Changing it Up

"Dis is mah effiishunt poze. One hundrid purrcent betta naps!"

Unless you’ve been able to successfully create a writing routine and habits to support it, focus and productivity can be a challenge. (For me, at least, but I know I’m not alone here.) Even very valid reasons can turn into excuses for not getting anything done. Yet when the golden moment comes where time is carved out of the day to write, you might encounter another roadblock: getting back into the work. You know, actually putting the words on the page.

A few months ago, I posted about the importance of being mindful of our headspace, as that can affect our productivity. Today I want to talk about another facet of that: ways to mix it up to get yourself to focus.

Change your location. I mentioned the environment as a factor back in April, but this is important and bears repeating. Is there a better location in your house or apartment where you won’t be distracted? A coffee shop where you can sit and work undisturbed? Some places that seem easy to set up workspace can actually turn out to not be useful. The kitchen table will often have other things on it. The living room might have someone else using the TV. Noise and interruptions can get in the way. Having a place where you know you can function at peace can make all the difference. Need even more quiet? There are usually empty desks at your local library.

Change your medium. As a freelance copy editor, I find it useful to put the book I’m editing in a PDF and stick it on my iPad. My first pass through, I just read the book and jot notes on a notepad as I go. Then, when I go through a second time, I look at the actual word document on my computer screen. By doing this, I get two different views of the story, and can catch things I miss on the first pass. With writing, the same principle applies: find a different way to get the words out, like writing new stuff by hand in a notebook or on a piece of paper. Then when you type it in, you get a fresh look at things.

Change your view. One of the great things about working on a computer is that you are not required to be a slave to format. Yes, double-spaced 12pt serif font is important for when you’re submitting your work to editors, beta readers, and agents. That doesn’t mean you’re required to actually create in that sterile environment. Is there a font that makes you more comfortable? What about the font size? I have been known to reduce my word document to 50% and the font size to 20. Then the page is smaller but the words are still legible. It even winds up looking a bit like a printed page in a pocket novel, with a lot of grey space surrounding the page and nothing else to distract. (Fun fact: I like to read my agent rejection e-mails on my phone, because the screen is small and the experience feels less soul-crushing. It’s another mental health management trick, and it does wonders for my sanity.)

So there you have it: even more ways to help get your juices flowing, and words on the page. Have you found any techniques or tricks that help? I’d love to hear them!

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