With just one semester of school left and an on-the-go lifestyle, I needed a way to make money without making a commitment. Freelance writing paid pennies, but I worked hard to turn the change into dollars.
Fast forward five years. Writing anywhere from 3000 to 5000 words a day on average, that temporary side hustle has become my freelance writing career. A lie I believed too long finally lost its grip.
As it turns out:
Writer is an actual job title.
Writing is also a legitimate way to serve.
Whether you’re working, serving, or just honing your craft, productivity matters when you’re writing.
As I’ve completed a variety of types of assignments over the years, I’ve learned a few things about project-based productivity. I’m grateful to Meg for letting me share some of those lessons here today.
I hope these tips help you as you write!
Productivity Tips for any Writer
1. Brainbeach Instead of Brainstorming
I used to brainstorm. I’d sit and stir up chaos in my mind, get soaked in the mess of ideas, and then try to make sense out of mud later.
A few years ago, my ideation process became more beach-like. Instead of wildly ideating, I started thinking about topics or prompts ahead of time. I leisurely sit with them and, as I go about my day, soak in ideas and record them as they come. Sometimes I stroll the brainbeach looking for pretty little ideas, sometimes I just spot them in the course of living.
The main difference is this: brainstorming makes a mess in your mind. Brainbeaching calmly collects from the idea-maker what’s worth keeping and leaves the rest of the mess where’s it’s most beautiful (undisturbed!)
2. Stay Outside Your Margins
One girl in school with a pretty name and prettier penmanship kept notebooks the creator of a coloring book would envy. She stayed precisely inside every line. Without any effort, her words magically ended at the red margin every time. My notebooks looked like a panini press squished the words to keep them on the page as they spilled over the margins.
There are some lines that you should cross in writing:
- When you finish one project, immediately set up the next. When you go work on the next, you’ll have a framework made by an already-switched-on brain. You can skip the warm-up period.
- Write what you don’t know yet. Many of us learn through writing. Your (re) write will be better for having worked through it on paper.
- Set deadlines a week ahead of time. Then use that over-the-margin week to forget what you wrote, review it, and rewrite as needed.
- If you have multiple projects you’re working on and it’s getting tedious, rotate between them instead of completing them each one at a time. *Type A cohorts, breathe.* Switching between projects can force you to pay closer attention to which one you’re working on.
- Read and write about things that aren’t your niche, perspective, or preferred style. It sharpens your style, enlarges your perspective, and enriches your niche.
3. Don’t Cross Your Eyes or Dot Your T’s
Unless you’re one of the few who gets a rush from grammar lessons, editing is mind-numbing work. Never just rely on editing-as-you-write OR editing immediately after. Give those eyes a chance to rest and they’ll work faster (and better.)
Use tools like Grammarly (even the free version is great!)
Wait until you can’t remember what you wrote…then edit.
On a similar note, “t” doesn’t need a dot above it. Every paragraph doesn’t need a neat transition. All projects don’t need a tidy conclusion. Editing well is about more than grammar glitches and spellcheck. Tighten your words. Look for what doesn’t need to be there. Find the excess dots and save it for later – half of productivity is knowing how to use the “leftovers.”
4. Tell Yourself Before You Show
The classic phrase “show don’t tell” often has my husband holding my laptop while I ask him the ridiculous question “what am I trying to say?!” (Miraculously, he sometimes knows.)
Before you write beautiful illustrations and elegant metaphors, know what you’re demonstrating. Then, ask yourself how to best show what you’re telling. Keep your audience in mind too.
5. Pre-write, then Pre-write Again
When “too many deadlines, too quickly” overwhelms me, I tend to freeze. No ideas come. No words flow. I can’t start until I know I can get it done.
Pre-writing takes the pressure off. Think outlines, vomit-drafts, starting with a loose conclusion, or writing a summary before writing the piece itself.
Basically, pre-writing is putting down words you don’t intend for anyone else to see. It’s the primer to make sure the paint sticks. You might feel like it’s a waste of time, but when you don’t have to put 4 layers of yellow on before the page stops looking green, you’ll see it’s worth it.
I’d love to know- what is your writing process? What tips can you offer for productivity?
Bethany McIlrath works as a marketing specialist. She creates content, copy, and social media posts for her wonderful clients on a freelance basis. Her passion is using words to point others to Christ and build others up in faithful, humble confidence. She writes about step by step, day by day faith on http://firstandsecondblog.com/. Bethany is also grateful to ghostwrite and guest-write for other bloggers and ministries.
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