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4 Techniques to Fit Writing Into Your Day

When did you last feel like you had all the time in the world to write? How long since you had a day free from distractions and demands on your time? Do you regularly find yourself in your ideal writing environment, with everything you need to be at your best and most creative?

I don't think I could answer those questions. I don't have days like that. I don't even know what my ideal writing environment would look like! I do, however, have four techniques that I use to include writing in my day.

1 | The 15-Minute Writing Sprint

As hard as it can be working full time at something other than writing, with a family and demands on my time, most days I can get fifteen minutes to write. The concept is simple enough. Set a timer and write!

It doesn't have to be fifteen minutes. Maybe you only have ten minutes. The point is to give yourself that small window of time to make use of it and write.

When to schedule it? You probably won't schedule it unless you're literally scheduling every block of time during your day. Instead, grab it when you have the opportunity. Look for moments you can seize—and seize them! You might snatch the time when you first wake up. On the way to work. When taking a break. If you need to get out of the workplace, go sit in your car or on a bench outside for your break. If you don't have a place to get away to, stick in headphones.

How much can you get written in fifteen minutes? That depends on your process. For example, I find it easier to get started writing when I have a work-in-progress. It's also easier with progress. Whatever your situation, it is still more writing than you would have done otherwise.

2 | Consider Hand-Writing

When trying to fit writing into the time available, the tool used may make all the difference between writing or not. As a teenager working at my first job in a local pharmacy, I strapped bound ledger books to my bike rack when I went to work. The 14-inch page length gave me more room to write. I'd take my break and write by hand.

Before you recoil in horror at the idea of hand-writing stories, keep in mind that I didn't have the options then that are available now. Writing in a notebook does offer several advantages.

  • No startup time. Open the notebook and start writing.
  • No connection issues. It's entirely offline.
  • No lost files. Every stroke is saved as soon as it is written.

If I'd known shorthand I would have tried that instead. Shorthand coupled with a smart scanning system might still be a viable alternative (80+ Words Per Minute), though I don't know if there is software available that could easy transcribe it.

When I wrote by hand the big disadvantage was retyping my work. That wouldn't have been so bad except I used a typewriter at the time and often had to retype stories more than once to make corrections!

3 | Use Anything Except a Computer

Try something other than a standard laptop. I use a very inexpensive Chromebook. It's small, light, and affordable. I don't have to wait for it to start up or wake up and the battery lasts all day long and then some. I don't have to worry about charging it at all. I plug it in at night and it's ready when I need it.

Another good alternative? Your phone. Whether you're using an Android or iOS device, there are many app options to help you write. Even the popular Scrivener writing program is available for iOS now. A phone has the advantage over a tablet because you usually have your phone with you. Using a phone means you can grab even a few spare moments waiting in line to write.

4 | Dictate Rather Than Write

Dictation offers similar advantages to using a phone or Chromebook and that of shorthand with automated transcription. With a small digital recorder (or an app on your phone) you can dictate when the opportunity presents itself.

A program such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking transcribes the recording into text, which you can then edit. There's also a mobile app version that provides transcription on your phone.

You can also use a free option with a Chromebook and Google's Voice Typing.

Monica Leonelle's book Dictate Your Book: How To Write Your Book Faster, Better, and Smarter covers many of the details if you want a guide to help you get started.

I've used dictation to write a number of stories and novels.

What techniques do you use?

I'd love to hear what techniques you use to fit writing into your life? Do you have something that works for you?

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What Would You Give For More Focus in 2018?

Full Focus Planner

I think many writers suffer from a lack of focus. I know I do! My friend Kristine Kathryn Rusch calls this “popcorn kittens.” Ideas pop up and I'm immediately drawn to that new and shiny idea. As I came into 2018, after having finished my MLIS degree, I found myself chasing a bunch of different ideas.

Kill your darlings for more focus

You'll gain focus by killing your darlings. It isn't only self-indulgent writing that needs to go. You're a busy creative with many other demands on your time. You can't afford to chase every new idea—no matter how cute!

kittens on grass

You can't take them all. You need to pick which ideas will get your attention and time. An attack on my websites convinced me that I needed to not only reboot my writing career—I also needed to cut back to a single site with a specific focus.

Avoid productivity block by picking a system and sticking with it

You've heard of writer's block? Often it isn't writer's block that is the problem. It's productivity block. Have you experienced this? You sit down to write and end up checking email. Your kid asks a question. The dog whines to go out. Then you have to get lunches ready and get everyone out the door.

Writers talk about procrastination. Or distractions. Or the demands of juggling work and life.

This is a productivity block. You know what needs to get done but don't have a system for managing all the demands on your time. Without a system, things happen when they happen. I know for me this is often the case. If the stars align and the Moon is in the right phase, I get my writing done. Or if I have a system in place.

Saying that procrastination is the cause feels like blaming. “I procrastinated and didn't get my writing done.”

Saying I didn't write because of distractions feels like making excuses. “If I could get fifteen minutes to myself, I might actually get some writing done.”

Pick a system that works and stick with it. I've always seen success when I have a system in place. For this year, I decided to go with Michael Hyatt's Full Focus Planner (save 15% with the referral link before June 30th, 2018).

Full Focus Ahead!

The Full Focus Planner incorporates concepts that Michael Hyatt has taught in his courses and in his book Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals.

The basic structure Mr. Hyatt describes for setting goals works for me and is built into the planner. From annual goa , to details about each quarter, to the big three weekly goals, all the way to your big three daily goals.

Goals in Mr. Hyatt's system fit a SMARTER structure. Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Risky, Time-Keyed, Exciting, and Relevant. He also defines goals as either one-time achievement goals or as habit goals.

The planner helps with defining and reviewing all of these goals. It's a system that resonates with me. I like that he calls for risky and exciting goals. I found reading the book was a good companion to the planner and the tutorial videos that go along with the planner.

Find your system

I don't believe that there is only one system that will work for everyone. What systems have you tried? What do you recommend to others? Share your thoughts below.

And if you haven't subscribed to my blog, you can do so in the sidebar and never miss a post. It's easy and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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Nuke the Entire Site From Orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

Space scene

via GIPHY

True words. Over the past few days, my sites came under attack from hackers. The code infested everything. No sooner would I strip it out and try to secure one site, I would discover it somewhere else. I decided to take Ripley's suggestion to heart. My sites might not be a multi-million dollar installation, but it's hard to do something like that after having spent so much time working on the sites. No doubt there were less radical methods that could have been used. I do have backups. I could restore posts. Only, I'm not going to. At least not right now.

Massive Reboot

I planned to launch my Massive Reboot of my writing and illustration career in 2018 after finishing my MLIS degree program. I'm currently working on my plans. This month is going to be a month of reflection and planning. Right now I only have two goals to focus on this month.

  1. Write a short story each week.
  2. Read.

That's it at the moment. I've ordered Michael Hyatt's Full Focus Planner and look forward to using it in my planning efforts. I first heard about it through Amy Porterfield's excellent podcast. I'm not adding more goals until I have a plan worked out for the reboot. I work as a full-time librarian and need to take that into account as well. For the moment that also means that I'm not going to work on restoring my other sites or the content that was on this site. I will work on the site deliberately, with a plan. I hope you'll check back as I work through this process!