writer productivity

5 Productivity Hacks for Writers: Finish Your Projects Once and for All

Do you have a “Writing Projects I’m Going to Finish” file on your computer, or an “I’ll Get Back to This Story” cabinet in your desk drawer?  A sad place where once bright and passionate ideas, developing characters, plot twists and catchy one-liners go to die? Some of us have multiple stories in that file or crammed into that drawer. The truth is, it can be difficult to stick with something once the initial passion and excitement have dwindled down. It can be hard to push through the late nights when you’re writing just to write, and you don’t feel inspired or creative anymore.

In order to get something you’ve never had, you must do something you’ve never done. It’s a popular phrase seen on posters hanging in the gym or the result of a Google search for “How to get motivated.” It’s a cutesy little phrase, but it’s right on the money. If you want to stop half-writing stories, you have to stop half writing stories. You must find a way to push through and complete what you’ve started. Last we checked, bookstores don’t sell a lot of unfinished novels. Readers have this thing about wanting the book to have an ending. So here’s how it’s done:

  1. Ax the New Projects– Make a decision to not start anything new until you finish something you’ve already started. Go back into your long lost files and pull out something that hasn’t been touched in a while. You may get excited when you remember the characters you were developing or the crazy plot twist that was unfolding. Go back and change, add or even completely take out bits and paragraphs and make it something that you’re excited about and eager to get working on again.
  2. Set Milestones– Decide how much you’re going to write each day, week, etc. Mastering your time management skills is vital is seeing your next masterpiece to completion. Dedicate a place to write, a time frame free of distractions (this means no checking Facebook or texting your sweetie) and don’t stop working until you meet the goal you’ve set for the day. Working doesn’t necessary mean writing, however. If it helps you to draw the characters out to really get to know them, do that. If you want to research romantic Italian cities in order to write about them for a scene, do it, but don’t get distracted by the black hole that is the World Wide Web.
  3. Talk About It– Tell a few, encouraging people that you’re back on the horse and working on the next big story. Tell them what you like most about your story and what your goals are. Then ask them to keep you accountable. Tell them you appreciate them asking about how it’s coming along next time they see you, or promise them a sneak peek at your next get together. This way, you’ll stick to your goals so as not to appear as another one of those writers who is forever “writing” a book—yet never finishing one.
  4. Treat Yourself– Set a goal, but more importantly set small rewards for meeting each of the short-term goals. Maybe after you complete a few chapters, you treat yourself to a gourmet-coffeegourmet coffee or a book from your wish list. Perhaps once you’ve consistently written at your set time, you go see a new movie or take the kids out for ice cream.When you treat yourself with a reward that allows your brain to take a break from your work, you’re actually letting your brain work out the kinks and obstacles on its own.You’ll be amazed at how refreshed and pumped you are to dive back in once you’ve taken off your “writer” hat and allowed yourself a little reward.
  5. Remember Why You Started– One day, way back when, you had this brilliant idea that had you typing furiously at your computer until the wee hours of the morning. Something about the character, the plot, the setting, was important and exciting to you. Try to remember what had you so passionate and work to feel that again. On the flip side, know when it’s time to let something go. Be honest and realistic with yourself, and spend time working on the unfinished projects that you want to spend the next days/weeks/months of your life bringing back to life.

You’re a writer, but in order for the rest of the world to know that, you have to give them something with a beginning, middle and an end. Imagine the sense of pride and accomplishment you will feel when you’ve put the final period on the final word of the final page. It’ll be like nothing you’ve ever felt before; it is a major accomplishment. Don’t let your gifts sit in a growing file or cramped desk drawer.


~If you want something you’ve never had, you must do something you’ve never done.~

Sakeena is a freelance writer, author, and founder of the Muslim Writers and Publishers Association. Her dream is to help Muslim writers share their stories with the world. She is currently working on a memoir and preparing for the launch of MWPA.

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