Creative writing is at once the easiest and hardest job. Easy because you are your own boss. Hard because you are your own boss, too.
Your life is in your hands, your job is at your whims and you have no schedules, meetings or biometric systems. You have no time restraints or deadlines.
The hard part begins with the same point – you have no time restraints or deadlines. You have to make your own routine, lay your own rules and set up your own schedule. The catch is that we all love ourselves a little too much to make ourselves work too hard.
It takes abundant self-motivation to get up to pull down your laptop or your writing papers and start getting the words down. Daily life is filled with attractions and distractions. And writing is a lot about procrastination until inspiration dawns.
However, if you are serious about seeing your words on shelves or pages (soft or hard), excuses are not going to work. Passion will propel you forward to a great extent but when you are someone who already handles a lot, like a day job, a family, children or other responsibilities, at the end of the day, being productive on the blank page remains a dream and passion is just not enough.
I would know this from experience as a practising clinician and a working mother, torn between the desire to sit down and type away my work-in-progress on one side and the necessity to attend to the clinic job, chores and childcare on the other. The little insight I got into this realm is in the light of the release of my first novel and the passionate progress of the second.
So, here are five don’ts for a productive creative writing career, totally compiled from what helped me through the ups and downs of authorship!
- Don’t Overthink.
That smacks of weirdness, but trust me – kill overthinking before overthinking kills your creativity and aspirations. Some things you should not be thinking about when you really want to finish a piece of writing, long or short, are:
Will people want to read me? Will anybody relate to this story?
Can I really write this book?
Am I writing badly? Will this book sell?
What will people think of me if I write this book?
I want this book to be of some use to the readers.
I don’t want anybody to waste their time reading my book.
A true writer will evade these dilemmas because they are not even a concern. The only thing a writer will be concerned about is how important telling this story is to oneself. Your uncertainties will reflect in your writing and serve as potholes in which your reader will keep stumbling into when they finally read you.
That is if you finish writing it.
When you are writing, think about your story, about your topic. Overthinking shadows the potential of your creativity and manipulates the purpose of writing. The wrong concerns will lead to wrong goals. Now that eases us onto our next don’t on the list.
- Don’t Set Unrealistic Goals.
Goal-oriented work yields results. Some people set higher goals and this can essentially ensure some amount of achievement. As for a passion-fuelled activity like writing, setting too many or unrealistic goals or even wrong ones can be negative in the outcome. Move aside the unrealistic goals to make space for realistic, practical goals.
Many writers aim at a certain word-count goal a day. But that may not work for everyone because each of us lives different lives and situations. If you are someone who cannot set a word-count goal, aim at time-goals. Setting word-count goals may disappoint the sensitive ones when missed. Further, not all days are equally motivated.
What can be easier on hectic writers will be setting a goal of writing for a few minutes a day – it is flexible – like, a ten-minute spree or even fifteen minutes. This also helps to avoid emotional dichotomies that appear when you have duties to attend to and the irresistible urge to write, all at once.
If you take your 10-15 minutes a day or more as the day allows, chances are you’ll perform well in both your chores and writing, guilt-free! This writing time can include any writing – your new book, work-in-progress, an article, a poem or anything that will adorn your writing portfolio.
I swear on this!
- Don’t Surf and Network Forever.
Now, this is crucial – I cannot stress it enough. Because it is really a spider’s web. Just one last message, just one last comment, just one last notification. But that last one is endless!
Social Media literally feeds on your weakness for notifications and fear of missing out. What you are missing out on is some real productivity, creativity and precious time. Internet research can also end up being all over the place.
Here’s what you can do:
- Confine the use of messengers for important messages only.
- Set aside a fixed number of minutes to spend on all social media.
- Connect all social media platforms wherever possible, so that you can share your stuff from one platform to another without having to open another door, which leads to creativity hell. Because you are definitely going to spot a notification that whisks you away instantly.
- Limit internet research because you could end up online shopping when overdone since research is about finding new things.
- Avoid reading too much on the various platforms – information overloads are tiring.
The more you detox yourself virtually, more productive the creative life becomes. Unarguably so.
- Don’t Entertain Unnecessary Social Vibes.
Being social animals can sometimes be too imposing on the writing-species. However, we are not spared from being polite and being social. But it is essential to filter out the crowd and surround yourself with positive vibes that will nourish your confidence.
Avoid gossiping – it kills time and creates prejudices, both bad for a creative writer. Talk with people who have respect for what you do. Be warm but do not let others take you for granted.
Be protective of your art and do not let negativity hamper your creativity. Learn to filter criticisms and feedback – there are both good and bad.
Ignore people who ask you what you earn from writing because that might be the one thing that can demotivate you for multiple reasons (few authors are millionaires). Weigh opinions before you take them at face value.
This is not telling you to be anti-social, but telling you to be smart enough to give yourself the gift of acceptance.
- Don’t Overdo – Even Writing.
The human brain is a miraculous thing. That said, it needs its own time and space because every impression from the external and internal environments are making their way up to this wrinkled mass of neurons.
When your system gives out signs of being overfired, slow down, get out, make a cup of herbal tea and sit back, stretch your legs and give your poor brain a caress. Overworking can seriously sabotage clear thinking and good writing.
Recharge with a nap, do away with unnecessary information loads and write when you can think clearly. Get away from the desk for a while – some distractions can be refreshments – but do know when to return.
Productivity hacks and tips can go on endlessly, and these five murders have personally helped me. But nothing is better than really dusting up and making up your mind to write something every day. It could be the first thing in the morning or the last thing in the day, but like Nike says, just do it!
Keep tabs on her at: