My friend Noah just got a book contract.
“Do you have any writing tips for me?” he asked recently. “I have only six months to finish the entire book, so I’m a little stressed out about it.”
Many professionals recognize that blogging is a great way to develop their ideas and enhance their personal brand. But when you’re busy, writing even once a week can seem overwhelming. How can you find time to sit down and actually compose something worthwhile? I have a slightly unfair advantage: I started my career as a journalist and had to report and write 3500 words a week, or I’d get fired. (That’ll teach you to write pretty fast.) But I also have a few tips —writing habits, if you will— that I shared with Noah and they might work for you, too.
Capture All Your Ideas
There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank page and desperately willing an idea to come. Instead, I try to capture every idea that comes into my head – at the gym, walking in the neighborhood, or talking with colleagues. I record them in my smartphone’s “Notes” function, periodically consolidate them into a (by now very large) Word file, and turn to it when I need ideas.
Know How Much Time You Need
With a bit of practice, you can learn how much time you need for different kinds of writing, and you can block it out accordingly on your calendar. If I’ve interviewed someone, I can usually produce a blog post from that in about an hour; a “think piece” requires a little more soul-searching (or research) and generally takes 1 ½ to 2 hours, and when I’m working on a book (like my recent one, Reinventing You), I need to block out a full half-day to get anything meaningful accomplished.
Don’t Let Food Get in Your Way
Food is possibly the greatest procrastination tool of all time, so that’s part of why I like to work in coffee shops. Research indicates that the “sonic hum” of café life may actually be optimal for stimulating your productivity. And if I get hungry or thirsty, I can take a 30 second break to order something, rather than a half-hour break to leave my office and go get it. If I really need to get something done, I’ll simply vow that I won’t leave the café until it’s finished. Self-imprisonment isn’t necessarily the ideal formula for creativity, but if you need to “bang out copy,” it’s a good way to get it done.
What are your best strategies for building up the writing habit and making it happen?