This is an excerpt from my new book Writer on the Side: How to Write Your Book Around Your 9 to 5 Job. The book is meant to help anybody who has been struggling to fit their writing despite having a sometimes brain-crippling full-time job. This excerpt gives you several Golden Tips to make your weekend top notch in terms of productivity. The weekend is one of the best times to write when you have a full-time job. Take advantage of it! Check out the links on the right column to purchase it here or at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
If you’ve made it through an entire week of brainstorming, writing and motivation, you may be especially excited to have some time to sit down and make your writing happen at long length. The weekend is a time in which you can make some very positive progress because you may be able to set aside an entire half-day or full-day simply for writing.
Many of the tips that I’ve already mentioned completely apply to your weekend writing as well. There are a few key things to keep in mind though, as different distractions and challenges can come up now that you’re away from your desk.
This window of time (especially the morning) is in the running for the most productive time of the week. There are a few hours during this period that your significant other and kids are asleep, which as much as you may love them, leads to a distraction free existence for a bit. If you don’t have to go into work that day, there are few job-related problems cropping up, and even if there were, there’s no need to deal with them while nobody but you is awake. People, this is your time to shine.
Since the weekend tends to be more of a free-flowing time, I won’t break things down to every two hours in this section. Instead, for the weekend, I will give you my Golden 10 Tips for the Weekend. Employ as many or as few as you wish to help you in your weekend writing journey.
Golden Tip #1: Wake Up Early
If you are early to bed on Friday and/or Saturday night and early to rise the next day, you will have a much more productive weekend as a whole. Giving yourself a couple of extra hours without distraction can work wonders. I have used the early weekend wake-up to write an entire screenplay in a day, to finish off my non-fiction books and in high school, I even used it as my SAT prep time.
Don’t be too worried about being lame on a weekend night every so often. I promise you that your friends will think you are much less lame once you have a book to your credit.
Adding an early morning wake-up to your weekend also has an added effect. It will make it much easier for you to wake up early during the week. After a bit of time, you will no longer feel the need for as many snooze alarms or lattes. You will be awake naturally because your brain is used to it.
Golden Tip #2: Cement Your Purpose
The weekend is fantastic because you have the potential free time to do so much in your writing. It is also dangerous, because all this free time can make you lazy. I’ve had more than one weekend that I’d planned on making productive spin out of control due to a lack of focus.
If you cement your purpose early on in the day, you are less likely to have a lack of concentration. Use the goal and purpose exercises from earlier in the book to create an objective or two for yourself. Write them out on a sheet of paper and read them out loud to yourself before you do anything on Saturday or Sunday.
While this is a smart idea for any day of the week, it is especially important when you have the freedom of choice during the weekend. Reading these out loud in the morning gives you a voice in the back of your head that says, “there is a bigger purpose behind my life.” Imagine that voice chiming in when you are invited to watch several hours of bad reality television or the latest blow-them-up action flick. A strong purpose pushes your choices in the direction of your writing.
Golden Tip #3: Far, Far Away
As I fought against procrastination after my college years, I figured out that my desires to avoid work ran deep at that time. Even if I went to a coffee shop around the corner, my brain could not be tricked. It knew that a giant burst of fear or discomfort would send me right back in front of the television at my apartment.
To make sure that I was focused when I was away from the apartment, I tried to cut off my lines of escape. Instead of a short walk away from procrastination, I made sure that I was at least a solid mile. I would take the train at least several stops away to a coffee shop. This is one of the best parts about having a laptop; the ability to do work anywhere. And so anywhere is where I did it.
I began to “strand” myself at coffee shops in parts of town I’d never been to. It was like my anti-procrastination tour. Obviously, when I was out I’d have to spend a few bucks on a snack and a couple on the train or bus ride, but it was worth it to make sure I got some time in.
This plan worked for me because I had to pause before considering a return to my apartment. When I was so close to home it was easy for my procrastination to convince me to head back. When I was farther away, convincing myself to go back after I’d come all the way out there to work was much tougher. I have gotten so much work finished using this method, in so many different places, I could probably lead a tour of the city’s best coffee shops. Perhaps I should do that if the writing career doesn’t pan out.
Golden Tip #4: Just Start Writing
One of my favorite improvisational comedy classes I’ve ever taken was at the Annoyance Theater in Chicago. They trained me to get out of my head and start talking immediately during a scene. This prevented the sometimes awkward beginnings of a comedy scene where neither performer really knows what he or she is doing. Learning this scene-starting technique has helped me past multiple cases of writer’s block in my life.
Stop me if your typical writing routine sounds like the following: you sit down to write on your laptop but before you start to check your e-mail. You supplement your e-mail window with one or two news websites and a YouTube video that your friend has showed you. After the video, you write down a note or two about something you need to do later in the day. Before you know it, 15 minutes have passed and you have done no writing whatsoever.
This is why you need to start writing immediately. To get those 15 minutes back; to claim them for your creativity instead of for the boring stuff that everybody else does with his or her time. Put pen to paper or hand to keyboard and force the words out of your brain. They might not be perfect but at the least you are building up some momentum. Starting, continuing and finishing a book is all about momentum.
By starting to write as soon as you sit down, you save time, build up momentum and improve your level of writing confidence. It took a long time, but I now truly feel that at any point, anywhere and at any time of the day, I can start writing if I need to. Once you leap that hurdle, writing becomes a whole lot easier.
Golden Tip #5: The Back-Up Plan
I feel like sometimes, writers like me who tell you how to change your life for the better come off as if they have no flaws whatsoever. For instance, since I’m telling you about writing I must have completely defeated procrastination forever and I have it all figured out. While I have gathered a lot of tips and tricks over the years, I’m certainly not immune to writer’s block and I can cite at least twice over the last week where I had to resort to a back-up plan to finish my writing for the day.
There is no telling what is going to trigger writer’s block and where it’s going to occur. You might have a perfectly logical plan of locking yourself in your room and writing for several hours. You might have some water handy and a few snacks here and there. You may have repeated your purpose out loud so many times that you’re hoarse. And yet, despite all that, you might have trouble writing word one for your story that day.
This doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you; it’s just the way it goes sometimes. The best way to counteract this problem is to have a back-up plan. For example, today I was planning on getting up at 6:30 a.m. and writing by 7. By 7:45 a.m., I had yet to do anything and I only had a few hours to do my 2,000 words for the day before I had to leave for errands. The original plan was sound, but the flesh and mind just weren’t willing. I felt the icy grip of procrastination on my brain saying things like, “Maybe you should skip your writing today, you can pick back up with it tomorrow. Maybe…”
I sat down for a minute in silence thinking about what was really important: me feeling good about procrastinating in the moment or achieving my goals. This was enough to get my butt out of the house and over to my favorite coffee joint. I’m over halfway done a task that I might not have started in the first place because I changed my location.
Location isn’t the only thing you are able to change in case your writing goes south for the day. Other ways you can change up your plan include: writing a different book, poem or script than you planned on, starting with a different chapter or scene, or writing a scene or chapter from a different point of view.
Try to have a few back-up plans in mind in case you are thrown off, because you never know when that pesky writer’s block could rear its ugly head.
To read 5 additional Golden Tips for the Weekend, purchase Writer on the Side today! Click the link to get to the sales page. Thanks for reading!
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