How does one become a more productive writer? Often, I found myself banging my head against the wall as I struggled to find time for writing. Or when I faced a blank sheet of paper and felt creatively drained. Recently I’ve increased my word count significantly. I discovered how to create space in my own life to write more.

I want to share what I learned in the hopes my experience might help you.

To answer the question of how to become a more productive writer, what are you willing to give up? How badly do you want this life?

Step 1 – Define your writing goals.

Part of becoming a productive writer means defining your goal. Want to write a novel in one year? Then your writing habits will be less demanding than someone who wants to write three to four novels a year.

I wrote 80% of my first novel in one month during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This annual writing challenge encourages competition and to “win,” you must write 50K words. This is the arbitrary length the organizers deemed to be a “full-length” manuscript. To meet this, I had a clear goal—1,366 words every day in November.

The other 20% of my manuscript? It took me a year to write it. I attempted NaNoWriMo the year before and only managed to write 10K words. Then I went back to my day job and put writing on the backburner, thinking that I would find time here and there. I threw away my first draft, completely revised it, and then ended up reverting back to my original idea.

When I was working and not focused on a writing goal, I would let any number of other activities get in the way. I lacked a clear goal. Instead, I had a hazy idea that I wanted to write fiction and that maybe I’d finish a book in a year.

Instead of having a vague goal such as write a novel in 2017, I recommend a clear daily or weekly goal. For example, establish a  daily goal of writing 500 or 1,000 words so you can manage your progress and adjust.

We’re supposed to be having fun and enjoying our writing time. If you try 1,000 words per day and find it’s not working, drop it down to 500. Consistency is key. 100, 200, 300 words a day is better than no words.

Step 2 – Change your relationship with your day job.

For my day job, I had a bad habit of working on weekends to “catch up” because I had too much on my plate. Family obligations, household chores, and everyday life required the rest of my attention. Do you find yourself in this situation?

Does it seem like you’re not in control of your own life sometimes? You are not alone.

When you let your life be dominated by someone else’s work, you are doing yourself a disservice. What was I doing working weekends at my day job? I was already putting in 50+ hours a week. Enough was enough. I decided that the job was not a good fit for me if I was too drained to spend any time on what mattered to me—writing.

How can you change the situation? Can you work the minimum required hours per week? Are there changes you can make to spend more time on writing and building your business? Does a company bonus really matter if it requires more time and commitment from you?

Author Joanna Penn went from working five to four days a week to build her income to the point where she could quit her day job. I made the decision to move to a part-time freelancing gig. These decisions can be tough, and you may need to make sacrifices. Again, how much do you want this life?  How badly do you want to achieve your writing goals?

Step 3 – What can you give up to spend more time writing?

I write about 1,000 words per hour. Sometimes I’m faster if I’m on a roll. I won’t go to bed for the night unless I get my hour of writing done.

Some days, I’ll have a super busy day supporting one of my client book launches. I’m also busy working on growing my author business. My ideal day is to get my writing done first thing in the morning, or by noon at the latest.

What’s your best time of day to write? Is it first thing in the morning? Many authors prefer a.m. writing because their brains are rested and there are fewer distractions first thing in the day.

Others are night owls and prefer evening writing. Some people wait for the weekend and binge-write, spending hours at a cafe pounding out thousands of words.

What can you give up for that extra hour of consistent writing every day? Can you…

Get up one hour later (or change your bedtime)?
Give up watching TV at night?
Hire a cleaning service?
Have your groceries delivered?
Delegate dinner preparation to someone else in your family?
Go have lunch alone every day and write?

My husband and I got rid of cable and cut down our TV viewing time. We still stream an hour of our favorite shows each night, but losing the commercials has been a good time saver.

Other time-saving techniques:

  • Wear minimal makeup and let your hair air dry.

  • Lay out your clothes the night before so you’re not stuck deciding what to wear.

  • Hire a cleaning service once every two weeks.

  • Every other week, have a service deliver groceries to save 1.5 hours.

  • Can you reduce your work commute? Or, if you must commute, how can you make better use of your time? Examples: dictating your writing, listening to writing/marketing audio books or podcasts, outlining, etc.

These ideas may seem extravagant, but hiring people to clean, do groceries, or walk your dog can pay off. Consider the time you can spend creating assets that will build your business and produce income in the long-term.

I hope these ideas are useful to you. The changes I made: adopting a daily 1,000 word goal, changing my day job to work less and write more, have allowed me to triple my word count each month.

I hope you, too, can create the space in your life to write more and get closer to becoming a productive writer.  1,000 words a day adds up to 365K words per year. That’s what I call productive.