Just as there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s -- remember that one?! -- there's no wrong way to set up your writing environment.
Sometimes I write curled up on my huge couch with the TV on as background noise; other times I sit up perfectly straight at my home office chair as though playing piano.
The results are the same: Sometimes the word choice is off, and often, my written thoughts are meandering, but nonetheless, I’ve produced something.
The only act you must do to write is just that:
Take the time to do it.
Outside of that little ol’ thing -- easy, right?! -- there are some parameters I've found that work for me.
1. Practice regularly
We all know it’s true; we simply don’t do it. My New Year’s Resolution each year is to write every day, but sometimes all I’m able to squeak out is a grocery list.
Writer Sarah Selecky advocates that good, solid writing requires adeptness, which can only be achieved through rehearsal. Give yourself short bursts of time so you don’t become overwhelmed with unending hours huddled over your computer. Set a time, if needed, for 30 minutes. You might consider using writing prompts to loosen up; you can sign up for free weekly writing prompts here, through The 52-Week Project.
2. Banish your to-do list
If you’re writing as the day begins, then jot down your to-do list and set it aside. If the sunset is your lamplight, then finish your to-do list before sitting down to write.
Without a file of tasks breathing down your neck, you can make something creative happen.
3. Close your email, and turn off your phone
These distractions must be eliminated while you’re writing, driving, having dinner with me, etc. You don’t need to tell your friend that the song you both love is on the radio, and your Twitter followers don’t need to know that you're weeping over Adele. Again.
Gift yourself with a pure space in which to write.
4. Create a way to motivate your audience
Once your readers have finished your piece -- and returned to their seats after the standing ovation -- what do they do with this information?
Purchase your product?
Donate to your cause?
Use what they gleaned to ... what, exactly?
Be sure there’s a purpose to what you’re writing; sketching an outline of what you want to accomplish from the outset helps hone your thesis. And yes, you need a thesis, or else your work is 140-character spurts of nonsense.
5. Stop working more than 40 hours a week
I can’t, my team needs me, my boss expects it of me, etc.
Now that that’s out of the way, know that other countries have limited work weeks: Any more than 35 hours worked a week in France, for example, results in time off. According to the OECD iLibrary, Americans worked about 300 hours more than their French counterparts in 2011.
The number of hours that you work doesn’t directly correlate to your rising success; in fact, there are studies showing that extra hours result in work that’s either rubbish or needs to be redone.
6. Stay inspired
Read the backs of cereal boxes.
Participate in interactive art displays -- even if someone’s scoffing.
Eat lunch away from your desk, under sunshine and a layer of sunscreen.
Use up your vacation days.
Take your dog to a dog park.
Use a thesaurus to see how many ways you can rework the same sentence with different words.
Just get out there.
A version of this piece originally appeared in Advertising Week Social Club.