The struggle to stay productive is an ongoing battle fought by people of all lifestyles and workforces. One reason it is particularly hard for creatives to conquer this daily war against stagnancy is due to the constant romanticization that good writing comes only from inspiration. For years, society has been fed this ideal picture of a struggling writer – he is depicted sitting at his typewriter constantly being tortured by the bores of his daily life, when suddenly he becomes enlightened to a new perspective, type of person, or influential way of thinking. He is then picked up by a publisher and sells enough books to be able to write only when he feels inspired to do so.
If you are a writer, you know this is far from reality.
The truth is that while inspiration can be wonderfully exciting, it is innately flighty and fickle. As much as you may love the idea of picking up your pen to work on a manuscript, more often than not, that pen feels like it has been filled with cement. In his article “Inspiration is for Amateurs,” Daniel Howard writes, “Frankly, if I waited for ‘inspiration’ or even just ‘the right mood,’ then I wouldn’t be able to feed myself.” So how do you work with such an elusive muse? One way to avoid getting stuck in an inspiration-less limbo is to focus on being productive instead. Below are some tips to use productivity in your daily writing life in order to attract inspiration as well as to work without it.
– Routines. Without even thinking, you create patterns and routines for almost every aspect of the day. You wake up at the same time each morning, order the same drink at your favorite coffeehouse, get settled in at your desk, check up on your social media profiles (first Facebook, then Twitter, then Instagram), and you are ready to start the grind. These types of rituals take decision making out of the day until you are ready to tap into your task and work towards your main goal – to create. Whether it is done by sharing a story, reviewing a product, or communicating an idea, writing is a creative experience that can flourish when you sit down to your desk with a fresh mind that has not already been taxed by petty decision making.
– Spontaneity. Routines are certainly helpful for shoveling through everyday tasks, but it is no secret that life often interrupts itself. One morning your alarm doesn’t go off, one afternoon the kids are sick and have to come home early, and another day the train you take to work is being repaired. Another key to being productive is to make the most out of any situation. When the curveballs come, swerve a little and prepare to look for material in new places. A perpetual curiosity and flexibility will only be beneficial to your writing endeavors.
– Perseverance. So you have made it through half of the work day, sipped your afternoon tea, picked up your pen or opened your computer yet again, sat back down to the task, and find yourself facing a blank page once more. Whether it is time to pump out an article, schedule tweets, or finish a chapter of your novel, sometimes no matter how many creative triggers you have pulled, the page remains intimidating and stark. The only thing left to do is to start writing. Set a timer for 15 minutes and think about your topic and just start writing. If you don’t have a specific subject already, search for simple writing prompts on the web, think about something interesting or spontaneous that happened to you recently (like your fellow commuters thrown off by the yellow tape across the subway entrance). If you write enough words, you are bound to find something useful.
It is time to stop waiting around for inspiration to visit your desk when it wants to. Create routines that relieve your mind of simple decision making that usually result in the same choices anyways. Expect to roll with the ups and downs of your days while maintaining creative curiosity. And refuse to give up on your tasks even when your inspiration is nowhere to be found but through your own perseverance.