8 Essential Habits for Effective Writing

When it comes to blogging we all know that content is king and keeping things updated is the number one priority.

8 Essential Habits for Effective Writing

But how do you do that when you (at times literally) have a monkey on your back?

Between children, coworkers, construction, and other c words that stand for chaos, it is a wonder we can get anything written at all. This is when you need to develop some habits that create calm and order in the middle of mayhem.

Here are some tips on how to stay productive and writing, even when you have confusion knocking on your door:

1. Pick off times to write

It might be early in the morning, late in the afternoon or even in the middle of the night. You know when it is in your life. That time when everything seems to settle down for a little while, or right before it gets started all over again. If you can find this ‘prime time’ and get writing, you will be a lot more productive.

This might mean that you get up before everyone else, but so be it. If early morning is not your thing then try for mid afternoon. While everyone else is munching on chips and staring at the clock trying to see how many more minutes are left until it is time to go home, be productive and writing. If you are a night owl or have more flexible hours, the witching hour is a great time to get lots of writing done in peace and quiet.

I would not suggest writing time right after the kids get home from school, your spouse gets home from work, or during meal times. It may be just a wee bit distracting.

2. Set aside writing time every day

Beyond just finding opportune times to write you also need to make a habit of it. Making writing a part of your day like any other necessity (eating, sleeping, etc.) can make it feel like less of a struggle. Habits are easy to form and hard to break, so make it a habit to write.

When you set aside a certain time every day you also get less crud from those around you. If you are always busy at 4pm then chances are that nosy coworker will stop bothering you after a week or two. The same thing goes for working at home. If the neighbor wants to chat every afternoon but you are busy elsewhere they will eventually get the picture.

Setting aside a set time means fewer interruptions and more work accomplished. Setting aside the same time every day also means that your brain will be ready to cooperate with you when you sit down. It is used to gearing up for writing around this time, and just like getting hungry around noon you will start to get antsy to write around your accustomed time.

What a great natural motivator, right?

3. Make your own space

When it comes to chaos, a closed door is definitely your friend. Pick a space to write where you can get away from it all. The living room or kitchen is not it, as is anywhere close to the water cooler or coffee pot. Places where others hang out are not a good spot for a writing space. Instead, try to find a quiet corner or better yet a room with a door you can shut and tune out the rest of the world.

You should also set up an environment that promotes writing. A solid desk, a chair that is ergonomic and other basic necessities are a good idea. Do not try to use the edge of your bed or balance your laptop on a windowsill. I have seen it. It is not pretty and not conducive to writing long term. In order to be a really productive writer you also need to be organized. That means keeping your office space your own. I know that is not always doable, but do your best to keep your stuff in your hands only.

4. Crank up the tunes

If noise is your problem, then I recommend investing in a good headset or ear buds. Crank up the music and get writing. For some people (like me) music with lyrics is out. I have a tendency to listen to the lyrics instead of concentrate on what I am writing. For those like me, I recommend either instrumental only music or nature sounds like ocean waves or rain.

Remember that the faster the beat, the faster you type.

If you are stressed and need to think, turn on calm music. But if you want to get writing fast, crank up something a little quicker.

5. Turn off the phone

There is almost no situation where you can’t turn off your phone for an hour or two. Alert the masses with a text and then shut it off. No one will pine away by not being in contact with you for a short time. Remember the time before cell phones? So do I! Harken back to a quitter, more independent time and shut it off.

6. Get unsocial

If social media is your time waster of choice then shut it down. You do not have to check Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest every five minutes. You will not miss anything. I have found myself losing hours of valuable writing time on social media. Instead, you can use it as a reward. ‘If I write two pages I can look at three Tweets’ and so on.

I think you will find that you will not miss it after a while.

7. Learn what an emergency is

There are emergencies and then there are emergencies. Some things can wait and others can’t. Learn to tell the difference and prioritize. Giving the dog a bath can wait until after writing time. Taking your child to the hospital can’t. Make writing a high priority and then think before you act.

Remember it is okay to tell people ‘no’ or ‘later’.

8. Take notes

When I sit down to write, especially in a chaotic environment, most of the time I blank out completely. I can’t think of a single one of the great ideas I had to write about just days or even hours ago. Instead of losing all those great thoughts to the chaos that is my life, I have started to carry around a pen and notebook with me wherever I go. That way when inspiration strikes I can catch it!

Taking the time to write down a reminder is a very valuable thing to do. Do not think a word or two will suffice either. I still have a paper with ‘blindfolded coconut’ written on it and I have no idea what that means, but I remember it was incredible. Instead of just a word or two take a few moments to write down the whole idea, outline and all if need be. Make sure to make a list of the important points and possible title ideas.

The best thoughts often happen at the most inopportune of times, but do not let that stop you from capturing them and saving them for great writing fodder later. You can also do this when unusual or interesting things happen in your life. Hear about a great site? Write it down? See something cool? Write it down.

Like a photographer always needing a camera with them, writer always need to carry a notebook and write down the ideas as they come up. That can save you a lot of frustration and give you some great ideas when you are drawing a blank.

These are just a few of the ways that I have learned to write despite the junk going on around me. Most of our lives are not a calm sea rather they are more like a hurricane.

Sometimes you just have to do your best to hang on and keep going.

Guest Author: This guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of www.liveinnanny.com 




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  • http://www.seftonmedia.com/ Steven Sefton

    I really like the idea of listening to just instrumental music with fast beats to write faster. I will try this. Thank you!

  • disqus_om8vzBpOGw

    Nice idea JB. I think what would compliment this, is letting those around you know if you are going to play “shut out” for a while.

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      Yes. I think the rest of the family would need to understand the program!

  • Joan Muschamp

    The nugget I got from this is about making more detailed notes for ideas, and ensuring the notebook is with you at all times. I too, have written something akin to your “blindfolded coconut” and sadly lost the brillance during the throes of the day.

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      It is about capturing the inspiration before it flees. I often stop the car or even a conversation (politely of course) to jot the idea down. It sometimes gets a bit annoying when you wake up at night with a thought and you need to make sure it is written down.

      • Joan Muschamp

        The middle of the night does seem to be when I get the best ones! I’ve been struggling with that, but think I’ll leave my notebook nearby so I can scribble some cohesive thougths. It is clearly worth a try–many a morning I’ve woken knowing I had a great idea, but can’t remember it.
        Every once in a while in the car I will call my conference line and record a thought. Need to do that more often.

      • Ed

        totally with you on that Jeff. You have to find what works for you. I find my best environment is on train, or first thing in the morning before anyone else is up. Cheers, Ed

        • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

          Yes, I do find early is good. Quietness with no distractions.

  • http://twitter.com/SandyAppleyard Sandy Appleyard

    I’m stuck on getting unsocial and unplugging the phone. All the others I have no issue with. I like the reward system though..work a little, get a little social time…that would work :)

  • http://twitter.com/ExtremelyAvg Brian D. Meeks

    I write every day. Most of my writing is geared towards novels, and I’ve found that I’m most productive when I write in public. A noisy bar, restaurant, or coffee house and I seem to be able to tune it all out and focus. In fact, I think I do a better job of creating by being forced to ignore the white noise.

    I probably write more at home than in public, but if I NEED to bang out 3 – 4000 words, I find that I need to get out of the house. At home, I am only good for 2000 per day.

    I don’t know if other people would find public writing helpful, but I thought I’d share. Good tips and a well written post. :-)

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    The contrast tactic is a good tip. There are 2 books that I recently read that provide even more insights into the journey of creativity.
    The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

  • http://twitter.com/JenMcGahan Jen McGahan

    To block out the world, I open Scrivener to the full screen composition mode and mute my email alert. Just when I get the digital and human distractions in check, the fridge beckons… :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/caroline.ashe.39 Caroline Ashe

    This is just what I needed…I struggle with a routine of writing, but I want to be more consistant. I use Notes App on my phone for jotting down when an idea hits.

    • Nashaat Quadri

      Try Evernote Caroline, it helps you remember and act upon ideas, projects and exp online….plus, you will be able to use the most of online content this way!

  • Catherine Davis

    Thanks for sharing! I like to open a blank Word doc and begin typing anything and
    everything that comes to mind in bullet or phrase form as quickly as possible. During
    this “stream of consciousness” I really don’t worry about spelling,
    grammar, formatting, “bad” ideas, etc. This process always gives me a lot
    of raw content and generates unique and creative connections. The next
    morning with a clear mind, I then start to organize topics and write more

    • Nashaat Quadri

      I loved the idea, Catherine…it can address a lot of my misery around procrastination and bouts of exhaustion ! Superb indeed !

  • http://www.callbox.com.my/ Christine Steffensen

    I really love the Idea, but the only thing in concerned about is the music I hate music whenever I get into brain storming of my blog because it interrupt my attention and go focus on music.

    • http://twitter.com/PTheWyse Praverb

      You are correct Christine. Music can be a big distraction because the writer will focus more on the words/beat than the actual writing task.

  • http://ashleymauroblog.com Ashley Mauro

    I have started to carry a notebook with me at all times! There have been plenty of times where I’ve forgotten an idea because I didn’t write it down. Great article, thank you.

  • Robert Dodd

    Jeff this is gold. I am working on my first blog and your information is just what I was looking for. People tell me I have no issues with conversation, lets hope I can get my thoughts on paper.Cheers Robert