5 Methods to Help You Meet Your Writing Goals

Today’s guest post is by Lisa Rowan:

Whether you’re kicking off the new year by tackling a new writing project, or are hoping to revisit your work with fresh eyes, finding the motivation can be tough. After all, you are your own worst critic, and beating back any negative thoughts you have about the quality of your work or how productive you’ve been can feel impossible at times.

There are countless methods to help you write more, and you could read entire series of books on the topic. But which tips will work best for you?

The methods below are just a few that have worked well for me. Sure, I still have plenty of days when I don’t feel like writing, or I get frustrated when I can’t find the exact word I’m searching for. I still fall into the black hole of Facebook feed-scrolling or Wikipedia exploration. But I know I can always come back to one of these methods to clear my head and refocus my efforts.

Which one will you try?

1. Spend Just One Minute

I love this trick to get yourself into a writing groove. Set aside one hour, but tell yourself this: “I only need to write for one minute.” Chances are, you’ll be on a roll in no time, writing for ten minutes, a half hour, or more.

If you feel stuck or unmotivated, you can move on to something else when the alarm dings. But be sure to set aside enough time to allow yourself to keep going if the mood strikes. Setting a low benchmark for productivity might feel like cheating, but sometimes you need to trick your brain into cooperating with your goals.

2. Use Writing Prompts

So you sit down to write . . . and your mind is blank. Or you’ve found yourself with some extra time at the airport and want to write, but even watching travelers has left you without a spark of inspiration.

Turn to writing prompts to help get you started. While some prompts might seem outlandish or silly, indulge in them for just a few moments. You might find yourself getting carried away into a story based on a quick prompt. Or, a brief exercise with a prompt can prepare you for a writing session with a work in progress.

I like Figment’s Daily Themes newsletter. Tumblr also holds a wealth of ideas. Search “writing prompts” for the latest quotes, photos, and phrases designed to inspire you.

3. Participate in a Writing Challenge

Whatever your genre, there’s likely a writing challenge designed for it. Many, like National Novel Writing Month and StoryADay, are free to join. All you have to do is set your goal, get to work, and find comfort in knowing there are dozens (or maybe hundreds or thousands) of other writers focusing on their work at the same time as you.

Plus, some challenges offer forums, chat events, or hashtags that help you connect with other participants.

During NaNoWriMo, my local library offers in-person meetings for participants. Some are plain old writing sessions, while others offer writing games and other exercises to get you inspired. I didn’t complete a novel last year (not even close!), but hearing about others’ work helped me stay excited about my own works in progress.

4. Recruit an Accountability Partner

Sometimes the old-fashioned buddy system is all you need.

If you’re struggling to get going, find an accountability partner who can help you stay on track. Set aside a few hours to work together, whether at one of your homes, a coffee shop, or your local library. You don’t have to work on the same type of writing, or even make goals for each writing session. The act of sitting together with another writer can be just what you need to use that chunk of time wisely.

Even meeting once a month can help you check in with each other and make sure you’re being productive.

I meet with a friend one afternoon almost every week  at our favorite neighborhood coffee shop. We spend the first twenty minutes or so catching up, then we buckle down and write. By the time we leave, I feel good because I’ve knocked some to-dos off my writing list and visited with a friend.

5. Pay for an Accountability Group

If recruiting a friend isn’t going as planned, or you’re struggling to find time in your schedule, it can be worth paying to participate in a writing group. Yes, this sounds crazy. But it works!

When I started writing my graduate thesis, I joined Academic Writing Club for a month to kick start my productivity and make some serious headway over the summer (when I really wanted to be outside). I paid about $90 dollars in exchange for access to a group of students with similar goals who were expected to check in daily with their progress; facilitators offered encouragement and led group writing sessions. If you have a deadline looming, it may be worth paying for a little extra pressure.

You might find that one of these methods works right away for you. Or you might mix and match to create a solution that’s unique to your writing style. As long as you’ve made a goal that inspires and excites you, you’re sure to find a productive writing schedule that helps you reach it.

Lisa Rowan head shotLisa Rowan is editor of The Write Life, an online community for writers. She’s also a freelance writer and a podcaster. Check out The Write Life’s latest resource: 71 Ways to Make Money as a Freelance Writer.

Feature Photo Credit: do.se via Compfight cc

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  1. For me it is procrastination that’s the enemy. I’m 3/4 through the first draft of my second novel and I’ve hit a wall. Consequently, I’ve been working on other short projects and reading writing blogs. Your first tip is great and reminded me of the Pomodoro technique that I use when tutoring students in academic subjects. They set a timer for 15 minutes and only have to work on their homework for that long, or study for a test, or write that essay. This technique teaches you to “work with time, instead of struggling against it.” Usually, as you pointed out, the problem is just getting started. So often I dread going back to my novel because I’m not up to wrestling with it for two hours. I think I’ll try this same method by telling myself I only have to work on it for 15 minutes. (It’s kind of fun to by the timer which is shaped like a tomato.) Let the timer begin!

    1. Hi Evelyn,

      I’m a chronic procrastinator. One of my biggest procrastination preventers right now is a membership at a coworking space near my home. It’s only two blocks away, but I know that once I get there, I have X many hours to work until my allotment for the day is up. From there, I break down my to-do list and start the little Pomodoro timer I installed as a Chrome extension.

      It’s not a perfect method. But it’s better than no method at all!

      I like your plan to work in 15-minute chunks. 15 minutes just sounds so DOABLE!


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