10 Ways to Stay On The Writer’s Fast Track Once You’re On It

I’ve been zooming through writing my novel lately and I thought I’d share some tips to my readers (as always) on how I’ve managed to keep the pace up these past couple of weeks. Remember, it’s not about “talent” necessarily, or having a “magical” fairy sprinkle fairy dust on your laptop, and then suddenly everything clicks and you’re no longer a blocked writer. No, it’s about having as many tools at your disposal and maximizing your resources to get your novel going. So, let’s get to it.

You’ve managed to put aside everything that was getting in your way, and somehow you’ve found yourself writing again and keeping up with a consistent schedule. But you’re starting to panic. This can’t last very long, you think. I’m gonna get blocked again! Don’t you worry, my writer friend. Here are my 10 tips on how you can stay on the writer’s fast track, once you’re on it:

10. Don’t Stop. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT STOP WRITING. Even if the slightest thought comes into your mind that says: Eh, why don’t I just skip one day? What’s the worst that could happen? The worst that could happen is that you’ll stop writing and will have trouble starting again. So, unless there is some emergency, do not skip a day in your writing routine! If you keep a 5 days a week 5 hours a day schedule, keep it that way. Don’t go over or under. Why? Because you’ll throw yourself off-balance. Why will you throw yourself off-balance? Because the writing routine you have set for yourself is actually working for you. Why change it? Which brings us to…

9. Keep Doing What You Are Doing. This might seem obvious, but when it comes to our own lives sometimes we can suffer from tunnel vision. We fail to see how the way we live today was any different from the way we were living yesterday. But if we examine our past carefully, we can see that we have made some slight (if not radical) changes to our lives that have now allowed us to write with renewed vigor and consistency. We tried meditation, or exercise, or therapy because we thought it would help us be more creative. Now that we are more creative we credit our luck instead of our ability to be proactive. But it isn’t luck that’s helped you. You actually did something right. The way you are living your life now is fruitful for your writing, so whatever you do, don’t change what you’re already doing!

8. Cultivate Trust In Yourself. If you are writing consistently, it’s probably because you have grown trust in yourself already. Keep that up. Keep trusting your talent, choice of career, your decision to spend time writing. Keep a guard out for those nagging doubts, those negative, self-defeating thoughts. If you find yourself bogged down by self-loathing, just turn to those negative thoughts and do what I do, tell them to SHUT UP.  Say: “You’re not helping me, so leave me alone!  Today is going to be a good writing day, and I’m not going to let YOU ruin that for ME!”

7. Leave Room for Breaks. In this world where workoholics are consistently enabled, it’s hard to be the voice of reason and a healthy lifestyle. Let me remind you that even though you are a writer, you are not a machine. You may be your own boss at this point in your life, but that still doesn’t mean you are allowed to break every labor law. Give yourself the weekend off at least. You need time to rest.

6. Cultivate Your Love for Writing. Yes. Your love for writing needs to be cultivated. I’m starting to learn that if you hate writing, chances are you are not doing it right. I say this with all due respect, and with full acknowledgment that I’ve hated writing many times. What I have learned is that you won’t keep up a consistent schedule unless you really cultivate a love for what you are doing. That includes a love for your novel. What helps me is always reminding myself that I am the VERY FIRST reader that I need to please. That puts me in the mindset of writing something that would be fun, something I would love to read. If I want to cultivate hatred for my writing, then all I have to do is write the novel I think my future agent would want to represent, or my future publisher would want buy. That mindset makes writing everyday a pain. So take my advice, and don’t do it.

5. Stop Playing The Writer’s Self-Deprecation Card. “I am soo irresponsible. I am so out of the box. I’m so not structured like everyone else. I’m soo weird, etc. etc. etc.” I hate to break it to you, friend. You are not irresponsible. Nope. You are taking big risks to follow your dream in order to live a happy and fulfilling life. That doesn’t sound irresponsible to me at all. You live outside of the box? You’re weird? Nope. There are hundreds of people out there just like you, doing what you are doing, loving writing as much as you do, and are exactly as scared as you are that someone might find that out about them. That doesn’t make you weird. It makes you pretty normal.

Oh, and the no-structure thing? You have got to be kidding me. My friend D just pointed this out to me the other day. She said that writers are the most structured people in the world. Why? Uh, you have to be pretty darned structured to sit down for years on end to write a novel and then wait until it gets published. Writers have no institutional structure overseeing them, so they often have to establish their own individual structure to accomplish their goals. Establishing your own structure is so much harder than working with a pre-established way of doing things. So, you might say you’re a crazy, careless artist that no one understands, but sorry, bro. No one is buying it. Instead of all that self-deprecating talk, why not give yourself the props you deserve?

4. Delete Your Facebook and Twitter Account.* That’s right. I said it. It’s a waste of time. You need to minimize distractions, and give more time to your novel.

“But how am I supposed to establish my web persona, and get all social networky? Isn’t that the wave of the future?”

Relax. I didn’t say give up ALL of your social networks. Just the one’s that are a MAJOR waste of your time. Obviously, I didn’t delete my blog and I don’t plan on it. Why? Because blogging is actually useful. I end up networking with other writers, and really that’s the only kind of networking I should be doing anyway. So spend less time facebooking and tweeting and more time making new writing friends across the blogosphere. Hey, you might not only make new friends who understand you and actually take the time to get to know you, but they might actually end up inspiring you and teaching you something you didn’t know. It happens to me all the time.

3. Increase Your Seriousity. I’m introducing a lot of new concepts here, but hey, why not? I coined a word: Seriousity. It sounds cooler than it really is. Seriousity is the level to which you take your career seriously  (and by “career” I mean exclusively your dream career, not your “back-up” career, or the career your parents wanted you to have.) Increase your Seriousity by telling everyone you know about your passion, even complete strangers. When they ask you what you do, tell them that you are a writer. Make every action you take that relates to work correspond at all times to your career as a writer. Let that new guy or gal you’re dating know that you are a writer, and defend yourself if they snicker–and don’t call them back when they ask you for that second date. Let the people you work with know you are a writer. Finally, if the time is right, dedicate yourself full-time to the pursuit.

2. Set Small Achievable Goals. The smaller the better. You finally got that paragraph right? CONGRATULATIONS! Let’s break out the champagne! No need to wait until the novel is finished. Every time you finish a chapter, send yourself a note of encouragement, congratulate yourself on how far you have come. Note each little step as a CRUCIAL part of the overall goal. Make it easy for you to win. The more you reward yourself and the more you feel you have accomplished, the more willing you are to keep working.

1. Always Keep Your Balance. This is probably the theme of all 10 tips. Keep your balance. Make sure your mind is at peace, your body is healthy, your relationships are attended to–make sure every part of you is golden. You’re the captain of this ship, after all.  If you can’t tell the difference between North and South then not only will you be lost, but your novel will be lost, too.  So keep the ship steady by keeping yourself balanced.

Good luck to you, and I’ll see you at the finish line!

much “zzzzzzzzzzrrrrrrrooooooooooooooom!”


*I have since changed my mind about this. Keep your Facebook and Twitter accounts, but only use them for professional purposes and as an extension of your blog if you have one. For instance, use it to inform your readers about a special up-and-coming post they might be interested in reading. A “personal” or “private” Facebook and Twitter account I still do not recommend, however.

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40 comments on “10 Ways to Stay On The Writer’s Fast Track Once You’re On It

  1. Amazing post Ollin!

    I am currently working on a book about metaphysical concepts for someone, and your post couldn’t have a better timing! Balance, your overall theme, is indeed what I am keeping at. I try to read blogs, comment, read up research for the book, write down my points, send it across and edit several times, go swimming, never miss Simpsons on TV (one of the very few programs that get my attention, ever) and so on…I feel it all is balanced and your post strengthens my belief!

    I sometimes find it hard with point # 2. I want it ALL. The whole piece completed, the whole story written, the whole book done in as less time as possible. Grr. I know ridiculous 😛 But I’ll be over it now that I know it is one of the keys 🙂

    Thanks for your share. Helps a ton!


    • Ollin says:

      Yes, BrownEyed. Number 2 is hard for everyone. It was hard for me the first five months or so. But just start getting yourself in the habit of focusing only on your next small, achievable goal, and once you reach it, immediately reward yourself. Even with a little note to yourself of congrats! I’ve sent myself letters in the mail from myself, or you can easily send yourself an email. After you get yourself in the habit, it will really make your writing go more smoothly. I’m glad you found this post helpful. I’m always happy to be of service. 🙂

  2. Sajib says:

    One thing that I notice is: when it comes to writing something for my very personal blog or alike, I feel good to write and I am in writer’s flow. On the other hand, when I’m assigned by my news agency to write on the same topic (it’s technology, I’m kinda addicted 😀 ), I get tired even before I start writing. 😕 Any advice specifically for me?

    • Jillian says:

      Because they expect something from you. There’s pressure. When it’s your own blog, you are the boss.

      I experience the same feeling.

    • Ollin says:

      Sounds like you like technology, am I right? You said you were “addicted”? I think a good start for you would be number 6. You have to cultivate your love for writing about technology. If you love technology and you find it hard to write about it recently, your job may have slowly sucked that love out of you. Because you were thinking about: “what kind of article does my boss want to read? what kind of article does my reader want to read?”

      Try first to write the technology article you love to read, and make it really fun. Then, once your finished, see if you can’t keep most of your work for the actually article you have to write.

      But I wonder if maybe the article you would love to read and would have fun reading, isn’t the same article your boss and your readership would love to read as well. I think we think our tastes and our reader’s taste are so far apart, but often we find that if we enjoy writing a piece, the reader will enjoy reading it. They can tell the author was having a blast. Good luck to you and hope this was helpful!

  3. Agatha82 says:

    Great advice Ollin. I have to set daily goals or I do not acomplish much. Agree about FB and Twitter, it’s why I have never had accounts there and do not plan to. The blog has been a great way of meeting like minded people. About tunnel vision, let me tell you: The grass is not always greener.
    I wrote about that on a previous blog but basically the gist is: If you thought your life would be utterly wonderful if you had ALL the time in the world to write and no other job, you are very wrong. You have bad days and good days and if you’re not disciplined enough to give yourself daily goals it’s really easy to spend a day drifting away looking out the window and checking the internet.

    About hating writing, well, I think sometimes, we just have bad days, wouldn’t quite say it means we’re going about things the wrong way, I kind of think it’s to do with letting that inner critic take over and make you feel rubbish. “You’re no good, you’re not talented, don’t bother” so yeah, you’ve got to just say SHUT UP 🙂

    • Ollin says:

      I totally agree Agatha. We all do have our bad days, it’s all part of the process. I guess I was referring to the times when you have a prolonged painful, hatred for writing. I think at that moment you are doing something wrong. You are overworking yourself, you are being hard on yourself as you say, or you aren’t keeping a good balance in your life. It doesn’t mean you are a bad writer, no. It just means you have yet to gain the tools to help you move more smoothly through your writing. Hopefully the tools I share here help people get to that point. Thanks for your insight Agatha! 🙂 Always a pleasure.

  4. This is so helpful Ollin,
    I was out with an old dear friend last night and we were discussing my writing and I was saying how I’ve come to feel that I am a writer, but am still finding it difficult to say out loud. I hate having to defend my little blog… even though I am so proud of what I have accomplished.
    So, now I pledge to Increase My Seriousity! (I’ll bet someday, spell-check will recognize that as a real word!)
    Thank you!

    • Ollin says:

      You know, it was so HARD for me too! So you are not alone! The best way to help is to keep saying it and remember that it doesn’t matter if others approve or find it interesting, all that matters is that YOU approve and find it interesting. That’s the shift you have to make. I think making it widely known who you are increases your confidence, and that’s why it makes it easier to keep writing. Confidence is a good work booster. 🙂

  5. Jillian says:

    Oh, gosh! Delete Facebook? I’d miss it! 🙂

    Great post.

  6. Fantastic post! The only point I don’t particularly agree with is number four, deleting Facebook and Twitter. My Facebook is actually my prime networking tool to keep in touch (and chat, believe it or not) with other writers I’ve met at conventions, books signings, libraries, etc. There’s no harm in keeping up a solid presence inside the writing industry/community. It’s just something to consider.

    We writers are chatty people, and many of the ones you meet, if you ask to give them your card or contact information respectfully, they’re usually very happy to accept. NEVER ask for theirs, though. It’s forward, and presumptuous. Let them make the first move. You’d be surprised how many actually do. =]

    Great list, though, I can’t seem to disagree on anything else. =P

    • Ollin says:

      Let me refer you then to Number 9. Keep Doing What You Are Doing. If you are keeping up a good writing routine and facebook and twitter are part of that, then by all means keep it up. But if you aren’t keeping up a good routine then deleting it will certainly help.

      Deleting those sites is more about minimizing distractions, than destroying your meticulously built up network. If you do have a good writing network through those sites then that means you are actually using them for GOOD and NOT wasting your time.

      Most people use FB and Twitter to procrastinate. I found both applications too noisy and all over the place. I could not manage keeping up with little snippets of so many people. I personally don’t find them to be good social networking tools because you don’t really get to know the person. With blogging you do. I’m also a big fan of simplifying your life, and until i have a large staff that manages all my social networky apps, I’m going to have to stick to one base of operations to do all my networking. I found that blogging is the best option {and the least frustrating and depressing.}

      Thank you for your thoughts Katie, we can always agree to disagree! 🙂

      • I’m a prime example of a procrastinating genius, so I can definitely understand your stance. All of the work I put into gaining my contacts (and coming out of my shell to do so) would kill me to destroy, even though Facebook is like a black hole hungry for my life. Lol.

        Twitter is useless, though. Unless you ARE using it for networking or are someone who is justified in having ‘followers’ (cult?), I’m really kind of lost to the point of it. =P

  7. Thank you Ollin. I needed that.

  8. Lindea says:

    Thanks for great tips, I actually agree with most of them. Only deleting facebook and twitter I disagree with as I use them to link to my blog (I first joined facebook in February this year so I haven’t really got the hang if or what’s so great about it), I actually finds myself more distracted by google than facebook.

    • Ollin says:

      I knew I was going to get a lot of pushback for that one. I’ve been on facebook for 7 years, ever since it first launched and only colleges were allowed on it. In 7 years I have gained nothing from facebook, in the last 6 months I have gained TONS of things from blogging you have no idea. I understand the need to keep people updated on your post and increasing your views, but this is not getting your priorities straight.

      Your first order of business is to get that novel done, and if that means simplifying things then why not? I’d rather have a finished book than a hole lot of views on my blog and no book to show for it.

      But i understand. The social pressure is ENORMOUS. Always go back to 9, if it works for you and keeps you writing your novel. Then go for it, no need to fret. 🙂

  9. milkfever says:

    Excellent advice, as always, Ollin. Hey, I love “Seriousity”. What an great word. I have started facebook recently but do absolutely nothing with it. I think you’re right, for a writer blogging is a far better investment.

  10. jannatwrites says:

    I’m so glad you didn’t suggest ditching the blog; I was already working on a serious case of denial!

    I have to confess that I have problems with the seriousity (did I spell that right?) I’m very serious about writing, but only a few people know about it. (I only told my husband because he was beginning the think I had a boyfriend online or something!) I just haven’t wanted to deal with negativity; I don’t need someone else to tell me becoming a published author is a longshot – I already know that.

    Thanks for sharing your tips!

    • Ollin says:

      Haha. No never! I love blogging, like I said above, I’ve gained SO much from the experience and it is a big part of my 1. above, it helps me keep my balance. I can get my thoughts out and frustrations and get positive feedback and advice right away on how to deal with the problem. It’s truly AMAZING. No, keeping up a blog is something I would suggest really helps the writing process, at least for me it has. {Just don’t over do it!}

      Fear of people’s comments is EXACTLY why you should tell more people you are a writer. Most people you find are very supportive and you’ll find them showering you with love and support. Telling my friends and family I was a writer is the best thing I have done, and sharing this part of me with everyone else I know has also been a blessing. So far, no one has come at me with “well it’s a long shot…” They generally tell me how jealous they are of me, and how they wish they had the guts to follow their passion.

      So try it, and the more you tell, the less you will be afraid. Lol, I feel like a therapist for writers. 🙂

      Good luck Janna!

      ps. you spelled it right. 🙂

  11. krisceratops says:

    I love reading your posts, I always leave feeling so inspired! I’m glad to hear things are really moving along for you. I’ll definitely be keeping these in mind when my own writing gets back underway!

  12. *clap**clap**clap* This is great – thanks for breaking it down, Ollin, and doing so in a way that is not at all overwhelming. It really shows how we can streamline and simplify our writing lives, “working smarter, not harder,” as they say. I like #5 as self-deprecation seems to be the first thing so many aspiring writers slip into—I see it constantly on my my blog and others, and I think it’s very nice that you give us all that vote of confidence that we’re not so chaotic as our artistic dispositions would like to lament…such drama queens we are 🙂

    • Ollin says:

      Oh, I am guilty of that whole self-deprecating thing. Thank god for my friends who put my drama queen complaints into perspective! lol. The facts are, writer’s are pretty normal, structured, responsible people, and they will continue to be. They have to, or else they’ll never get that book done! 🙂

  13. Tammy McLeod says:

    Good post Ollin. I’m with you on deleting that facebook thing! It is a time sucker. Thanks for making a list like this. They are fun to refer to.

  14. Ollin says:

    Thank you! Balance IS the key. 🙂

  15. Val says:

    I’ve never had facebook or twitter because they are indeed time sucking baloney. Your post is a good old fashioned elbow in the ribs to writers like myself who lose momentum and the writing community on the internet is precious for this very reason. We inspire and encourage each other. I’ve put you on my blog roll and I’ll be back Ollin. You are a pro, your posts are edited and polished. This is the first thing I noticed and it impressed me because it is damn rare, believe it or not.

  16. J. Elle says:

    Great post, hehe…fun and helpful. I identify with a lot of the stuff written here…because I’m doing just the opposite! At least I’ve stayed away from twitter and facebook(kind of). 🙂

  17. Linda says:

    Love this post, brother. I’m always in awe of how well you can break down some of the things it’s taken me years to learn. It leaves me to wonder if the student’s become the teacher, but maybe that happened long ago and I’m just catching up. ;0) Either way, when your little brother can inspire you to get back to cultivating your creativity and honoring it, then you know he’s doing something right.

    That said, I have to disagree about the Facebook / Twitter thing … muahahaha. This from the woman who lives and breathes social media in her profession half the time. I just find it hysterical that while I’m over hear touting the importance of social media for my company’s success, you’re telling everyone to delete their accounts. STOOOOP! Just kidding. I understand and I think you’re right, it can be a huge distraction, which is why it makes what I do a goldmine. That is unless you learn how to focus your efforts and harness it for the good of your career. But for a writer writing a novel maybe the main focus should be the writing and later the social media.

    My recommendation? Make Facebook and Twitter revolve entirely around your writing. Be disciplined and set aside a few hours a week to go in and use them as tools for advancing your career. Use social media’s magical powers for good versus evil. I could go into detail about ways to do this, but maybe that might be a good guest post. ;0)

    Those are my two cents, or three … or four. Love you and happy birthday!!!

    • Ollin says:

      Well, there is still a whole bunch you still gotta teach me, trust me. 😉 A big sister’s job is never over.

      Many have disagreed about the fb and twitter thing. You don’t always have to agree with me. All I can say is that it is working for me, and there’s no point in having a blog about writing a novel if the novel never gets written.

      I would argue that those sites are made precisely so that if you do set a side an hour or two for them, they will certainly suck you in and it will be so hard to let you go. I think people understand that this blog is not really about publishing your book, or starting a career in writing, it is about writing a book. That’s all I can claim to be an expert on and I just share my tips on what has helped me. People take it or leave it.

      But certainly, if you could enlighten us with a guest post, we would love to have you! Thanks for your lovely comment and the birthday wishes! 🙂

      Oh and the very WONDERFUL gift! 🙂

  18. […] talked before about how to keep the habit of writing once you started the habit of writing on a consistent basis, and I have also talked about how to transform your daily writing routine into the best experience […]

  19. […] also: “How to Get Yourself Off Your Lazy Butt and Start Writing Already,” ”10 Ways to Stay On The Writer’s Fast Track Once You’re On It,” “How to Start Your Best Writing Day Ever,” “How to Finish Your Best […]

  20. […] deleted my Facebook and Twitter account a while back. I even recommended deleting these accounts to my readers because, as a writer, I found that deleting Facebook and Twitter helped to dramatically increase my […]

  21. […] I’ve talked about how to keep up the habit of writing before, but it was in a more general sense, and since we recently discussed the specifics of how […]

  22. […] was a time {recently actually} when I was strongly against Facebook and Twitter. I changed my mind. Surprise, surprise. My readership didn’t protest and call me a […]

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