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Writers’ Bootcamp (Summer Edition)

It’s summertime.  For many, this means vacations, travel with family, a time to rest and regroup for next year.  For others, however, the summer is a time to start and finish significant writing projects.  These may be projects you want to do or projects you need to do.  Nonetheless, you must do them.  Maybe you are finishing a dissertation, revising an article, writing a book prospectus, creating new courses, or writing administrative reports for your department.  In short, you have writing projects to complete in the next 8 to 10 weeks.

In previous Writers’ Bootcamp posts, we’ve supplied many tips and tricks to writing productively over a span of time.  These have included forging a commitment to write, overcoming writer’s block, journaling, using the DRAW Method, using audio to write, and reading a book review of Writing a Journal Article in 12 Weeks (then using the book).

What all of these posts (and the other posts in this series) have in common is the idea that to be effective (and prolific) writers, we must write every day.  Writing effectively and prolifically is like training to be an athlete:  we must put in the time and the sweat.  It’s only after this commitment that we can expect some kind of result.  This isn’t rocket science, is it?  However, sometimes it’s helpful to revisit these strategies.

Here are a few more tips (some old, some new):

  • Remove negative self-talk
    Even at the risk of sounding like Stuart Smalley, we must remove the self-doubt that most of us have about writing, and we can do this by starting with self-affirmation.  Make positive statements about yourself.  “I am a prolific writer.”  “I can do this!”  Stand in front of a mirror and say these.  (Go ahead; no one can see you.)  Additionally, take those negative comments (“I don’t have time to write this article today”), and turn it into a positive statement:  “I can write the outline today.”  “I can check my sources today.”  “I can write the introduction today.”  Tell yourself what you CAN do instead of what you are unable to do.  Stay positive. [About the video clip above: even athletes such as Michael Jordan need affirmations!]
  • Eliminate distractions
    We’ve said it before.  You’ve heard it before.  We know the distractions that are around us.  We must strive to eliminate them.  Some of those distractions are easy to eliminate.  Turn off the Internet.  Turn off your Smartphone.  Step away from the television.  These can be great tools for writing and research, but they can be even greater distractions from writing and research.  Other distractions—children, a significant other, pets, family—can’t be eliminated, but their attentions can be diverted elsewhere.
  • Get control of your workspace
    Some people can work in a cluttered environment.  Some people, like me, cannot.  If a messy desk distracts you from moving forward with your writing, clean it up.  The act of organizing and arranging your workspace is analogous to organizing and arranging your thoughts.  Once the desk is clear (once the mind is clear), writing can become much easier.  If you are the type of writer that is comfortable in a disorganized, cluttered workspace, that’s great.  Nevertheless, even you might benefit from a little organizing.
  • Vary your writing time or your writing space
    It’s a common writing strategy to find the time of day that we are most productive and to write during that time.  For many people, the most productive time for writing is early in the morning before the day gets busy.  For others, it’s late at night when everyone else in the house is asleep (or otherwise occupied).  Varying writing times might be a way to break through a writing block, or it might be a method to accomplish different types of writing tasks.  Try writing during a time that is not usually your “best” writing time.  If you are morning person, try writing late at night.  If you write in a home office, try writing at a local coffee shop.  Vary it up.
  • Write to a specific goal or target
    Here at ProfHacker, we believe in writing in all its forms and structures.  Writing for writing’s sake is good (journaling, for example).  However, if we have a specific writing goal for the summer, we want to be writing to that goal.  We can take a larger project, for instance, and break it down into manageable chunks.  What can we realistically do by this afternoon?  By next week?  By the end of the month?  We can give ourselves targets, and then we can give ourselves rewards for achieving those targets.  Yes, the reward of reaching a goal can be incentive enough, but sometimes, external rewards have greater motivation.

How about you?  What are some of the strategies you use to accomplish summer-time writing tasks? Please leave your suggestions and comments below.

[Image by Flickr user Markus Rödder and used under the Creative Commons license.]

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