I’ve had the pleasure of writing about productivity on many sites, but never specifically for freelance writers. Due to that fact, I figured I’d start out with the productivity tip that has had the biggest impact on my writing.
I was one of those kids who was always writing, but I never seemed to get that much accomplished. I started writing a novel my freshman year of high school — it was bad, but we’re not here to talk about that — and I carried around this notebook where I constantly rewrote and polished the first chapter. After six months of work, I had that overworked first chapter and half of the second and that’s it. I abandoned it.
Not long after, I read about a writing exercise with a timer: you sit down and you see how much you can write in 30 minutes. It doesn’t have to be good. There just have to be words on the paper at the end of the writing period. Using that timer changed my writing and counting up the number of words I had at the end entirely changed my writing. Just the fact that I could see my progress made all the difference in the world. Today, I break my days up into blocks of thirty minutes and I keep track of how many words I write in each of those blocks. I use my timer when I’m working on other tasks, like editing, as well.
A timer is particularly useful for freelance writers. In general, you should be tracking your time, if only to make sure your clients are paying you a living hourly wage if you’re working on a per project or per piece rate. But it can also speed up your writing process. Spending a certain amount of time when you can only write on a project, rather than writing and editing at the same time, can help you get more written down, which in turns gives you more to work with when you set your timer for a period of editing your work.
Of course, different writers work in different ways. For some of us a timer can make a phenomenal difference. For others of us, it can just be a big aggravation. I’ll be writing about productivity tips for different styles of writing as we go along, but if you haven’t tried the timer trick yet, I’d definitely recommend it.