One of the worst feelings you can have when writing a book is slaving for hours and hours only to produce a few measly paragraphs. You may start to question if you even qualify as a writer. If writing is what you’re meant to do, should it really be this hard?

You should know that you are not alone. Every writer out there—including the incredibly successful ones—has been exactly where you are now. Sure, sometimes the words will just flow out of you with barely any effort at all. But more often than not, producing a good story takes hard work.

Here a few tips to help you become a more productive writer.

1) Set the Stage

A great way to start a writing session is to make sure that you’re as comfortable as possible. There are lots of things to consider when it comes to setting your stage to write:

-Do you have water/tea/coffee? If you’re going to settle in for a productive writing session, keeping hydrated is important.

-Are you in a quiet place? (Though some writers do thrive on the bustle of a busy coffee shop around them.)

-Is everything set up ergonomically? Is your chair comfortable? It can often be helpful to set your monitor or laptop up on a platform or some books so you don’t have to crane your neck to look at it.

-Do you have something nice to look at during those moments when you need to pause and think?

Setting your writerly stage can mean a lot of different things for different people—for me it includes brewing a cup of rooibos tea, putting my phone on silent, having a window to look out of every so often, and plugging in my headphones so I can listen to some music to get me in the right frame of mind.

It’s easy to let anxiety get in your way before you even begin. Figuring out how to set up a calming environment that puts yourself at ease can make a world of difference when it comes to your writing productivity.

2) Have Fun!

When writing gets hard, it can be tough to remember why you do it in the first place. But the reason is that you love writing. Those tingling feelings that you get when you really sink into a scene and forget the world around you—is there anything better than that?

When you’re having problems with productivity, it is essential to frame your writing time not as a chore, but as something fun you get to do. Remember everything you love about your book and why you decided to write it in the first place. Imagine the types of readers who might enjoy reading it, and how you might give them the same joy and excitement that your favorite books have given you.

If you focus on enjoying yourself when you write, you’ll find that the words will begin to flow much more easily. After all, the phrase “time flies when you’re having fun” exists for a reason.

3) Take a Break

This may sound counterintuitive, but taking a break can actually be a fantastic way to improve your productivity. If all you’re doing is sitting hunched at your computer screen, knitting your brow in frustration, you’re not doing you or your story any good. In fact, all that tension is likely to gum up the works in your brain even more.

At times like these, the best thing you can do is take a step back. I’ve found that the movement of going for a walk or doing some other form of exercise helps a great deal to clear my head—it also keeps me from spending too many sedentary hours at a time in my desk chair.

There are plenty of other ways to take a break. You can watch a show or a movie, bake some cookies, do some art, play games online—whatever makes you happy and will take your mind off your story. You’ll be surprised how much a short time away will help to clear the cobwebs in your head.

4) Practice Makes Perfect

I know it can be difficult to get yourself to keep showing up to write when the going gets rocky. But that’s exactly what you need to do.

As said, you should certainly take breaks when you need them. However, that break should never turn into a break-up with your novel. As soon as your brain has recharged and your writerly gears have started turning again, it’s time to get yourself back in front of your notebook or computer screen.

One of the best ways to become a better and more productive writer is simply to write a lot. If you keep at it, even through the rough times, you’ll find that things start to get easier. You’ll begin to find your rhythm and the little things that work best for you. Maybe you’ll realize that writing chapter outlines as you go helps you to churn out more words, or that you write faster if you listen to a certain type of music.

Getting to know yourself as a writer will help you to become more productive and will also improve your work overall.

Author’s Bio: Jillian Karger was born in Ohio but has lived in and around New York City for over a decade. Since graduating from NYU in 2009, Jill has had a long string of jobs doing things like scouting books to be adapted for film and researching trivia questions for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”.

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