Photo courtesy of Stephan Kamper via Flickr

Earlier this month, I wrote about Why Tracking Word Count is the Only Way to Track Productivity, but I thought you might like some tips on generating that word count:

  1. Write fast — Many of you know that I believe in blowing out a draft quickly by writing the words that pop into your head immediately so your Inner Critic doesn’t have time to insert itself into the process. So write or type as fast as you can without stopping. Don’t focus on the quality of the work, focus on the quantity of words you produce.
  2. Use Prompts — I have a list of writing topics on hand for every project I’m working on. I also have a random list of writing prompts available in case I’m having a rough time getting moving on one of my “official” writing projects. Prompts help focus a writing session and provide direction to work towards.
  3. Use a timer — Another favorite trick of mine is to create an artificial deadline by setting a timer for 10 minutes. This is particularly helpful if I am struggling mightily against resistance that day. I tell myself that I only have to write for 10 minutes and then I will allow myself off the hook for the rest of the day as far as writing goes. Typically what happens after a 10 minute writing session is that I shake off this resistance and want to keep going. But if this doesn’t work, at least I have some of the word count under my belt for the day, and trust that I’ll have a better day sometime later in the week where I can make up the lost word count.
  4. Don’t Struggle — Don’t allow yourself to get bogged down in the hunt for the perfect word or trying to remember that waiter’s name who insulted you at Applebees last week who you want to excoriate in a vitriolic short story about the arrogance of chain restaurant waiters. Let it go. Make a blank space for the missing thought to be completed later. For more details about the benefits of blank spaces, check out this article: The Benefit of the Bracket and the Blank Space.
  5. Work on Multiple Projects — Sometimes you just need a change of scenery. If I get stuck on my main project, I find it helpful to switch to a shorter project, such as a blog post or brainstorming on a future project. Some days this is just what you need to keep the creative juices bubbling until you can get refocus on the main project later. This post is an excellent example of output created by a lull in the first draft of my Creative Thinking for Creative Writers manuscript.
  6. Pluck a Low-Hanging Fruit — A low hanging fruit is corporate-speak for a task that can be completed easily (thus easy to pluck from the low branches of a tree). If a project or assignment is particularly difficult, I jump to another section of the project that appeals to me or where I know what needs to be written next. This might be the next crucial scene, the next sub-topic in the article, or some background writing on an important chapter or section. This shift allows you to keep writing while your brain’s subconscious works on the stuck project and may reveal insights the next time you sit down to write.
  7. Power Through — Sometimes you just feel stuck. Like your writing is awful and anyone that reads it will laugh at your aspirations of professional authorship. Write anyway. It will get better as you work through it. If not, there is always another day.
  8. Talk to Yourself — In my drafts, I often think on the paper, writing down information that I need to research further, noting a passage to return to later, or sometimes just writing about what is on my mind. Sometimes the reason that I get stuck is not associated with the project itself, but is about a worry I have with one of my kids, a challenging project at work, or some mental treadmill that I can’t seem to yank my mind off of. Sometimes the best way to deal with these things is to express those feelings on the page and move on.

So there are 8 of my tricks for generating word count as well as keeping my Inner Critic gagged and stuffed in a steamer trunk while I maintain my writing momentum. What do you do to keep writing when you get stuck? Comment below!



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