Most writers will agree that you need a regimen of some kind. I have to agree. Whether you’re a novelist, a journalist, or somewhere in between. A good place to start when you sit down to write is to put your phone away. Since most of us now have phones with email, your cell can be a major distraction. If you can train yourself not to pick it up and look at it every time you get a text, voicemail, or email, then great. But you might have to start with literally hiding or turning your phone off.
Actually, distractions in general are the first things you need to single out and eliminate or avoid to be more focused. In my mind, it goes hand in hand with developing a regimen or schedule for writing.
My experience has been that the more I hone in on the times of day when I am most productive writing (also very important), the more I find lots of little things that can be potentially disruptive. Early morning when my husband has already left for work is a good time to write. Late evening when I have calmed down from the day is also a good time.
So what can be disruptive? Being in the middle of other people’s routines, for one. Trying to write when it’s actually time to be doing something else (like mealtime) can stop you from doing any real work. I have also found that writing too late at night can gradually wear me down. Going to sleep at a reasonable time whenever possible is always a good idea. Get up super early in the morning and write when you’re fresh, but don’t sacrifice your mental and physical health so you can write. Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.
Another important part of a regimen is having something specific you are working on or doing every time you sit down to write. Sometimes I sit down to write a blog entry. I don’t try to do anything else. Other times I sit down to write a book review or an article based on an interview or an event. Do one thing at a time, and do it well.
Physical comfort is another part of being productive when you write. If you’re someplace where you feel uncomfortable, it might be harder for you. You might do better with a lot of hustle and bustle (coffee shops) or you might prefer the most quiet environment possible (home). Pay attention to what helps you be productive, and then pick a time of day to work in that environment–no matter what you’re working on. I discovered that I can be very productive for about 2 hours straight at a local coffee shop near my house between the hours of about 9:00-11:30a.m. By about noon it gets way too rowdy, but before that it’s just right.
The hardest part about being a productive writer is doing the actual work of writing. But developing a routine or a regimen is immensely helpful–give it a try.