Boost your writing productivity with Theo Pauline Nestor

If you’re like me, you sometimes start writing something, but get distracted partway through it. I’m trying an exercise in Theo Pauline Nestor’s Writing Is My Drink to break that habit. Well, maybe I can’t break that habit. However, I believe that I can improve my writing productivity with the help of her exercise.

Writing productivity assessment exercise

Here’s the exercise:

Start noticing the times when you stop working. Is it when you get stuck on something? When the writing starts to feel “too hard”? Is it when you get thrown off your routine because something unexpected comes up? Is it when you’re on the verge of taking your story to a deeper level? Keep track of your sticking points. You might even want to take a few notes about these stopping points.

I like the idea of doing research like this to help solve the problem. I tested this exercise by doing it myself. I discovered some patterns of when I stop writing. Here are some examples.

PROBLEM 1: I discover something that I want to research. For example, perhaps I have a usage question about whether I should use “each” or “both,” so I leave the page to research it. When I open my browser, I see tabs I’ve left open earlier in the day. I figure it’ll only take a minute to check Twitter or LinkedIn, but then I see something I want to share or reply to. I get distracted.

PROBLEM 2: Something that I write reminds me of something I need to do for a purpose other than the piece I’m writing. I figure it’ll only take me a minute or two, so I abandon my writing.

PROBLEM 3: A Microsoft Outlook reminder makes a noise. I go to check it out.

Writing productivity solutions

I am trying to manage my productivity challenges better by:

  • Reminding myself to stay focused
  • Keeping my “to do” list handy so I can jot down tasks to perform later, instead of abandoning my work to perform them
  • Clicking to delay reminders until after I’ve completed my writing work
  • Promising myself a reward, like a half-hour with a mystery novel that I’m enjoying

What writing productivity solutions help you? I know some people use apps like RescueTime to track their productivity and even block distracting websites. Nestor is a fan of using a timer, a technique that I discuss in “15 minutes to busting your writer’s block.” Nestor also recommends reading Virginia Valian’s essay “Learning to Work,” which you can download on Nestor’s blog. It’s a long—almost 15 pages—essay, so I downloaded it, but didn’t read it while I was drafting this blog post. I knew it was more important for me to finish this draft than to read the essay.

I discuss more productivity techniques in “‘Deep Work’ rules to help you write more.”

Disclosure:  If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I link only to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.


Break your writer’s block with Robert Benson and Eric Maisel

What can you do when writer’s block paralyzes you?

Sitting down at your desk and going through the motions of writing is one place to start, according to Robert Benson in Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life.

Benson suggests that you establish a daily routine of turning on your computer and going back to the most recent stopping point in your work. Paraphrasing an NPR interview with Eric Maisel, he suggests, “If you are a writer, type in the last few bits you wrote.” You can find direct insights from Maisel on YouTube, as in “Understanding Goal-Oriented Creativity.”

I think the idea is to find an easy entry into writing. Once you start, you may build momentum. As Benson also says,

… something… magical may happen to writers if they go to their rooms and take up their tools each day.

Perhaps writing will capture them.

This reminds me of advice I read or heard long ago to stop your daily writing in the middle of a paragraph or thought. That way you’ll have an obvious path for resuming your writing.

What works for you?

What helps you lick writer’s block? For another take on this topic, see “Beating financial writer’s block with author Julia Cameron.”


Disclosure: If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

Beating financial writer’s block with author Julia Cameron

Every writer runs out of ideas or the will to write at some point. This happens to financial writers as well as novelists and other, more artistic authors.

What can you do? One option is to learn from the exercises of creative writers, such those in as Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life.

Here’s one of Cameron’s exercises:

Pretend that you are sitting under a large tree with your back resting on its trunk. On the other side of the tree, a Storyteller sits also resting against the tree trunk. Take a sheet of paper and number from one to five. Tell the Storyteller five things you’d like to hear stories about.

Here are five topics that popped into my head:

  1. How to target your blog to attract ideal clients
  2. How to create a powerful social media presence in 20 minutes a day
  3. How to use your easily distracted personality to your advantage in marketing
  4. How to show your appreciation for your amazingly supportive connections on social media
  5. How to keep marketing when you’re busy with other stuff

I’m curious. What are YOUR five topics?

Also, what techniques do you use to beat writer’s block? I’m always interested in learning from you.

Disclosure: If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.