The problem with being a writer–and how to solve it

Writers are the world’s most productive procrastinators. That is, if you don’t let yourself give up. Even when under pressure to meet a deadline or personal goal, it can be hard to sit down and finish–let alone write–anything. It’s hard to get into your creative mode 99% of the time. Then, it may strike you when it’s most inconvenient.

writer hands coffee computer laptop phone any.do task managmentUntimely creativity

I’ve been living in Asia for over 4 months now and am therefore surrounded my inspiration. Unfortunately, my creativity is at its best when I’m on the back of a Grab bike. Unfortunately, by the time I’ve arrived at my destination, my brilliantly-structured anecdotes fade rapidly.

That’s why I’m typing up all I can right now, in between getting off the bus and going to my appointment that I’m way too early for. (Curse you, unpredictable Bangkok traffic!)

What is it with public transit anyway? It’s like it makes my brain work better. Maybe it’s the pace of city life stimulating my brain. Speaking of which, I aspire to one day keep up with the pace of the escalators. (The escalators in Bangkok are faster than those in the States.)

Procrastination

As far as I can tell, creative people are often found to be creatively bipolar. That’s why they procrastinate.

Mood swings like a pendulum, from one extreme to the other. Sometimes you have the ideas flowing like Niagara Falls, other says you’re as dry as the Sahara. (Haha, that was pretty imaginative of me right there. I’m on the bus. Go figure, right?)

Anyway, I’m distracting myself. The point is, every writer has to find ways to stay as productive as possible. But how?

My secrets to staying productive

Any.do

As far as task and time management go, this app is my secret weapon. Any.do is an easy-to-use list app that requires little time to set up recurring or one-time tasks. And it’s free!

Why it works: You could say I’m addicted to crossing everything off for each day. And when I want to delegate the task to another day, I simply drag the item under ‘Tomorrow’, ‘Upcoming’, or ‘Someday.’ In this way, I would say this reminder/scheduler/list app is procrastinator-friendly! You can put things off, and still remember to get them done!

On Any.do, I have daily recurring tasks including 30 minutes of Pilates to keep myself in check, I set weekly reminders for each task involving my clients, I schedule monthly reminders including checking my credit bill, and I even list future blog article ideas under the ‘Someday’ heading.

Setting aside a few days a week

Yes, you are a busy person. No doubt, your blog is not your only source of income. Regardless, one cannot deny that a blog should not be the most important thing in anyone’s life. There are so many things to take care of, and only so much time is available during the day, let alone the week.

That’s why it’s so important to designate a specific time period to accomplishing what you might otherwise put off or forget about. If possible, devote at least one day a week to your blog, or writing.

Why it works: Creativity ebbs and flows throughout the day. If you find it difficult to force yourself to sit down for one or two hours and immediately hammer out a written piece, it’s better to take your time. You could find yourself better inspired as the day goes on. Or, you could start your piece, run into a rough patch, let it sit, and then iron out the wrinkles later one. Think about it, fellow writers–we’ve all been there.

Designate some alone time and space

Maybe alone time doesn’t seem to appeal to you, but in my experience, every personality type needs to be alone sometimes. Writers especially have introvert tendencies.

As an ENFP myself, I am a people person who veers heavily towards isolation. I don’t exactly enjoy being alone. I just need to take time to separate myself from the anxieties of day-to-day life.

I try to spend at least one day completely alone a week (minus going out for groceries). If I don’t, I won’t have the motivation to do anything for the rest of the week. It’s kind of annoying, but I’ve found to use it to my advantage. Being alone is when I feel like writing. It’s when I write the most. Being alone helps me focus.

Why it works: Between having some space to myself and writing out my feelings and thoughts, I find myself better prepared to deal with the rest of the week. Because of this, I know that sharing a one-bedroom or studio apartment with a roommate would be impossible for me. I need my space to breathe, and to write.

If you don’t live where you have space, hit up a quiet coffee shop (like the legendary Cafe Ngoi Nha So 7 in Ho Chi Minh), or get outside and enjoy nature or a walk. The occasional afternoon to yourself could go a long way. Take a full day when you need to.

Using your productive phases against yourself

Try to accomplish as much as possible during your most productive phases, just as you should. However, don’t go too far and make it easy for yourself to go as long as possible without keeping up on your writing.

For example, I was extraordinarily productive during the week before last. During that time, I wrote about 4-5 articles and set them all to publish over the next week. That’s why I am now forced to sit down and write an article right now–this article, in fact. Because I have nothing else to publish this week.

Why it works: I could have scheduled one article per week and taken it easy for a month, but come on, that’s cheating! I would be cheating myself of the good habits I am trying to maintain.

Other tips

Brainstorming when you don’t feel like writing can help you be productive when you otherwise wouldn’t be productive at all. At least take notes on a future article you want to work on. For more tips regarding brainstorming and finding inspiration, read my article on how to stay motivated as a writer.

Doing other tasks that still qualify as work (such as brainstorming). This ties into my aforementioned article, but here’s a specific example of how to do this: I write about travel and occasionally write restaurant or attraction reviews. Therefore, if I have no other way to remain productive, I go out for a new experience and take notes on it.

Taking spare moments of time to write. Don’t waste that time on the bus! Especially if you’re in Bangkok, good grief…

Force yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether the experience is good or bad, you’ll have plenty of fresh ideas for your blog.

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