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5 Opportunities to Increase Your Writing Productivity (Without Actually Writing)

In an ideal world, you’d have many more hours to dedicate to writing. In reality, you carve out what meager “free time” you can, sacrificing things like sleep, a social life, exercise, a clean house, and quality time with friends and family. When your laundry pile resembles a laundry mountain and you haven’t hit the gym in a month, it’s hard to justify spending extra time working on something that doesn’t pay the bills (yet!). Until you can add hours to the day, what’s the solution?

In an ideal world, you’d have many more hours to dedicate to writing.

In reality, you carve out what meager “free time” you can, sacrificing things like sleep, a social life, exercise, a clean house, and quality time with friends and family. When your laundry pile resembles a laundry mountain and you haven’t hit the gym in a month, it’s hard to justify spending extra time working on something that doesn’t pay the bills (yet!). Until you can add hours to the day, what’s the solution?

(Can writers query multiple agents at the same agency?)

donna-gambale-kuzma-writer-author

Guest column by Donna Gambale, Philadelphia-based YA writer and
co-founder of the First Novels Club website. She is the author of
MAGNETIC KAMA SUTRA (2009, Running Press). Find her on Twitter.

The key is in making the writing time you do have as productive as possible. If you can only spare one hour to write, you can’t waste 20 minutes staring at a blinking cursor because you’re working through a plot or characterization problem, or because you have to re-immerse yourself in your draft after an absence. Make all 60 minutes count.

Here’s how:

Every day, there are numerous opportunities to brainstorm about your project to keep it fresh in your mind and allow you to progress more rapidly when you sit down to write.

(How to Sell Pieces to Magazines and Newspapers.)

The best times are when you’re occupied physically but don’t have to actively think about the task at hand, which is why so many creative people swear by the ideas they get while showering or going for a run. In those moments, your mind is free to focus on your work, and as a major plus, it also removes the pressure that can build during official “writing time.”

Basically, you can be more creative without worrying about word count — and that’s an all-around win.

Top 5 Brainstorming Opportunities

1. Driving

Daily driving involves such basic muscle memory that we find a million ways to entertain ourselves. If you’re struggling to understand your villain’s motivation or your hero’s goals, turn off the radio and talk it out. Sure, talking to yourself in an otherwise-silent car seems weird at first, but hearing your thoughts aloud is a jarring change of pace that just might solve your problem.

2. Doing Chores

A never-ending cycle of household chores eats up valuable hours of your time each week. But really, how much brainpower does it take to vacuum, rake leaves, or load the dishwasher? You can make mental character profiles or figure out plot arcs while you check things off your to-do list.

3. Falling Asleep

There’s a reason “sleep on it” is a common expression. Numerous studies have shown that sleep is essential to creativity and problem solving, yet it’s usually the first thing people sacrifice when they’re over-scheduled. Think about your novel as you fall asleep, envisioning scenes as if they’re in a movie. Always keep a pen and paper handy on your nightstand for when inspiration strikes!

4. Cooking

It seems to take forever for an oven to pre-heat or water to boil, and tasks like chopping salad ingredients and peeling potatoes aren’t exactly stimulating. It’s the perfect opportunity to expand your world-building, flesh out backstory, or even analyze how to add tension to a scene. Just don’t burn dinner!

(Will a literary agent search for you online after you query them?)

5. Waiting

When you’re in line at the grocery store, bank, post office, or shopping mall, the person in front of you will inevitably have eight questions and require a manager’s help. And at any given doctor’s appointment, you won’t be seen for at least a half hour. Instead of texting or tweeting about this unfair purgatory (or reading the year-old waiting room magazines), start brainstorming!

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