Have you ever wondered how professional writers produce large amounts of content when you’re struggling to get one blog post written, edited, and published for the week? I used to wonder that same thing. It took me forever to write one piece I felt was good enough to share.
When I started writing seriously, I set a goal of writing one publishable piece a day. I thought that was the hardest challenge I had ever done, and somedays I failed spectacularly.
Now that I have the habit firmly solidified, writing three posts a day doesn’t extract much energy, there’s little friction, because I have the habit of writing down. I don’t expend nearly the amount of energy I was expending when I first started. Part of this has to do with being paid for my work.
When you finally make money from writing, it makes the whole process more enjoyable.
Many — more accurately — all writers write for free at first, especially in the creator economy. Writing for free is part of making the dream of being paid a reality.
Tim Ferriss started as a blogger before he wrote The 4-Hour Work Week and now look at him and his ‘little’ podcast. He’s doing pretty well and still sends one of the best newsletters each Friday — for free. You don’t just wake up one day, write, and get paid. You have to put in the effort first.
Here are some things that all professional writers do and know that makes writing large amounts of content easier and more enjoyable.
Once you acknowledge that you have a limited amount of willpower, this knowledge helps you find a better way.
I used to think I had enough willpower to do anything. My willpower is strong, but it’s limited. Once I realized we only have so much willpower to stick to the things we want to do, it was liberating. It made me search for other tactics to solidify the writing habit.
Since willpower isn’t reliable, you need to look for strategies to get around superficial distractions. Regardless of your intentions, you have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it throughout the day.
Move beyond willpower and add routines and rituals to your work life.
Recognize the Superficial
Know the main obstacles getting in the way of going deep into the writing zone.
We are so used to notifications causing disruptions in thought processes since the internet age and smartphones were introduced into our lives. Since living with a smartphone for years now, right next to us, we don’t realize how disruptive the phone is to the process of deep work. I would go as far as to say it’s nearly impossible to get to a flow state with digital interruptions.
According to the book, Willpower by Roy Baumeister, the five main distractions that get in the way of focused work — writing requires quiet, deep work — are checking email, social networking sites, surfing the internet, listening to music, and watching TV.
Minimize Shallow Obligations
Shallow obligations are often meetings, returning emails, and texts. When you don’t give in to other people dictating your time, you get a lot of writing done. Guard your writing time fiercely.
Be familiar with the superficial distractions getting in the way of your writing time, so you can guard against them. Just being aware of them can help you carve out solitary blocks of time to concentrate on meaningful and engaging work.
Move beyond intentions and willpower and add routine and rituals to your working life:
Common Rituals Writers Use to Go Deep
Before sitting down to work, writers practice specific rituals to get the mind into work mode. Find yours. It will fortify the writing process.
Here are some:
- Place your smartphone in another room or locked away in the trunk of your car.
- Open only a word doc on your laptop and turn off email notifications.
- Add a ritual to prompt your mind that it’s time to write. For example, when I reach for my headphone and pour coffee, I trigger my brain into thinking, it’s time to get to work, time to write.
Routine Becomes Habit
Most successful writers have a designated time and place they write — writers are creatures of habit. It’s repetition that builds habit. Once you have the habit, half the battle is won. Routine helps the writer overcome resistance when sitting down to write. Resistance — writer’s block — is a part of every writer’s daily life.
How to establish routine:
- Set a specific time and place for when and where you will work.
I will write at 7:00 am every day for an hour and a half in my office
Studies show when a specific time and place is chosen to accomplish a task, follow-through increases.
- Don’t deviate from time or place.
Writers like routines. That is what makes them successful at keeping them.
It is repetition that forms the habit.
Block out Large Chunks of Time for Essential Tasks
Get it done by noon if possible. Or chose a time when you have the most energy.
If you’re in the creator economy or want to be, do the thing you find joy doing, like writing, before your day job. By committing to your essential work in the morning, the energy you derive from writing will drive your day. You’ll go into work or the distractions of life feeling good after putting in hours of deep work because you did something meaningful and essential first thing in the morning. Focusing on engaging and important work fortifies your resolve to deal with less satisfying tasks that life demand of us.
I have more energy to deal with mandatory Zoom meetings, email, bills, school drop off and much more after long hours of writing because writing feeds my soul.
For me, I write early for large blocks of time and save managerial stuff, like emailing and texting, for later in the afternoon. I also resent email less when I’ve gotten my essential task complete.
If you can get paid doing something you love, you are winning. If you can’t, do what you love anyway while keeping your job job. You want to get to a point where you don’t dread Mondays. Mondays are no worse or better than any other day. If your work is drudgerous, find work you love, even if you do it after hours.
Write for two hours, take a break and write for another hour. This works well for me, but you may have to write less until you build up the stamina to write for two hours at a time.
Work Hard, Play Hard.
My partner is a good example of this. Play to him is hanging out with me and just ‘being’ while doing absolutely nothing. Also, play to him is running 100 miles overnight in the desert. When he is working on his business, he’s on, he’s working, giving it 100 percent. Same when running. Same when he is spending the day with me.
When he is playing, he is on, giving it 100 percent and totally present.
His normal state is one of presence, so when he is distracted, I know right away he is worried about something. When I ask, “what’s going on?” his reply is usually, “You’re so tuned into me.”
It isn’t just that I’m tuned in; I’m used to his present state.
Give 100 percent to writing when you sit down to write. Be 100 percent there with your writing.
When you give yourself over 100 percent to what you say is important, you come out of that dedicated time spent doing the ‘thing’ energized and ready to give those around you your full attention and present self.
With these strategies, you rely less on willpower and good intentions. You’ll get into a flow state easier with large chunks of time dedicated to writing. You’ll be amazed at the type of output you’ll produce.
It doesn’t require a lot of time either. Two hours a day of focused work can produce a lot of output.
This kind of work energizes the writer because she knows that she has more to give to those she loves during her playtime after she gives concentrated focus to work that’s most meaningful to her.
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