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Tried, Tested and True: 3 Ways to Get Writing Done

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Tried, Tested and True: 3 Ways to Get Writing Done

    If you’re a writer, then becoming disciplined with your writing is one of your biggest challenges. It’s not something that you tackle once and then never have to worry about again. It’s an ongoing battle. and you have to have a ton of weapons at the ready in order to take it on each and every day.

    That said, if you’re not a writer by trade and simply want to use writing as means to express yourself (online or off), then discipline is something you’ll need to have to keep it up. As someone who has trasitioned from writing as a hobby to a career, I’ve had my struggles with this in both realms. And I’ve conquered them over and over again because I’ve had the willpower and determination to make it through.

    How have I done this?

    While I’ve tried several tactics to combat a lack of discipline and find a way to get writing done, I’ve found that there are really 3 ways to get your writing done that can either work in tandem or independently. I’ve used all of these consistently throughout my time spent writing — both as a hobby and as a career — and the results have been the same: I get writing done.

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    1. The Write Time

    When I first started to become more serious about my writing, I dismissed the notion of setting aside specific time for writing. I thought that if I wrote as the ideas came to me then I’d have a much better success rate in terms of creating great written work. I was way off base on that.

    While it’s important to capture your ideas as they come to you – I’ve captured ideas using a variety of methods during my writing career – you can’t just pick up and write whenever. You need to block out time to write. It doesn’t matter if you do it early in the morning or in the wee hours of the evening – but you need to set out specific times to flesh out your ideas and get the writing done.

    I’ve discussed my current writing schedule before, but as a writing hobbyist my schedule was set up as follows:

    • Wake up/Daily Routine: 7 am to 8 am
    • Work: 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (including commute)
    • Dinner: 6 pm to 7 pm
    • Time with kids before bed: 7 pm to 8 pm
    • Time with wife before we did our own things: 8 pm to 9 pm
    • Writing: 9:30 pm to 11:30 pm (never less than this amount of time, often more)
    • Bed: No later than 1 am

    On weekends, I’d spend one day doing absolutely no writing (we called this Family Day) and the other doing more than my 2 hours – often I’d get in about 4 hours on that day. As a result of putting a system like this in place, I built up a great portfolio of work that landed me more and more writing work that not only paid, but were in my areas of interest. And now I’m a full time writer. Making time for your words not only will instill self-discipline like nothing else, it can lead you to a writing career if that’s what you want.

    There’s no right time of day to do this, but you’d better set aside a “write time of day” or you’ll have a much harder time getting the words out of you. I cannot stress this enough.

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    2. The Write Place

    Scheduling your writing is crucial, but you need to have a place to go when that time arrives. Having a place to do your writing is like having a touchstone for your work; it’s a sacred place you go to where the words flow out of you. It doesn’t have to be serene, it doesn’t have to be in the home, it doesn’t have to be a huge setup. But it does have to be there.

    I’ve tried a ton of different places, an entirely separate “pseudo-office” in the basement, a standing desk in our large walk-in closet and a larger area in the main part of the house. None of them were necessarily right for me, but I found that the further removed I was from the rest of the house the less friction I had in getting my writing done. My standing desk was ideal for podcasting or talking out my ideas, but not so much for the act of writing. The basement setup felt as if I’d been banished to dungeon to do my work, so I didn’t enjoy going down there. That had an impact on my writing.

    Now I’ve got a very comfortable writing chair and a Levenger lap desk in the master bedroom that suits me best as my “write place” – and it works best for a number of reasons:

    1. It has a door, giving me privacy when I need it.
    2. It is bright, with a sliding door out to our back deck.
    3. It doesn’t “feel” like an office, yet it acts like one during the day.
    4. It is in the back of the house, furthest from the reaches of noise.
    5. It’s easily accessible.

    Create a place for you to do your writing. Work within the limits you have for now and then adjust as needed. But remember that adjusting your writing space isn’t actually getting the writing done, so don’t get caught up in the “where” over the “why” and “what” because they are the most important factors.

    3. The Write Tools

    This is where you can really get caught up in fiddling. Don’t fall victim to that.

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    Don’t experiment or tinker too much once you’ve got the right tools in place. Chances are you’ve already been writing using some sort of tools, so stick with those until you get in the habit of scheduling your time to write. Outside of that scheduled time, look for tools that will improve how you get the words out without barriers that keep you from that. Again, the “why” and “what” are far more important.

    I use different tools for different forms of writing. On my MacBook Air, I use Byword for weblog writing, Scrivener for longer form writing. On my iPad, it’s Writing Kit. I use index cards to capture ideas, along with my iPhone and Evernote. All of these tools help me get my writing done more effectively and efficiently.

    I can’t tell you what tools are right for you. But what I can say is that the real “write tool” is you. Writers have been writing well before computers, typewriters and even paper came to be, so keep that in mind when picking out tools that will help you become a better writer. Because no tool can do that.

    Think of it this way: These tools are the drill bits. You’re the drill.

    The Write Mind

    All of these have a way of leading you to The Write Mind, and that’s where you need to be to put out the best words to paper or screen that you possibly can on an ongoing basis.

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    Do right by you and your writing with these 3 foolproof methods, and you’ll create better and better written work each and every time. Keep at it and calling on self-discipline will happen easier over time.

    And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    (Photo credit: Once Upon a Time via Shutterstock)

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on July 20, 2021

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

    You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

    Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

    Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

    1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

    According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

    “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

    Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

    Warming up

    If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

    If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

    Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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    1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
    2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
    3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

    Stay hydrated

    Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

    To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

    Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

    Meditate

    Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

    Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

    Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

    Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

    2. Focus on your goal

    One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

    Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

    Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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    Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

    If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

    3. Convert negativity to positivity

    There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

    ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

    It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

    Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

    Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

    Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

    4. Understand your content

    Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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    However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

    “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

    Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

    Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

    One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

    5. Practice makes perfect

    Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

    In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

    Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

    6. Be authentic

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

    Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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    Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

    To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

    With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

    Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

    7. Post speech evaluation

    Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

    Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

    We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

    You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

    Improve your next speech

    As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

    Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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    • How did I do?
    • Are there any areas for improvement?
    • Did I sound or look stressed?
    • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
    • Was I saying “um” too often?
    • How was the flow of the speech?

    Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

    If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

    Reference

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