Today I’d like to address an issue that every writer loves to hate (or just hates, actually).
Let’s say you wake up on Tuesday morning and vow to write this week. In the hustle and bustle of a busy day, you manage to carve out an hour for writing.
You congratulate yourself before you even sit down. The cursor blinks merrily against the white screen, and you smile. Now come to me, Muse.
You blink once, then again. The cursor winks back. You settle into your chair and stare at the wall, at your bookshelves bowed with masterful tomes. Inspired by verbiage, you type three or four words, but they sound wrong. You hum a little as you tap delete.
You glance at your notes and out the window where a squirrel perches atop the fence. Cocking its head like a furry pigeon, the squirrel meets your eyes. “Shouldn’t you be writing?” it seems to say.
You bare your teeth. It scurries away.
Sooner or later, your wandering mind triumphs over willpower. When you open your browser, the game is over. Your hour passes, and maybe another, and all you’ve written are two tweets and a comment about “Glee.”
Luckily, a number of virtual tools exist to help writers like me you focus when the going gets tough. These are my five favorite ways to stay on the prolific track.
1. Written Kitten: ”Fresh kitten every ____ words.”
Are you addicted to the internet? I Can Has Cheezburger? Then you’re in luck! Written Kitten operates on the assumption that carrots work better than sticks, and positive reinforcement in this case comes in the form of adorable kitten pictures. Just enter your text in the word box on the screen and savor the fluffy-faced rewards. Whether you opt for new photos every 100, 200, 500 or 1000 words, be sure to save your work!
2. #WordWar: “Anybody want to wrangle words with me?”
This past November, I participated in my first-ever National Novel Writing Month. This annual event challenges writers to create a new novel by writing 50,000 words in thirty days. It sounded impossible, but two things saved me: 1) the group of WriterHouse members who cheered each other onward; and 2) word wars. Operating on the idea that no one wants to be a loser, NaNoWriMo encourages “word sprints” or “word wars,” timed bouts of communal typing in which each participant attempts to write as much as they possibly can. I attribute at least 30,000 words of my 2011 novel to word sprints, so I’m happy to report that you don’t have to wait for November to cash in on peer pressure-induced productivity. Just search Twitter for #wordwar and jump right in.
3. The Daily Grind: “a lightweight approach in keeping track of time spent on tasks”
I once thought The Daily Grind referred only to my alma mater’s on-campus coffee shop. Now I know it’s also a dashboard widget for Macs. (Sorry if you’re not an Apple subscriber. I couldn’t find a PC version, but no doubt something similar exists.) This color-coded app allows users to categorize tasks and press ‘play’ to begin timing–simple as that. I organize my work by writing projects, and I’ve discovered that the ticking clock acts as a sort of psychological taskmaster. I don’t want to waste The Daily Grind’s time, and I doubt you will, either.
4. Spaces: “a tool to organize your Mac desktop and optimize those cluttered workspaces”
Another Mac tool. (Seriously, PC lovers, I’m not trying to be a jerk. I wouldn’t be surprised if other computers have awesome equivalents. I just don’t know what they are.) Spaces is a system program that allows users to organize their desktop into four quadrants. Only one quadrant is shown at a time, so you can relegate temptation to far-off corners. I keep Word separate from Safari (but in the same space as Spotify. Whatever works.).
5. Ommwriter: “a writer’s haven”
By far my favorite writing tool, Ommwriter offers a Zen-like retreat from the chaos of modern word processing. Since their wordsmiths say it better than I do, here’s the PR:
OmmWriter is a beautiful writing environment that helps you concentrate and create. It has the necessary tools you need to write and manage files, without the distracting elements that you normally find in conventional writing applications. OmmWriter opens in fullscreen mode, and has a number of backgrounds and audio tracks to increase your concentration, and to create an open space where your creativity can roam freely.
What does that mean, exactly? Several neutral-toned skins that swath your screen in linen or snowy fields; a variety of soothing soundtracks, such as delicate bells or water trickling; a vacuum-like space that isn’t too hard to leave, just hard enough that you won’t click away. In other words, Ommwriter is the bomb[dot]com, and you should download it ASAP.
Do you have a favorite method for keeping your virtual self on track?
At a corporate soiree two years ago, Elizabeth Derby won the “Many Hats” Award. She still has the beanie (with a propeller on top!) and wears it in moments of reflection. A marketing communications freelancer, Elizabeth helps artists and small business owners get creative while connecting with fans. From website and social media basics to innovative storytelling ideas, check out her blog at doctorderby.com.