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

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 January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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