Pamela Koehne-Drube

Written by

Pamela Koehne-Drube

28 February 2022

Writing Tips

4 Simple Productivity Hacks for Creative Writers

4 productivity hacks for writers - Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

The dream of many writers is to make it a full-time profession. For full-time writers, it’s easy to build and plan your day around your writing — but for those whose goals are different or whose lives do not lend themselves to writing only, it’s crucial to have a plan for how to make your time the most productive. These four productivity hacks for creative writers are simple but effective.

Write lists

Writers make lists for both practical and creative reasons, and while it seems counterproductive or a waste of time, when done with intent, it’s anything but.

On the creative side, a list can be just what you need to get inspiration. That’s why Tim Clare, in his amazing Couch to 80k course, dedicates the entire first week to them. From potential character names to whole phrases you think are beautiful, there’s nothing quite like a list to highlight where your head is at.

List writing is like a freewrite without the narrative pressure. You can be as silly or as serious as you like. Got a character you want to flesh out in your writing that day? Write a list of what’s in their pockets to determine what kind of a person they are. Got a plot point that doesn’t quite want to resolve? Make a list of possible counters to it and see if one works. To paraphrase Tim Clare, it’s easier to write many things than just try and write one. A list is the most powerful tool in a writer’s arsenal.

That said, a list is also helpful in practical terms. Setting your goals as a list of what you want to achieve is great for boosting productivity. Write a list of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. Make them achievable, and tick them off when they’re complete. It helps build healthy writing habits and gives you the sense that you’re getting somewhere. It’s so easy to get lost in your own stories, so having a list of goals helps keep those with limited time on task.

Do the work first

We all like to think that we’ll sit down to write, with fully formed ideas just waiting to burst onto the page. While bursts of inspiration do happen, it’s not the norm. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King said, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” You can alleviate a lot of that fear by being as prepared as possible. Sure, writing is enjoyable, but it’s also hard work — and to get anywhere, you have to be willing to put in that work.

Writing is the fun bit, but to really get in the zone and ensure your brain is in the most creative state it can be, it’s vital to get the tedious prep work done first. Like doing physical exercise, don’t just jump right in and expect good results. You need to stretch, warm up, flex those creative muscles (unless you have a genuine idea that you just need to get out before you forget it, in which case, go for it!).

Got some writing admin you need to sort out? Get it out of the way first. Put yourself in a creative headspace by doing some simple writing exercises, as long or as short as you want or need. Think about what part of your story you’ll be working on that day and tailor your writing exercises around it. Taking a moment out of your writing time to do a few creativity-boosting exercises will usually make the time you are writing a lot more productive. You’ll start it with a clear idea of what you want to achieve. It’s writing with a purpose, rather than for writing’s sake.

Get your workspace sorted

The spaces we write in are as unique to each of us as the words we produce. Everyone has things that are essential for their productivity. Before you sit down to do any writing, make sure you have everything you need. If you write best sipping a cup of tea, make sure you prepare it before sitting down at your desk. If you have a notebook that you take with you during the day, make sure it’s ready for reference before you start.

Whether your desk is clean or you prefer to work in clutter, make sure your space is how you like it. Even a cluttered person like myself has a specific type of clutter they need to be at their most productive. My desk is currently covered with books and notebooks, but if I’m doing something non-writing related on my desk, I need to make sure that all of that is cleared before I sit down to write. Craft supplies or receipts for accounting have to be gone before I can be creative.

Whatever works for you is valid. Just make sure that your space is ready before you sit down to write. Having the right space is probably the most overlooked of all productivity hacks for creative writers.

Take regular breaks

It is so easy to get lost in “the zone” when writing. If the ideas flow, it’s easy to get caught up in them and forget entirely about self-care.

Feeling good physically can help you feel good creatively. Taking regular breaks for water or snacks refreshes the mind and stops you from burning out. Gone are the days of hermit writers in dusty offices writing until their fingers bleed. It’s not sustainable. The odd creative genius doesn’t make it an aspiration, so make sure you’re looking after yourself.

Beyond feeling better in yourself, there’s also a lot to be said for breaks being essential for productivity. Sometimes you need to step away from what you’re doing and look at it with fresh eyes. When you’re so caught up in a particular piece of writing, it can be hard to be objective. Forcing yourself to step away for a moment, stretch your legs, and rehydrate will bring you back with a clearer outlook.

Writing can be all-consuming, but hopefully, these productivity hacks for creative writers will help you live your best writer’s life. Practice, space, and self-care are essential for any writer, so no matter what your personal situation, try and carve out the time and space you need to practice your craft however you can.