When I finally decided to get serious about writing I scoured the interwebs and talked to as many real writers as possible for the best tricks of the trade. I knew that if I could gather as much advice as possible and build a system that was personalized just for me, I’d be successful.
As a point of clarification, I’m not a full-time writer and don’t really plan on becoming one. I have a very demanding full time job that I love, a lovely wife, and an adorable/hellish 4-month-old daughter. So if you’re reading this, you’re probably a lot like me. You want to write, maybe dream of launching a blog or completing a book, but you don’t have the liberty to write for a living – at least not yet.
Below are the top nine tips, ideas, and concepts that have helped me get going, complete projects, build a writing structure, and keep momentum.
9. You Don’t Have To Write Everyday
People always say that you have to write everyday. That’s a great rule and I really wish I could follow it, but some days it’s just not possible. The gospel of having to write everyday can be daunting. In fact, I think it actually puts people off from writing at all. If you know they can’t write everyday, what’s the point of doing it at all?
So in my life, I’ve changed the rule to just be, “look at your writing every day.” I’ve found that on those days when I’m destroyed from a full day of work, stressed out, and the baby is crying – I’m just not going to get anything productive done on a blog, book, or proposal.
Yet with the five spare minutes while I get ready for bed, I can pull up writing I’ve started and have a quick look at it. I’ve found just the exercise of remembering about your writing keeps the momentum going. It keeps you thinking during the next day about a funny anecdote, a smooth transition, or a new blog title. It keeps your writing on the forefront of your mind and that’s the most important part. Then, on the day where you do have a free hour or two, the house is quiet, and you’re feeling creative, you can really get to work.
8. Eat protein
Peanut butter toast. A glass of milk. Sometimes I’ll do deli meat straight out of the bag. Your brain doesn’t work without protein. Load up before sitting down.
7. Pump the jams
Good music can fuel good writing. This is a no brainer. But for me, if the song has lyrics, I can’t concentrate. To get amped up, I actually listen to instrumental metal, (ie, Russian Circles, Pelican), and to get melancholy I go with instrumental electronica (The Album Leaf, Explosions In The Sky).
6. Spend money on really good writing tools
A writing organization tool is a great investment. There are lots of out there, but I use Scrivener. You can’t keep a book or blog organized in Microsoft Word. Best $40 I’ve ever spent. If you’re planning on doing a book proposal, follow Michael Hyatt’s guides – $20 for either fiction or nonfiction. I just finished my first proposal using these and I highly recommend them.
5. Learn the art of writing total crap
Ernest Hemingway famously said, “Write drunk, edit sober.” While I can’t exactly condone his methods, the concept is dead on. To be successful, you need to learn to write without any inhibitions. For most aspiring authors, the first step is mastering the art of writing without editing at the same time. In your most creative moments, force yourself to not fix spelling errors or sentence structure and just word-vomit all over the place. You’ll come back later to clean it up.
Some days I can’t help but get nitpicky. Those are the days I pick up my phone. I’ll write for 20 minutes straight on a note on my iPhone. While the typing is harder, it’s impossible to edit. So you’re forced to just keep going. So often the stuff I knock out on my iPhone becomes the best content for a blog or book chapter.
4. Put out a free ebook
If you have anything of value to share, put it into a PDF, host it on Dropbox or Amazon, and make it easy for people to download it. Last year, I wrote a little ebook called “Doing Work That Matters.” To date it’s had thousands of downloads, which means thousands of emails addresses I’ve collected and thousands of new people engaging with my writing. It was one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made and has laid the foundation for many new writing projects.
3. Read The War of Art every few months
Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art, is still one of the most important books of my entire professional life. I actually have it scheduled on my calendar to re-read it every quarter. This book will help you fight ‘the resistance’, break down your creative barriers, and find the motivation you need to finish projects.
2. Turn off your Wi-Fi
This is one of the most important tips of all. I can tell a drastic difference in productivity on the days my Wi-Fi is enabled and on the days it’s not. Even if you need to look something up for the book or blog, make a note and come back to it. Online research is easy, writing is not. Don’t waste peak creative time online.
1. Find your sacred space
All writers need their sacred space. My church recently gave me access to a small room that I can access during the week. It’s been one of the greatest gifts they could have ever given me. You’re not going to do your best work on the same couch where you watch TV or the same kitchen table where you eat dinner. Determine a place that is entirely yours and entirely devoted to writing.