How to become a productive writer (for beginning writers)

If you’ve always wanted to become a pro writer or start writing more consistently, there’s no better time than the present to begin!

I hope you find the information below useful in starting your own journey in writing, whether you dream of writing fiction, non-fiction or both.

No. 1: Mindset (practice non-judgement)

Mindset is probably the easiest to overlook when you’re trying to embark on a creative project or path. It’s quite normal to think about things like time or inspiration as the most important, but I’ve learned time and time again that it all boils down to attitude. 

Finding Enough Time:

I realised that I did’t need a whole day to write. I just needed three hours a week for a 70,000 word novel draft: over half a year, the pages accumulate. Last year, I was teaching artistic movement classes for adults and also learning different things. I still managed an hour-a-week creative writing mentorship session and a few hours a week for building up my collection of short stories. 

In short, mindset plays a huge part in whether you’re going to be productive or not. Remind yourself that if writing is important to you, you will find the time for it somehow!

Tips for Mindset:

Create affirmations and speak them aloud. Something like: ‘I am a brilliant, prolific writer’ or ‘I allow myself to write what is living inside me.’

Tailor your affirmations to the fears or resistance that get in the way of your writing practice. 

Consciously changing negative self-talk to positive self-talk will open doors to greater productivity, because you learn to trust the voice that says ‘you can do it. You deserve time for your creativity,’ rather than ‘you don’t have the time/talent/energy to do it.’   

Remember that inspiration is not your responsibility, sitting down to write, is. 

S. S.

That can take a lot of the load off your shoulders. If you write something, anything, your job is done. Have the mindset that it doesn’t have to come out perfect and you will lovingly accept anything that comes out. Writing practice is not just about developing the skills of the craft but it is equally about developing compassion, patience, curiosity and non-judgement. 

You don’t have to be original. You don’t have to be smart. You just have to be you – and that changes every moment! 

No. 2: Set up to do the work (and play!)

Visualize the kind of writing space you would love to have and then arrange something that resembles it. 

To be productive as a writer (or any artist), it is essential to have a space and time carved out just for the work. There needs to be a receptive space that is ‘yours’. It could be a desk, a designated room or somewhere in the corner of the house. 

Set it up with your laptop, notebooks, folders, pens, books, chargers, as well as something to inspire you: a vase of flowers, some incense or a colourful painting – anything you feel drawn to. 

Eventually your practice will catch up with the goals you set yourself. 

S. S.

Next, try to think about a time of day that suits you, that you will most likely be in the mood to write. Be realistic. If you’re not an early bird, choose the afternoon or even late at night. Pick a time of day and aim for just half an hour a day or three hours a week to start off with. Even if it doesn’t always happen consistently in the beginning, don’t beat yourself up, just keep trying! Eventually your practice will catch up with the goals you set yourself. 

No. 3: Writing Tools and Exercises (building writing muscle)

writing exercises build writing muscle

When you sit down to write, it’s always a good idea to be working on a specific task. When starting a new project, do fifteen minutes of warm-up exercises. There are many writing prompts and exercises on the internet. Gather these into a word document or notebook and pick from it when you sit down to write. Then, carry on with your project work, ie. story, novel, essay.

I would recommend having some sort of mentor, whether its a writer friend you check in with once a week, a writing mentor, an editor, or even an online course where you have the chance to share your works-in-progress for feedback to peers – it keeps you growing in your work rather than working in total isolation. 

Tip: to keep your creative juices flowing, start a writer’s journal going – this is where you can collect ideas, character backstories, plot developments, odds and ends, inspiring phrases and other useful notes. 

Never try to force your writing! And never, ever worry about grammar or structure. There are many free softwares to take care of basic grammar and spelling and you can always get an editor further along the process to help with all the finishing, tidying and polishing of your work! 

Checklist:

  • Form personalised affirmations to overcome mental blocks
  • Visualize and set up your very own writing space 
  • Create a schedule (and do your best to stick to it)
  • Collect writing prompts and exercises to build writing muscle
  • Team up with a mentor, friend or join an online course for regular feedback
  • Start a writer’s journal
  • Writers online groups and forums: mentor, critiques, or beta reader

Resources:

  • Get Grammarly for free grammar & punctuation assistance

Are there any other areas or tips in writing productivity you would like to share with us? Please leave them in the comments below!

Try Watercolours: the perfect hobby (4 benefits)

Hobbies are an important aspect of life, in fact, an essential part of life. It’s easy to get so involved with work, drawn into social media feeds and busy with chores that we forget to do the things that are just for us. Things that make us light-hearted, joyful, calm and also heal and nurture us. Hobbies are a form of self-care, because we can express ourselves, unwind, slow down and return to our work refreshed and more focussed.

Below are four benefits of watercolours as a hobby, which I have come to appreciate over the many years of painting and sketching with them.

Portable Paint Sets (pocket-sized) for sketching on the Beach

1) It isn’t Time-Consuming (fits easily into your day)

It doesn’t take long to practice or learn a hobby like watercolours. It takes less time and is easier to learn the basics, than, say a sport or learning a musical instrument.

It doesn’t have to take more than a five-minute sketch to add a spark to your day. Watercolours dry fast, especially when using less water such as the wet-on-dry method. They dry much faster than thick oils or saturated poster paints.

Set anywhere between 5 minutes to 1 hour daily to feel the immediate benefits. Use chunks of time during holidays, weekends or spare hours to indulge yourself and dive deeper. Tip: If you feel you have no time at all, try to notice what you spend time on throughout your waking hours and analyze for yourself: could you use the early mornings for this hobby? Could you cut down on social media or reading the newspaper? Where can you carve out just a little space and time for yourself?

2) A Special Form of Self-Care (learn skills & connect with yourself)

I have found watercolours to be the best way to unwind and relax. There is something about the delicacy of water and light, and the softness of the pure, brilliant hues that really nurture me through my senses. Especially with the more light, pastel shades that glow on the page. It’s extremely satisfying to paint with the medium.

It isn’t surprising then, with all these nurturing qualities, that watercolours are also used in Art Therapy, a form of non-verbal therapy that has been very effective in dealing with a spectrum of issues, sometimes in conjunction with traditional counselling and/or a medical doctor. The healing aspect of watercolours is helpful for everyone, for example to release stress, tackle emotions like grief or anger, or explore something confusing that happened that day. It acts naturally as a form of self-healing by just practicing it. There’s also the art journal or art diary, and I would recommend looking into that practice if you wish to take this hobby to a more personal level.

3) Portability Factor (perfect when you’re on the move)

I like to carry my watercolour sketchbooks with me wherever I go, along with a portable paint set. That way, whenever I get the time and inclination to paint, it’s easily and quickly accessible. These can be pocket-sized or larger, to fit in your handbag or backpack.

Watercolours are very portable, suitable for any space whether it’s your office, a cafe, a park, or out in the countryside to paint landscapes.

4) Affordability of Materials (less pressure in making a start)

Watercolours are an affordable hobby. If you want to set yourself up with the basic materials, all that you will need to start are: student-grade paint-set; some flat and pointed brushes; hot-pressed or cold-pressed paper; a bound sketchbook (available in various sizes); a palette or set of shallow bowls; a rag cloth and/or paper towels for drying brushes and mopping up paint; and a container or two for water.

To paint on the go or out of doors, all you need is a travel paint set with one brush and a built-in palette; a watercolour sketchbook; rag cloth and small water container with lid.

I have developed my skills quite a bit over the years by just setting aside a little time in my day or week, learning through weekly classes and one-off workshops, as well as through books, blog posts, videos, that I’ve taken on the side.

It is a really worthwhile hobby and I hope you will consider trying out watercolours for yourself and see where it takes you. Let me know how it goes in the comments below or via the contact form!

Creating your Writer’s Journal Practice (journaling series)

Journaling for Artistic Expression & Creativity

You might be wondering what exactly is a writer’s journal or notebook. Or maybe you’ve started one but don’t know how to go forward with it? I used a creative writing notebook to come up with all 12 of the short stories in an upcoming collection. And I cannot imagine what I’d do without it!

In this post I wanted to share a little about what is a writer’s journal and how it can help you write faster, easier and with less restriction. (If you’re interested, check out other posts in the journaling series, links above.)
A writer’s journal is a physical or digital notebook of any shape and kind, where you practice your craft, gather details and clarify your writing goals. The best way to become a better writer is to practice in your notebook everyday, even if it just means doing a quick writing prompt or exercise.
So, what kinds of things go into the notebook? It’s completely up to you!
You could write down a personal piece like a diary entry one day, and a list of interesting character habits another day. Every bit you add to your notebook is useful, because you’re getting to know yourself and what topics and details you find interesting.

It doesn’t matter if its not perfect, if its bizarre, or if its full of spelling mistakes (all those things are not important at this stage) – what matters is that you’re finding and developing ideas and discovering your voice and writing style.

Here are some ideas for your journal:

⦁ Choose one of the five senses and describe an experience
⦁ Collect phrases, sayings, or famous quotes and create a story based on it
⦁ Do writing exercises and prompts
⦁ Take your notebook with you and record happenings, bits of dialogue or describe places and people
⦁ Make a running list of story or character ideas
⦁ Improve vocabulary, grammar and punctuation
⦁ Rewrite a scene or story, try a different ending
⦁ Write to an outer rhythm – washing machine, music, sea waves
⦁ Make a list of themes and topics you care about and weave them into your writing
⦁ Brainstorm an idea for your next piece of writing
⦁ Excerpts of writing you like
⦁ Sketches or images to stimulate your writing

Have you tried morning pages?

Morning Pages, from the book Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, is an amazingly simple and effective tool to unblock as a writer.

It’s stream-of-consciousness writing, which means you don’t have to worry about what you’re writing – just go with the flow and surprise yourself with what comes up!
My morning page looks something like this…
It’s 7am. I feel a bit yawny but I’m grateful it’s Sunday and I have all this time for myself. I don’t have to rush before I start on my writing. Maybe I’ll try to learn to drive the two-wheeler today. I don’t know. I’m scared…

It’s okay to ramble on. That’s the point. If you find yourself running out of things to say, just write ‘I don’t know what to write’.

The trick is to keep your hand moving across the page, for three pages without restriction. It helps to loosen all that mind chatter and clear your inner space before you take on any creative activity.

Visit Julia’s website for more info.

Start writing and growing that notebook collection!

As you grow your notebook collection, it will become an invaluable resource throughout your writing journey.

What do you keep in your writer’s notebook? Let me know in the comments below.