By Joe Peters
Decades ago, when prolific writers like Charles Dickens and Shakespeare were sitting down to pen their best-selling creations, many of the distractions we have today didn’t exist.
There was no need to worry about being pulled from a moment of inspiration by a buzz or notification on your phone. Social media wasn’t an issue, and the authors knew that they only had so many hours of daylight to take advantage of.
Even in the oldest days before electricity, distraction and procrastination were still a common issue.
Writer’s block has been around for as long as writers. That’s why countless professional authors come up with their own unique strategies for getting things done.
If you’ve been struggling to handle your distractions lately, the following lessons on productivity from successful writers may be able to help.
“The Secret of Getting Ahead is Getting Started”
The toughest part of writing any book, blog or article, is getting started. Once you’ve started letting your ideas flow down onto the paper (or computer), the hardest task is already done. Authors just need a little push to get things going.
Mark Twain said the secret of getting ahead is getting started. He followed it up with explaining that to “get started” all you need to do is simplify complex tasks into small, bite-sized chunks.
Start with writing a title for your piece—even if it’s just a placeholder. Brainstorm the sections you will include in your writing and make a list of the key points that you want to make.
Once you’ve opened the door to your creativity, you’ll find that it’s much easier to keep your ideas flowing naturally.
“Just Get Up and Go To Work”
Stephen King, one of the most popular writers of all time, seems to agree with Twain’s philosophy that the most important part of writing is just getting started.
King famously said that:
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work”.
There will be days when you just don’t feel inspired. All writers have the occasional block to overcome. The key to success is making sure that you don’t use your lack of inspiration as an excuse.
Even if you don’t feel as though you’re in the mood to write, do it anyway. Start focusing on the project, and eventually, the inspiration will come.
You may need to go back and edit the work that you created when you were feeling less motivated, but you will get something down on paper. Discipline is crucial in the writing game.
“There’s No Real Ending”
Getting started is just one of the major challenges that many writers face today. The other most significant challenge that affects most of us, is knowing when to stop.
Frank Herbert once said that:
“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
What Herbert meant by this is that you can continue to tweak and extend your story forever until you have a manuscript that’s tens of thousands of pages long. However, that’s not something that your readers will want.
Rather than allowing yourself to fall into the perpetual cycle of trying to create the perfect tale, focus on doing the best you can with the idea you have.
Once you’ve created something with a logical beginning, middle, and end, then you can concentrate on editing the content, and sending it to your editor for a second run through.
The search for perfection can often lead to a book or article that never gets published. Although it’s important not to rush through your content, you need to know when your piece should end.
“There’s Nothing to Writing”
Like many other famous authors, Ernest Hemingway seems to believe that getting started and staying disciplined is crucial to success.
Hemingway once said that:
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
He was also a strong believer that people needed the right atmosphere to write. Ernest had a habit of locking himself in a fortress in the woods when he needed time to write in peace.
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for most writers to take the same approach these days. Most of us don’t have a secret hideaway that we can retreat to.
However, you can make sure that your office space is conducive to inspiration and imagination by decorating and renovating it properly.
Turn your office into your own fortress by investing in furniture and tools that will open the door to your creative mind. You’ll be surprised at what the right environment can do for your productivity.
“Done is better than good”
Finally, the author of “Eat Pray Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert is a strong believer in avoiding procrastination by having the right mindset. She believes that foremost, you need to get your writing “done.” The rest can come after.
Gilbert famously said that she prefers to never get into crazy states when she’s writing, but she doesn’t stop either. She focuses on discipline and getting the work done day after day.
This comes from her mother’s adage, which was:
“Done is better than good”.
Sometimes you need the right attitude to keep plowing on in your work—no matter how you feel, or whether you’d rather be doing something else. Writing isn’t always a spiritual and inspirational walk in the park.
There will be times when you struggle, and you want to give up. Focusing on getting the job done—just like any other task, is a great way to keep pushing forward.
Find Your Inspiration
Creating the perfect publication is rarely an easy process. However, it helps to know that there are countless great authors out there that have been through the same challenges as you.
Take a leaf out of the books of the artists that came before and use their advice to rediscover your inspiration. Distraction gets to all of us—you just need to ensure that it doesn’t get the best of you.
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters.