a writer working on his text
Photo by Joan M. Mas, licensed under CC.

The word “writer” tends to provoke an image of a man daydreaming for hours before his typewriter (or laptop), waiting for his muse to sing and creativity to turn into words. The reality is, in fact, the other way around.

Haruki Murakami, author of Norwegian Wood, was reportedly writing for 5-6 hours per day when he was working on his novel. Other established writers also have their own self-disciplined writing routine that they conduct every day without fail.

For a layperson – like you and me, who see writing as more of a means of expression than a profession, developing a daily writing habit will not only help release stress, but also contribute to a sharp and healthy mind. We see things clearer when we are able to write them down in clear, concise prose.

But how can we keep ourself productive when our muse refuses to sing? Here are some tips I’ve gathered from my years of blogging and procrastinating my novel.

  1. Try the 10-minute rule

One of my journalism tutors at the University of Melbourne used to give us small tasks to perform in 10-minute time, such as writing a news lead, drafting interview questions, or crafting a billboard paragraph.

Surprisingly, what I could write in those 10 minutes were even more productive than those hours I had spent sitting before my computer screen at home, switching between Word and Facebook.

The trick here is to stay really, really focused, for a short period of time, and have a clear direction of what you want to achieve. This is similar to the “deadline effect” that most of us are familiar of.

  1. Know your “body clock”

Morning is the best time for me to write. My mind is clear, my spirit is high and my body is full of energy. Add a cup of coffee and I can churn out a few hundred words in no time.

But in the evening, it can take me up to two hours to finish a poorly written paragraph. Even the 10-minute rule doesn’t apply when a day of activities has worn out my brain.

My tip here is to know your “inner clock” and find the best time that it’s willing to work. Writing is a demanding job, so do it when you feel most energised, and inspiration will follow.

  1. Add some meditation

When all else fails, a 5-minute meditation always helps. Just close your eyes, relax your body, observe your breath or use any meditation method you’re comfortable with.

Once your mind is rejuvenated, resume writing and start scribbling down whatever ideas you can come up with. You can always return to fine-tune your piece later.

In fact, David Ogilvy, a distinguished copywriter, advise that you should give your draft at least one day before revisiting it for editing.

  1. Make it a habit

Last but not least, I guess we can all learn something from Haruki Murakami.

“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m.

I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

Conclusion

Inspiration is a strange thing. Sometimes ideas flood into your mind so vigorously that it only takes a few hours to craft a well-argued essay or article. Sometimes, it takes days.

But as a copywriter, I cannot blame inspiration for my often way over-dead deadlines. I have to find ways to summon my inspiration, whenever and wherever I need it. 

The solution? Be mindful of your body and your mind and adjust your writing timetable around them!

Trinh Le

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