Top Tips for Tricking Yourself Into Writing

I love to write. That said, more often than not, I will take any excuse to procrastinate or avoid it. But the only way to get that book written is to plant yourself at that keyboard or in front of that notebook and just do it already. To that end, I’ve cultivated a series of ways to trick myself into getting some freaking words on the page.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Make progress tangible. One of the problems with writing is that at the end of even the most productive day, what do you really have to show for it? A slightly longer Word file? So unsatisfying.

    My trick: graphs. If you’ve ever participated in NaNoWriMo, you know what I mean. Part of their motivational program is to have you input your word count at the end of every day, and it makes this little climbing bar graph that shows exactly how close you are to your goal. But what’s a girl to do any month of the year except November? You can set up the same basic thing in Excel, or you can get an app to do it for you. Personally, I’m a fan of Write-o-meter for Android. See how pretty my graph is?writeometergraph
  • Set low standards. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but let me explain. For me, the hardest part is getting started. Realistically, to stay on track for my deadlines, I usually need to write 1-2k words per day, but that can be daunting. So if I find myself endlessly scrolling the internet, putting off getting started, I tell myself I only need to write 300. Even on a bad day, I can usually manage that. And you know what? About 80% of the time, once I get those first 300 down, I’m in the groove again and I end up rocketing along to my goal for the day.
  • Set a timer. Then block the clock. I swear I heard the advice about setting a timer a million times, and it never really helped me. Then I figured out the secret: make sure you can’t see how much time is passing. For me, this means writing in Scrivener in full screen mode, which blocks the clock in the corner of the screen. It means putting my phone on silent and then turning it face down on the table beside me. My timer is usually set for only 25 minutes, and even I can ignore the internet for that long. My text messages and Facebook alerts and Twitter stream can all wait. Making it impossible to see how much time is passing keeps me focused for the duration. It keeps me from getting distracted. And most importantly, it keeps me from sitting there like a kid in the last hour of a road trip asking “Are we there yet are we there yet ARE WE THERE YET????”
  • Peer pressure. This can come in so many forms. Some people like to stalk the #1k1hr tag on twitter where everyone agrees to write for an hour and then reports back on their progress. Others find a small group of fellow writers and text their word count for the day to each other every night. Personally, I find all of that too stressful, but I adore this app called Habitica. It turns your life into a role playing game. You pick the tasks you need to accomplish every day. Then you find some friends and start a questing party. Everyone who accomplishes their tasks for the day does damage to the bad guy. Any unfinished tasks hurt you and your friends. No one knows what you did or didn’t do, but there are (admittedly silly) consequences for not getting shit done. I feel weirdly honor-bound not to lie about what I’ve accomplished for the day, and knowing that my slacking hurts my friends is just this little bit of extra motivation to keep me productive on a consistent basis.
  • Reward yourself. It doesn’t matter what you promise yourself. It can be a snack or another cup of coffee or some free time to scroll your favorite fansite or a chance to read whatever juicy bit of fiction you’ve been dying to lose yourself in. Just don’t let yourself do it until you’ve accomplished what you need to. Then indulge guilt-free once you do.

Have you tried any of these tricks? What sort of luck have you had? What other tricks help you keep the words flowing?

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