If your ability to sit down and write anything related to your business or school looks more like—SQUIRREL!
Then welcome, my unfocused friend. I literally just left writing this blog to check on a notification I got, so please know, these are my best techniques. But I’m imperfect, just like you!
So, you’re at that crossroads of:
Do I really need to do this?
You’ve been putting this off for <fill in with days, weeks, months and years> so just sit down and write it for God’s sake.
As my business is literally built on writing, I’ve mastered some helpful techniques over the years that get me cranking out the world in no time.
(Legit, the above 8 sentences took me less than 30 seconds to write.)
Once you get in your flow or learn how to quickly get back into the flow because—OMG ANOTHER DISTRACTION—you can just as happily get the words flowing too.
I use these tips and tricks usually when there’s a task that requires me to write to complete a project:
- Client brand stories
- Client website audits
- Consultation briefs
- Blogs posts
- Social media posts
- Harshly worded emails to a multi-million-dollar company that still hasn’t responded to me about something that I never received and paid for, but is most likely gone in the Hawaiian triangle (it exists!) never to be seen again.
(Now we’re at 6 minutes since I started writing this blog post)
So, hopefully, whatever you need to write, you can don your writing cap—it’s super cute, by the way—more easily by using these techniques. And remember, writing is a practice. I’ve had to revisit what works and trash the things that aren’t serving me plenty of times.
These are my tried-and-true best writing practices.
Word vomit everything you’re feeling into a notebook:
The best way to do this is writing it all out. There’s literally a cognitive connection between writing by hand and starting the flow of words to be able to write a paper or blog post or whatever your business needs at the moment. If it’s easier for you to word vomit onto a Google Doc, rather than write, who am I to judge? Go on with your bad self.
This is a technique used from reading The Artist’s Way. Many writers or creatives will start their day by writing anything and everything that comes to mind for 15 minutes or enough to fill up 3 written pages. This gets the gunk out of your head and the best part? It doesn’t have to make ANY sense. Very often my morning pages are just things I’m complaining about or how my body is feeling. If a bird is chirping, I’ll even just write that down. It doesn’t have to be a complete thought and it certainly wouldn’t be something formal you’d get up in front of a podium to give a speech about.
Write a shitty first draft and resist editing while writing:
This phrase was coined by my mentor and fantastic writing coach, Jacq Fisch. But, really, get all the words out of there that may or may not be spelled correctly and bust out even a few sentences.
When I’m writing my shitty first draft, I often look up or away from the computer. This helps my words just flow and prevents me constantly rereading the last sentences or correcting typos and grammatical errors. (Yes, they do happen, even with the professionals.) Doing this has EASILY been the best way to bust through writer’s blocks and just crap out words onto the page. What? It’s a shitty first draft, you know? If I need a hot minute, and usually I do, I’ll wait to edit my writing until the next day.
(We’re at 15 minutes since starting this post.)
If you’re like me and you’ve procrastinated writing this thing that’s been on your To Do list. Then step away for even a half hour and come back to re-read and edit. Once you start noticing that you’re back into full-throttle edit mode while you’re writing, look up!
Yup, just look above your computer and keep writing again. Let those words flow magically and know that 1) your computer very often catches spelling or grammar errors and 2) it’s more important to find a gentle wave of words than constantly be interrupted by wondering if something sounds good.
Repeat after me: Write first. Edit later.
Use a timer or the Pomodoro technique:
I’ve spoken about this before, but these were game changers tips for me, especially coming from an educational background where tests that typically involve essays could take hours. It doesn’t have to be like that! Ever, ever again. Unless you’re training or studying to be a doctor and for that, may the force be with you. If you ever need someone to sit in misery with over how long that route takes, hit me up. I’m happy to validate it after being by my husband’s side throughout his journey.
(19 minutes now)
The Pomodoro technique is basically a timed exercise of 20 minutes of work with quick 5 minute breaks in between, with a longer 15 minute break after 5 timed sessions. This allows your brain to recognize that you won’t be doing this for hours at a time and to give it a go for a quick set amount of time. Many times that writing task or work biz task that I’ve been putting off for days or weeks, gets done in one 20 minute Pomodoro session because things SO often do not take as long as we’ve convinced ourselves that they will take.
During the 5 minute breaks, I’ll stretch or go check social media for a hot minute or even make myself some tea. I always feel so British when I say that. Spot of tea!
The best part of this technique is that you’ll quickly see your brain getting into the flow. It may take a session or two to find the rhythm, but I bet that you’ll get more writing done using this technique, than dreading writing and putting it off another day.
You can download the Pomodoro method chrome extension that I use here.
You simply click the little tomato in your navigation bar and it starts the timer. After 15 minutes another tab will open up in your browser, letting you know that you get a 5 minute break with a cute little bell that rings. From there, you’ll click Start Break and the timer will keep track of it and ring another bell at the end of 5 minutes so you can get back to the task at hand.
Another fun device I use, I discovered on TikTok, probably while avoiding work. It’s a cube that has 15, 20, 30 and 60 minute timers.
Once you set the cube face up showing the amount of time you want to spend on a task, the time starts. I do this on days when I have one task that I know will take me longer than the 20 minute Pomodoros. I’m actually even using it right now for this every post. I came back to this post after a day and set my timer for another 30 minutes to bang out the rest of this post.
There’s also no way of stopping or pausing this timer once it starts, so if I find myself distracted, I have to tell that thing or interruption to wait. I’m on a timer.
For me, it basically tells my brain, you’ve sat through longer exams and business meetings than these set times. You can plop your booty down to figure this task out. And more often than not, I’ll see how much time is left because I’m already finished. Get the timer cube here.
Take a break!
I realize this seems counterintuitive, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in avoiding the task at hand, that we start doing other things that keep our mind busy. Instead, take a break.
Go on a 20 minute walk. Meditate. I sometimes will stretch or watch half an episode of some trash reality tv show.
What you want to do is show yourself (and your mind) that you can take a break and also get back to the writing task at hand. As you start doing this more and more, you’ll show yourself (and your mind) that you’re capable of doing it.
Plus, it is totally okay to not want to write.
Sometimes it seems too overwhelming and daunting. If you show yourself some love, I bet that you’ll be kinder about starting up the next writing sessions.
Play some soothing music:
I’ve really experienced trial and error with finding the right playlists for music while writing. I’ve found that sometimes it totally depends on the time of day and my mood.
I cannot, as much as I’ve tried, listen to podcasts while writing. I find that I’m rewinding more than I actually listen because…how the hell do you write while listening to someone else talk?! The people who can do that absolutely astonish me.
So, I’ve found fun jazz playlists, literally “hotel lobby” playlists which usually consist of some electronic hipster lounge beats and also some yoga/meditative youtube playlists are the best. You can find which ones I like the most below.
Read hard hitting or well-written pieces:
I often surprise people when they hear I don’t read too, too much outside of my daily work. 1) because I read so much during the day. Whether that’s my own client’s words or re-reading and editing my own and 2) I didn’t find many fictional genres I enjoyed until I was an adult. The forced reading (that I did do!) in school sort of worked against me as I got older. I’ve averaged about 10-15 books a year.
I’m inspired by pieces of writing that hit an emotional nerve in me and then inspire me to write something equally as touching. When writers are vulnerable, it gives me permission to do the same. When writers are fun and playful, I want to examine that in my work too.
From blog posts to articles, I’ll pull inspiration from journalists and writers who pound the proverbial google doc pavement with their words.
As far as fictional books, I love reading who-dun-it series, as well as historically based books. I’ve found in the last couple years I’ve really enjoyed reading WWII books based in Britain. Shocking, I know for those of you who know me well.
As far as non-fiction, I love memoirs and motivational books.
Reading outside my own writing gives me a good idea that hell, if others can do it, so can I. Plus, I see how creatively people write and it inspires my own writing.
Forgive yourself and be kind:
If worse comes to worse, and I’m distracted so often and so much that I can’t get any writing done. I will table it. Writing and business tasks will always be there.
Key Reminder: If you force it too much, your reader or boss or client will absolutely be able to tell. My job is very heart-centric. I put a lot of love into these words. If I’m forcing myself to do it, you can tell. Well, at least I can!
Table it for another day. Tell yourself it’s okay and you’ll come back to it. Leave in the middle of writing a sentence so you can hop right back in.
From my experience, as long as I’ve started the task, it’s much easier to come back to. Starting is the biggest battle in getting shit done. So if I’ve at least started writing, I have a place to come back to.
As you can see, over 2,000 words and 1 hour later, I’ve got a bonafide piece of writing. I actually used quite of few of the techniques above to finish this very blog post too. It does work. Writing can feel like a monumental task, even for a writer. I’ve found my sweet spot over the years by learning to be kind to myself and trying new things. Happy writing!