.

As an author, seeing my readers in my mind helps me brush away the distractions that hinder me from offering my purest thoughts and most creative ideas — the ones with potential to help, encourage, and inspire people. These are my motives for writing after all.

By personality, I’m a think-out-loud kind of gal, so I’ve discovered a few different ways of exploring thoughts on a particular subject.

  • Schedule time with a friend or family member to discuss the topic in depth.
  • Interview an expert on the point.
  • Record my thoughts into a device, as if I’m talking with someone — then listen back.

What I’ve learned is that conversations across the table translate into great conversations on the page. No matter the method I use, it’s the epiphanies, the insights, and the knowledge born from conversations with real people that provide transformational information I can share with readers of my books.  Some of my best received work is when I write in such a way that the reader almost feels as if they are eavesdropping.

But a true conversation, especially a stimulating one, is a two person event. Listening is as important as speaking. Having a conversation on the page requires paying close attention to the real people in your life and who cross your path. How can we make sure we’re writing on the topics people want to hear? How can we ensure our fictional stories resonate with elements of truth?

By listening with intent.

  • Pay attention to the dialogue between other customers in restaurants.
  • When interviewing, do not dominate or speak over the person you are interviewing.
  • Practice strategic listening when watching TV shows or streaming your favorite program. Not so you can steal their lines, but so your muse can be inspired with new, creative ideas.

In reality, conversations take place all around us in our every day comings and goings. When we become intentionally present and aware, what we hear in our every day lives become relevant conversations on the page, making our messages important to a reading world. After all, it’s living we write about.

What brings out your voice? Does it happen in the presence of other people? When you are alone and listening? Does your best thinking happen out loud or in silence? 

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What to Write When You Don’t Know What to Write

Writing blocks rarely hit me because I don’t know what to say. For me, they are usually derived from a mind swarming with ideas. So much so, that I can feel overwhelmed with questions like these:

  • Should I focus on idea A or B today?
  • Just because I’m interested in a topic doesn’t mean anyone else is, right?
  • Is my thinking on this matter completely delusional?
  • I can’t write about __________; people will think __________ about me. Won’t they?

Ah, the battles of insecurity a writer must fight. So how do we wage war against our own fears, those with the power to debilitate us if we aren’t careful?Writing Rules

For me, I’ve had to gulp, choosing to write afraid.

I love what Stephen King said on the matter. “The only requirement to be a writer is to remember every scar.”

The secret to great writing is daring to risk in order to reap greater rewards. 

  • When you aren’t sure whether idea A or B is better, choose one and decide to embrace your own decision.
  • Odds are, if you are interested in a topic, so are other people. If you doubt it, do a quick friend/family and social media poll to test the waters.
  • What sometimes feels delusional to us can feel like “outside the box” thinking to others. Research to see if you can substantiate your premise. Try to imagine how this might come across to someone foreign to the concept. Tell your readers you understand this may sound strange or that they might agree to disagree with you. And don’t forget to ask God what He wants you to say — He is the king of fresh ideas.
  • As Stephen King’s quote reminds us, the inner scars, the deep thoughts, and the vulnerable spaces in our lives are often the ones other people connect with the most. If we hold our tender areas captive, we can’t free someone else who needs permission to release their own fears.

I think most writers struggle with what to write when you don’t know what to write. But you can’t go wrong when your words originate from your soul. Don’t doubt yourself to the point of mental paralysis. Your unique take is as important as your unique voice in expressing your thoughts.

Dare to believe in what you have to say.
Dare to share your innermost thoughts. Dare to trust God with a message he wants you to offer.

What Are You Doing for OthersSo what if every person on the planet doesn’t share your perspective? Some of the greatest minds in history were scoffed at in the beginning. Do your due diligence, then dare to risk so you and your readers reap a greater reward.

What topics could you write afraid? What are you holding back that could help others?

10 Things Every Writer Should Remember

A few days ago, I actually thought it, I even dared to speak the words out loud to God. “Maybe I just need to quit.”

Things Every Writer Should RememberI was referring to writing.

But two things happened that set me straight — one I call a Divine encouragement, the other, a practical review.

In case you are interested in the motivational things that made up my practical review, I’ve listed them in a top ten format. None of these came to mind however, until my moment of Divine encouragement.

Early this year, for six busy weeks, I traveled across five states speaking, in addition to several in-between events in my home state. I enjoyed getting to meet many new people and personally share the messages I’m so passionate about.

Within two weeks of finishing my speaking circuit, my oldest son got married. But his joyous event was tainted by the flare up of a severe back injury. So much so, that he fell during his ceremony. It broke my mother’s heart to see him push through the pain and sweat through the rest of his vows, to determinedly marry our new daughter-in-love.

After a month and a few more falls, he had improved little, and was becoming frustrated. All medical efforts lacked real results. I took turns with other family members who stayed with him during the day, helplessly watching my son suffer, and feeling my writing hours slip away.

But something new was about to occur.

I woke up shortly after five in the morning to my husband’s groans. I asked, “Are you all right?”

When he said, “I don’t think so,” I popped off of my pillow on full alert.

I interrogated, “Do you have any other pain? Are you sweating? Do either of your arms hurt?”

“I took a shower, so I’m not sweating now,” he said. “And my left arm is sore, but I think I must have pulled something when I was carrying my boat batteries yesterday.”

I’d heard enough. “Get ready. We’re going to the hospital.”

On our way out the door, I gave him three baby aspirin. An attending physician later told me they could have saved his life.Inspirational Quotes

A heart cath revealed a 95% blockage in one artery, and 40% in another area. He’d had a heart attack. Thankfully, the two stents they immediately placed in him, along with a complete lifestyle transformation, have drastically improved his health. But the hits weren’t over.

Four days after his release, my genetic eye disease triggered, common after periods of heavy stress. For days, I couldn’t see clearly and all light felt excruciating. Watching TV, reading, or looking at a computer were impossibilities. All I could do was lay helplessly in bed, where I thought and prayed.

I confess to holding multiple pity parties, where fleeting thoughts of giving up on my writing career came and went. When I finally began to feel improvement in my body, but felt overwhelmed by how far behind I was, I spoke out loud, “Maybe I just need to quit.”

As I said it, I had no idea I would get a clear response so soon. God used her to provide Divine encouragement.

My cell phone rang. I recognized the name of a woman from an audience I had spoken to the month before. She was on the organizational team, and they had invited me and my fellow WordServe authors Karen Jordan and Kathryn Graves to bring our Untangled Conference to their city in September. I assumed this was her reason for calling. I was wrong.

“Hello,” I said.

Motivational Quotes“Oh, Anita. I’m so glad you answered. I had to call you. I just finished reading your book, Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, and I have to tell you, it’s the best book I’ve ever read. I’m getting a copy and sending it to my sister tomorrow. So many people need this. Thank you so much for using your talents to write and speak.”

Only God had known my inner wrestlings before she called. The confusion bound in physical and emotional fatigue that pummeled my brain. Maybe you can identify.

If writing professionally were easy, more people would stick it out, but especially when life blindsides you, it can get tough. However, the hard days are what make us real people — realistic, relatable, and relevant.

As I think about it, aren’t those the qualities that make good writers flawed but great?