Episode 19: Six Strategies for Creating Writing Momentum

Ep: 19

Writing is a practice that we probably all need to practice more. But it can be hard to get the ball rolling. I’m sharing 6 strategies to build momentum, so you can ride out the rough writing days and not let them stop you in your tracks.

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Momentum infuses writing with energy and helps your writing practice take on a life of its own. When you’ve created some writing momentum, you reduce guilt and overwhelm (writing’s two biggest enemies) because you feel like you’re on task and in charge. In this podcast episode I’m sharing six strategies to help you jump start a writing practice that has been on pause, or breathe new life into one that has begun to feel like a chore.

Six Strategies for Creating Writing Momentum

 

Strategy #1: Small, Consistent Sessions

It would be awesome to have big, clear chunks of time for writing. But usually, we don’t. If you’re waiting for those times to magically appear, your writing practice may have stalled out. 

To get it going again, aim for short, consistent sessions every day. Use your “tiger time”; those times when you are most energized, focused and ready to work. {Not sure what Tiger Time is or how to find out when yours is? Listen to Episode 2: Why You Don’t Have to Write Everyday (and What to do Instead)}

“Just one hour in the zone moves the needle more on your writing than 3 hours where you have to force yourself to concentrate.”

 

Strategy #2: Create Cycles of Positivity Around Your Writing

Sometimes your difficulty in creating consistent routines isn’t so much about you, but about your to-do lists. A big mistake that academics often make is creating a to-do list that looks like this:

  • write article
  • finish book chapter
  • submit grant proposal

And then they feel bad all the time because those tasks are always sitting there—for months and months—on their to-do list. This creates negative feelings around writing. Here’s how to fix this problem and create positive feelings about your writing to-dos. 

Think about the big tasks as projects. For each project (write article, finish book chapter, submit grant proposal) you need to create a list of all the tasks that it’s going to take to finish it. When you plan your writing sessions, pull from this list of broken-down tasks, and be sure you choose tasks that you have time to actually finish. 

 

Strategy #3: Create Writing Rewards

Giving yourself rewards for accomplishing your writing goals increases those positive feelings. You want to be excited about writing, looking forward to your tiger time, not dreading it. So once your writing task list is full of goals that are small enough that you can both measure them and accomplish them realistically in the time that you have, be sure to set up some rewards. I use two kinds of rewards.

  • Reward type #1 is a big reward that you give yourself when you submit something for publication (or review, like a grant). This needs to be something all about you, that really nurtures you and makes you feel great. (Go out for a fancy meal, get a massage, take an evening out with your partner.)
  • Reward type #2 is the micro reward, or the little reward for having kept up with your writing sessions consistently, or having met one of your micro goals. This should not take too much time to implement–because it needs to be something that you could do every day–but should also nourish you and make you feel happy. (Have a cup of your favorite hot beverage, go for a run, watch your favorite show; or hey, even adults like fun sticker charts!)

 

Strategy #4: Do a Writing Sprint

Another good way to develop momentum in your writing practice is to do a writing sprint. A writing sprint is two weeks where you use your tiger time to focus on making progress on one writing project. You can do this to jump start an old project, sprint to the end of an almost-done article, or start a new project. The key is to only focus on one writing project during the sprint and to finish that project (however you define “finish” for your particular project).

When planning for a sprint, be sure to:

  • Select the two weeks when you’ll do the sprint and mark off 1-2 hours per day (during tiger time) on your calendar.
  • Choose your writing project and define what it will mean for it to be finished. Make a list of all the tasks that will need to be done to finish.
  • Write the tasks on your calendar for each day of the sprint. Be realistic! If you finish early then yay! That’s much better than overbooking and feeling guilty.

 

Strategy #5: Find A Writing Group (or Make One Yourself)

Many things in life are more fun with friends, writing included. A writing group is a great way to build writing momentum, because you can feed off of each other’s progress. Writing groups can be in-person or virtual. For an in-person group, try to find a weekly meeting time that works for everyone.

Some groups commit to reading and critiquing each others work, which is great! But simply meeting to co-write is a great way to go about it too. If you just want to get the collective energy and community of writing in a group without reading each other’s work, that’s great. Any fellow writers can be part of a group like this, not just those in your field. 

 

Strategy #6: Go on A Writing Retreat 

To really breathe some life into your writing practice and create writing momentum, consider going on a writing retreat. Your writing needs love, focus, and care to achieve momentum and become a regular part of your academic life (instead of something that keeps falling to the bottom of your to-do list). A writing retreat invests in your writing, it’s a great way to focus on and nurture your writing practice—one that will have continued benefits even after the retreat is over.

You’ll find that even after you return from a retreat, the investment of time, money, and focused energy will continue to energize your practice and build momentum. 

If you are listening to this episode in real time, there are still a small number of spots open for my 2020 academic writing retreat here in Puerto Rico. Our beachside retreat includes co-writing, coaching, and a one-on-one writing session, not to mention delicious food and beautiful accommodations. Check out the details here before we are full!

 

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