“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” as Leonardo da Vinci once said. Or maybe it was Eleanor All, Elizabeth Hillyer, or one of a half dozen other quotable personalities to whom the saying is attributed. Like finding the source of that quote, the writing process isn’t easy, and achieving simplicity in that process can be downright difficult.
I like to think of myself as a patient person. But when writing, my patience is often tested while tackling and pinning down topics and sources. I grow frustrated with myself over my weaknesses, and I’m guessing most writers have this problem too, so I’ve developed a few simple writing hacks to lower my stress levels and to make the process more manageable.
I Fool Myself into Doing Something
Like many people, I often struggle with focus and concentration. I’m not a fast writer, but I can research and write a decent article in half an hour on a good day. However, it may take me five hours to work up the courage to start researching and writing that same article. Many writing hacks focus on getting you to stop procrastinating, and this is no different.
I could blame my own inner distraction monkey or an overworked brain. However, my main mental block is simple fear. “The writing won’t be good enough,” I say. “I suck as a writer, and I won’t find the right sources, either.” This blockage happens mostly with new projects, but it happens to me often. So I trick or force myself into doing something.
When I’m dragging my heels, I go outside in the fresh air. I pick a low-stress task like brushing the horse or collecting firewood for half an hour. After I’ve spent some time in the fresh air clearing the fog from my head, I force myself to go inside and devote no less than 15 minutes to addressing a task related to the piece I’m supposed to be writing. Maybe I open 10 tabs full of dense research. Maybe I actually read through a few of the tabs I opened.
For one of my writing jobs, I must write all of the HTML and insert links to various webpages before I can begin composing anything. I only let myself take a break after I’ve copy/pasted my HTML template and added the links. The deal is, if I can trick myself into doing 10 or 15 minutes of work on a piece, I can take a break and browse Reddit if there’s no inspiration happening.
Usually, this small effort kickstarts inspiration, and I continue writing. If you get blocked, too, use simple tricks to make yourself start working on a piece. The mere act of launching into a written work is often all you need to inspire yourself to finish. Reward yourself when you meet that deadline, because you’re the boss.
I Create an Optimum Auditory Writing Zone
I imagine most authors have experimented with creating the ideal ambiance for their workspaces. Some people listen to music or have their TVs blaring as they write. Other writers enjoy creating content while sitting in busy coffee shops or libraries. Some writers, no doubt, type away, day after day, with spouses, kids, and pets wreaking havoc in the background.
While working, I’ve experimented with playing all sorts of media, with silence, and with working away from home. For me, the ideal outside environment is at my son’s friends’ condo. There’s always someone practicing a guitar or playing a loud video game. Don’t ask me why, but it works for me. I’d scream if it were that loud and chaotic at home while I write, but at his place, it helps me focus.
To get myself in the most productive mode inside at home, I’ve found that Louise Hay affirmation videos played softly keep me plugging away. I also end up being really productive when I play soft jazz tunes. When all else fails, I turn to one of a couple of ocean wave YouTube videos that I put on loop when I need a soothing white noise to keep writing.
Experts seem to think we need some noise in the workspace to remain focused. The optimum level is around 70 decibels. So, if your workspace is too quiet, or you need some sounds to drown out distractions around you, find a video of your favorite band or use one of the online ambient noise sites to create your own optimum writing zone.
I Fake Out Google
You find a fact that will be the perfect pearl in an article. But where’s a solid source to back you up? The hunt for reliable sources never ends. Some days, it seems I can only find the citations I need on a competitor’s webpage or a dodgy website.
So I fake out Google. I do an image search and find web pages through graphics of my topic, search to locate trade publications that might have a great source article, or watch a bunch of videos on the topic when I reach high frustration levels.
Sometimes, I type in “industry,” “trade,” or “latest research” with my keywords. It’s amazing how often these simple search hacks make Google give up the secret sources it’s holding back from me.
I would hardly call myself sophisticated, but I have learned through writing and from other writers about the value in simple solutions to managing my workload. And now I’ll share the simplest thing I do to motivate myself. I say out loud, “It’s not rocket science. You’ve done this many times. You’ll figure it out. Now, go write something!” Just always remember that the best writing hacks are the ones that work for you.