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14 Things To Do To Be A Great Writer

14 Things To Do To Be A Great Writer

I am an author, a playwright, and a freelance editor. I get asked all of the time what advice I have for aspiring writers. I have met a lot of talented and amazing authors of plays, novels, poems, and screenplays, and they all share the same habits Here a few things you can do as well.

1. Write every day

The idea of sitting down every single day and writing profound literary prose can be overwhelming. In reality, it’s much simpler to write every day. One of my writer friends works as an administrative assistant, and every day she writes for 15 minutes before work and for 15 minutes during her lunch break. You can talk about all of the great ideas you have for novels or screenplays all day long, but the number one way to be a writer is to sit down and actually write.

2. Keep a journal

Even for non-writers, a journal is a great tool for self-development. It gives you a place to document your life, process your emotions, and work out important decisions. In addition, writers who journal always have a place to record any ideas that may come to them and a place to practice writing.

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3. Look for lessons in everything

When something “bad” happens in your life, this gives you an excellent opportunity. Ask yourself how you can re-frame this seemingly negative event and use it for a basis for your writing. We all experience tragedies, but a skilled writer will be able to find a use for some of them.

4. Silence your inner critic

The critical voices in your head like to run wild when you sit down to write. “This is stupid.” “No one’s going to read this.” “Where is this going?” Don’t listen to them. They will stifle your creativity if you let them, so learn how to shut them up. Don’t judge yourself or limit your creativity.

5. Read as much as you can

Read the kind of books you want to write. Read books that excite you and make you feel passionate about storytelling. Learn from different writers by reading their work. Even if you read a book that you find to be poorly written, ask yourself what you can learn from it.

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6. Embrace rejection and criticism

Understand that all art is subjective. Getting rejected means you are putting yourself out there, which is great. I see so many writers who are incredibly talented but they never do anything with their work because they are afraid of rejection. Make a collage out of your rejection letters, and be proud of them. Every rejection you get represents a time when you tried, which is much more than a lot of people can say.

7. Try new things

Learn new skills, participate in new hobbies, go new places. See the world in as many different ways as possible. New activities, new locations, new people, new cultures. All of these things will inspire you to think of new stories.

8. Pay attention to the writing in your life

TV shows, films, even e-mails and social media updates can teach you something about writing. What did you think worked from a storytelling standpoint about that episode of Game of Thrones? Have you noticed a friend who uses poor grammar in his tweets? Are there ways your boss could have structured that e-mail better?

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9. Always find ways to grow

Don’t ever think you have reached perfection as a writer. No matter what level you are at, there’s always something to learn. You should always strive to improve.

10. Listen to other writers

In line with #9, some of the ways you can strive to improve and to always be learning are to take writing classes, read writing craft books, read writing blogs, follow writers on social media, etc. Learn from the wisdom of the writers you admire.

11. Challenge yourself

Nothing is too ambitious. Don’t tell yourself you can’t write a science fiction novel or that you can’t write a novel in a month. Allow yourself to go for it.

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12. Experience art

Go to museums, go to concerts, go see films, go see live theatre… Always look for new ways to be inspired and support other artists. You never know when a painting, a photograph, a song, or a film will inspire your next story.

13. Follow your obsessions

Write what you want to write, not what your parents or your friends or anyone else want you to write. Don’t write what you think will sell or what you think publishers want to see. Write about the things that make you excited. Write about the things you are passionate about. Write the stories you would love to read.

14. Value your own voice

Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Don’t try to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. Everyone has their own unique experiences, their own perspective. No two writers will have the same stories inside of them or tell stories in the same way. Find the stories only you can tell, and write them down. And when you’ve done that, keep writing.

Featured photo credit: Girl Writing in Her Moleskine Diary/Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on September 17, 2018

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

How bad really is multitasking?

It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

So what to do about it?

Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

Now, forget about how to multitask!

Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

1. Get enough rest

When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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2. Plan your day

When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

4. When at your desk, do work

We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

5. Learn to say no

Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

6. Turn off notifications on your computer

For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

The bottom line

Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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