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How To Write Consistently

I used to become discouraged if I was unable to write on a particular day. Such a feeling kills momentum. I noticed that I would put myself down for not being a writer simply because I missed a day here or there. Since then I have adjusted expectations for myself. Now instead of trying to write everyday I focus on a certain amount of words each week.

Every Sunday, I review my upcoming week ahead. If I have a particularly significant amount of non-writing responsibilities I might specify a lower amount of words to be completed for that week. I typically aim for 2000 to 5000 words per week.

This works for me because I have found a system to hold myself accountable in a realistic way that suits my schedule. This enables me to write consistently without writing everyday.

Arriving at this point for me was not quick and certainly not easy, which brings me to my point.

Give yourself time to reflect on your writing process. Your life will inevitably throw unanticipated variables at you and it might require you to adjust your process. Regular reflection makes this possible.

Moreover, your writing process will evolve and change over time. This is a positive thing because it shows your adjusting and adapting to sustain consistency.

As you reflect I encourage you to focus on a few specific components of your writing process:

1. Setting
2. Timing
3. Days
4. Challenges
5. Successful writing sessions

Setting

People have different preferences as to the setting that they write in. As you determine your preferred setting I recommend you make your assessment based on which setting yields the greatest amount of quality and word output.

As you sit down to write make a note of the where you are, the volume, what you hear, what distractions exist, what distractions don’t exist. Try to be as detail oriented as you determine your ideal setting for writing.

If you have multiple settings, make a habit of tracking the word output for each setting. This provides you with a quantitative metric to assess how conducive each setting is to your writing.

Timing

In addition to the setting where your writing occurs, reflect on the timing. Do you write more words in the morning, afternoon, or at night? What is the quality like during each time.

Understanding the time of day that you are best able to maximize a writing session will help you schedule the rest of your life around your writing times. Likewise, knowing that the time of the day doesn’t make a difference for you then you know that your writing schedule can be a bit more flexible.

Be aware that if there is a particular time of day that for whatever reason you can hammer out high quality words at an exorbitant rate during a time but is unfortunately often interrupted then you may want to consider a different time that has less interruptions.

Days

Are there days of the week that you seem to be a more effective writer? For me, it is earlier in the week. I personally prefer to complete the majority of my writing on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. I believe what happens is by Thursday I’m exhausted both physically and mentally so though I still try to write on these days I typically shoot for less as result.

Challenges

As you reflect on your writing process and make neccessary adjustments, I can’t overstate how important it is to think about the challenges you have encountered along the way. These include both internal and external challenges.

For example, I’m not a great writer at night for a few reasons. First, an internal challenge I encounter is increased exhaustion so my brain is functioning on suboptimal levels. Second, an external challenge is presented when I have to choose between writing time and the limited time I have to spend with my wife once my little ones are asleep. As a result, I complete the strong majority of my writing in the morning before I start work.

You should be identifying the external and internal challenges that each writing session brings and try to write during a time where those challenges are eliminated or at least minimized.

Successful Writing Sessions

When a writing session goes well make a note of it. Identify the specifics mentioned above. Focus on figuring out how to duplicate these details. You want to identify why it was successful and shoot for that whenever possible Additionally, you can gain great momentum from celebrating a small success which can lead to further success.

So the next time you finish a writing session take a few minutes to reflect on the level of productivity. It will help you maximize you effectiveness of each writing session and it will increase likelihood of making yourself write more consistently.

Happy writing!

 

 

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7 Ways To Make More Time For Writing

If you’ve read my previous article that helps you determine the amount of time you each week you should devote to writing then it is possible, depending on your schedule, that you’re unhappy with the amount of time you have to write.

Or if you’re happy with your weekly word output but want to find ways to increase it then check out the strategies offered below.

Before we delve into each strategy a disclaimer must be provided just so we can move forward together on the same page.

I believe that the majority of people are relatively busy. Before my children were born I remember feeling busy all the time but now I look back on that period of my life and wonder what I did with all the time.

Moral of the story, we all have 24 hours per day. So if you are unable to make time for writing then it is likely that your “full schedule” is a result of poor prioritization.

The key is to make small subtle changes. Over time, the accumulation of said changes will be significant.

Below is a list of 7 possible changes you can make to increase your writing time. Do not limit yourself to these changes exclusively. Keep your eyes open for additional, creative ways to maximize productivity without increasing your stress level.

Subtle change #1: Wake up 20 minutes earlier. This allows you five minutes to use the restroom, grab a glass of water, then start writing. Before you dismiss this idea because you already wake up “early” or you aren’t a “morning person” consider easing into this. Start by setting your alarm five minutes before you normal wake up time. Do this for a week then go five minutes earlier. In four weeks, you’ll have slowly transitioned into waking up 20 minutes earlier. If it went easily for you continue this pattern until you’ve created an additional hour of writing time.

Quick Tip: To maximize the 15-minute writing window, be sure that you have an outline on your computer ready so that all you have to do is pick a predetermined topic and start writing. 

Subtle change #2: Use your smartphone to record  yourself during your commute. Choose a topic, hit record (before you begin driving), and start talking about all the things you would be writing about within that topic. Do not worry about saying things perfectly. For each recording, you can save them and have them transcribed. Look up transcription services on fiverr.com, look into your dictation capabilities that come standard with most macs, or check out rev.com. This will produce a written document that only requires your review and edits (which could be for your 15-minute window from above).

Subtle change #3: If you’re a reader, consider Audible.com. This enables you to multi-task thus freeing up the time you would be reading. I personally listen to audio books when I exercise. Outside of my bedtime reading session, this pretty much all the reading I need for the day and affords me greater opportunity to focus on my writing without ignoring the need to absorb information.

Subtle change #4: Go to a library for a writing session. This may not be a great solution if you do not live near one because the time it takes to commute the library might eat away at the increased time margins, however, if you can get to one quickly it might be worth trying.  When I go to a library I sit with my headphones on in one of those desks that have three walls around it. In other words, I eliminate all the distractions that exist in my home or a coffee shop. Do not underestimate how many more words you can write when you’ve set such a distraction-less environment.

Subtle change #5: Partner with another writer. If you are truly strapped for time why not co-author a book with another author. You will most likely lose half of the royalty potential but you’re exchanging one currency for another, time for potential earnings. Moreover, you’ll likely double your word output. If you’re looking to find a writing partner then I recommend you check out writing clubs via meetup.com or join a writing facebook group (my favorite is Authority Self-Publishing).

Subtle change #6: Eliminate a show from your life. Many experts recommend that you eliminate television from your life and though I would agree that it is often a distraction that hinders productivity, I’m going to suggest a more subtle approach. List the shows that you regularly watch. Pick your least favorite and stop watching it. If you don’t watch regular shows and just channel surf then you need to control the amount of time you do this. Set a timer on your phone and stop watching once the time is up. I recommend no more than a half hour.

Subtle change #7: Read The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch and start analyzing how you prioritize your daily actions. As stated prior to this list I believe people who claim they don’t have any time are really just struggling to prioritize effectively. To subtly address this start by learning about a different approach to help you adjust your own mindset.  Note: In the spirit of third subtle change suggested, I recommend you check out the audiobook. 

So there they are, seven subtle changes you can make to help maximize your word output. Remember, do not limit yourself to these changes and also do not feel obligated to try all of them at once. Instead, choose one or two that makes sense for you and start taking action.

 

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How Much Time Per Week Should You Devote To Writing?

The title of this post makes it sound like I have an answer. Which I do. However, you’re not going to like it because it is one of those “depends” kind of answers.

Throughout each one of my books and the majority of my posts, whenever a set of steps is provided, or advice is given it is followed or preceeded by a disclaimer that strongly suggests readers should be adjusting this instruction to meet their own personal needs.

Too often we listen to podcasts, read books, watch interviews where some “expert” tells us what we should be doing. Now I’m not saying that we should be closed off to these opinions but we must first recognize them as an opinion based on one particuarl person’s exeperience. He or she does not live our life and therefore is not qualified to tell us what to do and when to do it without knowing all of the variables that exist within our daily lives.

Therefore, rather than tell you or even suggest how much time you should be devoting to writing. The goal here is to equip you with a set of steps you can take to properly anaylze your week and assess when and where you can fit some writing time.

Step 1: Identify any repeated tasks or responsibilities that you have for each day of the week (i.e. Work from 9 to 5, bring to the kids to and from school, etc.).

Step 2: Draw 7 columns (or use a spreadsheet) and label each column a day of the week.

Step 3: Begin writing down your day to day actions for each day of the week and write down the times. Note: it is appropriate for times to be approximate and to be wide ranges because you want to include everything you do from going to work to watching tv. 

Step 4: Look for gaps in your day where you could fit in at least 15 minutes of writing (preferably 30 minutes or more if possible). If it is a location other than your home, identify a method to ensure you have your computer or whatever equipment you may need.

Step 5: Based on this schedule insert your writing sessions with specific times and desired durations. Time ranges are appropriate as well. In other words, if you know you have at least 30 minutes sometime between 5PM and 7PM, but the specific start and end time for your writing session will not be consistent, then just write 5PM to 7PM for 30 minutes. Highlight each writing session.

Step 6: Bonus Step – Based on the time and days, if you have a smart phone, set reminders for each of the times to prompt your writing session.

Notice that at no point during any of the steps provided was there a minimum amount of sessions suggested. Personally I have four to five each week and each ranges from 30 minutes to an hour. This works for my life but it may not work for yours. Maybe you can fit in more or less. It doesn’t matter as long as you identify times in your life when you can realistically sit down and write.

Once you have these times, outside of staying disciplined and sticking to each writing session that you have set for yourself, your next focus is going to be calculating how many words per hour you can typically produce.

If you’re consistently struggling to stick to your writing sessions then I encourage you to take a look at a book I’ve written titled The Persistence Formula. This book aims to help people who struggle to follow through with taking action to achieve their goals.

To calculate your word output rate you need to track your time and your total words produced per session. Do this for at least two weeks.

To clarify for every writing session you should be tracking the exact amount of time you’re actually writing and how many words you’ve produced within that specific amount of time.

Note: this is easier to calculate if you have a session for an amount of minutes of which 60 is a multiple (i.e. 15, 20, 30, and 60 minute sessions are ideal). 

For the purposes of clarity let us take a look at a hypothetical example.

Joe Smith can fit three writing sessions within his week. One session is 30 minutes while two sessions are each an hour. For the next two weeks Joe is going to track how many words within each of those writing sessions he can produce.

Week 1

Session 1 (30 minutes) – 402 words

Session 2 (60 minutes) – 943 words

Session 3 (60 minutes) – 928 words

Week 2

Session 1 – 463 words

Session 2 – 1002 words

Session 3 – 917 words

Now for the number crunching. First, calculate your hourly rate for each session so in this case Joe would just double his amount of words for each of his first weekly sessions. Second, now that all  sessions are equated to an hourly input amount, we add up all of the hourly word count numbers and divide by the number of sessions (in this I example 6).

More specifically…

804+943+928+926+1002+917 = 5520 (total words produced in 6 hourly sessions)

5520/6 = 920 (total hourly word rate for Joe Smith is 920)

Why do you want to know this number?

Put simply, knowing this information can help you determine how long it is going to take you to chip away at your book. When you’re equipped with this information you can plan a little bit more effectively. The combination of your hourly word output rate and your book outline will position yourself to stay motivated as you tackle each section in an objective, manageable way as opposed to the perspective of writing one daunting book.

Lastly, if you truly want to ensure accuracy of your hourly word output rate then continue to track your words written for each session and keep a spreadsheet documenting this information.

Overtime as you write more consistently you’ll notice this number will likely increase.

Happy writing!

 

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Instead of Writing Beginning To End, Try This…

For a long time, I used to think I was clever due to the fact that whenever I sat down to write I referred to an outline that I already created. This would enable me to effectively puts words on paper whether I was lacking inspiration or not. This is an effective approach and I stand by it.

However, there are a few additional steps that can be taken to increase efficiency while promoting additional opportunity to input high-quality content.

For example, if you are starting a new chapter start by copy-pasting all the parts of your overall outline that fall within that particular chapter.

The next thing you want to do is look at each section of that outline and ask yourself a few guiding questions such as:

What additional instruction or details would help the information or story? 

Is this typically offered in similar books or genres? If so, how can it be differentiated? 

For non-fiction authors, is there a related, helpful anecdote or personal story that can be added? 

For fiction authors, is there a further detail that can be offered to make it more authentic? 

These guiding questions are just food for thought. Take some time as you reflect on your own writing to develop your own that trigger creativity.

As you answer these questions you should be writing your answers down within the relative section of your outline. The answers can come in the form of paragraphs or sentences to be included word for word, or short phrases that can be rearticulated at a later time. Once this stage is complete then instead of looking at a blank page tasked with the challenge of filling it, you’re now filling in a structured chapter outline.

To clarify let us break it down into nice and neat phases.

Phase 1: Copy-paste relative chapter outline from whole book outline.

Phase 2: Insert more input based on guiding questions previously mentioned and/or your own guiding questions.

Phase 3: Fill in the missing parts.

At the end of the day, you’re going to have sit down and write. There is no avoiding it. However, this is a much less daunting task when you’re adding to something as opposed starting a chapter from scratch.

If you’re still not convinced let us compare it to the construction of a house.

When contractors begin they do not start on the left and work their way to the right. Instead, they pour the foundation, construct the frame, then add the plumbing, wiring, drywall and so on.

To be fair, this is only a suggested approach. If you have a method that works for you once you get going then you may not need to use this. If, however, you are a person who struggles to make yourself sit down and write then you need to break it down into smaller, easier steps. The strategy offered here is one way to do it. If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, then do not quit, just continue to look for an alternative approach.

Leaders within this realm, that I look up to, are Joanna Penn, Steve Scott, and Tom Corson-Knowles. As a writer, you must make it your responsibility learn about different strategies used by a variety of authors.

Even when you have something that is working, if you notice your productivity is decreasing then utilizing the leaders above and any other resources you’re aware of to avoid the complacency that can come with dusty, old strategies.

To keep things practical and get back to the original point, I recommend you try each phase using Evernote. Within one “notebook” that holds all the content of your book, you can create “notes”. One note should be your overall book outline, then each other note should be a chapter.

This is a great, free way to easily navigate from book outline to a specific chapter rather than scanning through one large word document.

Evernote is certainly not the only option here, but it is recommended that you use a software that enables you to easily locate each chapter and your outline.

Okay, enough is enough. Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

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Audit Your Writing Process

For the over a year now I’ve been following the same scheduling process for my writing.

Put simply when I’m writing a book or writing an article each Sunday night I reference my monthly goals (i.e. Complete 20K words towards book, complete 6 blog posts, etc.) and I create weekly goals.

My weekly goals, will include 3000 to 6000 words depending on my schedule and an article or two. This has always worked well for me and more importantly I’ve been able to stick to it.

Which by the way should not be underestimated. If you can stick to 1000 words per week compared to an inconsistent 2000 words per week you’re better off focusing on the thousand.

The problem is that I love creating content despite my lack of time. I’ve always felt the need to write more, create more.

I’ve convinced myself to stay patient and just continue to chip away. Though I’ll continue to take that approach it doesn’t hurt to also focus on taking some time to audit your process.

A few weeks ago I decided to change things up so I could begin creating more courses to help aspiring writers. This means that I have to write a post per week, write towards my current book, and create content.

This is a ridiculous amount of work if done inefficiently.

To address I took some time to strategize. To audit my writing process.

Here is what I came up with.

From this point on I’m going to continue to use my goal setting process but I’m going to develop a system where I can create one form of content then outsource the remaining forms based on my creating.

More specifically, I’m going to create presentations (Keynote) that includes important bullet points. Then I’m going to record the audio of myself talking about the concepts covered in those slides.

With that content I’m going to do two things:

1.) Send the slides and the audio to a video editor to put it all together into one video.

2.) Send the slides and the audio to one of my editors who will then transcribe my words, edit them into a blog post and a section of a book.

After a month I should have course, tons of content of the site, and a book that all go hand in hand.

I’m creating one thing and utilizing others to repurpose this content. You might be thinking that it sounds expensive.

It is more affordable then you think.

I found a guy from Romania via upwork.com who will complete my simple edits at $6 per video (roughly 7 to 8 slides over 8 minutes of audio). Nothing fancy but valuable, helpful content.

I have a great editor who I have worked with multiple times and because of the regular work I provide I essentially will be able to get all of this done for $.01 per word of the longest form of content. In other words, if the blog post is longer than the relative section of the book then we will use the blog post.

The key is to acknowledge that I have no idea if this will work out. In fact, it most likely won’t.

But I’m going to try it, keep an open mind, and make adjustments as needed.

When was the last time you audited your writing process?

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Product Review: Sentey LS-4560 B-trek H9 Headphones

As we attempt to perfect our writing process it is essential to reflect upon the setting. More specifically, we need to assess whether or not we can sit down and write and not only avoid distraction but ideally reach a zone that enables us to create high quality content in a short amount of time.

It goes without saying that this is very difficult to do, but it doesn’t mean we stop trying.

One of the factors we need to consider when creating a setting conducive to efficient writing is the sounds we hear when we’re writing.

Enter the Sentey LS-4560 B-trek H9 Headphones.

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I recently received that as a Christmas present from my wife. Before this I had been using the standard Apple earbuds that come with iPhone purchases. These were adequate, however, outside of blocking external noise it didn’t seem to be overly helpful.

Advantages

  1. Comfort. The leather material that surrounds your ear feels great against your skin as opposed to an earbud stuck in the ear for an hour or more. Headphone Buttons
  2. Bluetooth connection. While I type on my computer, I connect to my phone via Bluetooth, which means no annoying wires. An added bonus with a wireless connection is that whether you have to go to the bathroom or you need a refill of water, the headphones stay on which means less chance of being distracted in the process.
  3. Reasonably priced. Though I received them as a gift, these headphones cost just under $40.00. Compared to the majority of the competition this price is very affordable.                                               Headphones Package
  4. Easy storage. You can see in the image above that the headphones come with a shell shaped case. The headphones fold up and fit in perfectly. These go right in my nightstand for easy access whenever inspiration strikes and I have time to immediately begin writing. This is also known as the stars aligning.

Despite these advantages it is important to point out that these particular headphones do come with some negative attributes as well.

Disadvantages 

  1. Lacks noise cancellation. Personally, I have not used headphones with a noise cancellation feature, but this product does not offer such a feature. I have to assume that this would maximize efficiency throughout the writing process by better helping prevent potential distraction.
  2. Microphone is next to worthless. I do not use the headphones to conduct phone conversations, but if I’m writing and I receive a call that I have to answer, I want to be able to seamlessly answer the phone, have the conversation, and get back to writing. The two conversations I attempted to have while using these headphones resulted in me disconnecting the headphones, using the phone normally, then reconnecting to the headphones upon hanging up. Not a huge issue but an issue nonetheless.
  3. USB charger only. Though the battery life can last for up to 8 hours, when I want to charge them I have to plug directly into my computer as opposed to an AC wall outlet.

Overall 

For the price these headphones are excellent and far exceed my needs. I strongly recommend this product to any writer seeking the isolation feeling to maximize writing efficiency. I should note that though the sound quality seems be perfectly adequate, I am not an audiophile and therefore couldn’t tell you if it is produces a dramatically different sound compared to competition.

Hope this helps. Happy writing!

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Getting Started As a Freelance Writer

As a self-published author I can proudly tell you that I generate a nice extra chunk of change from my royalties. The challenge, however, is that once you finish writing your book you need to become a marketing savvy entrepreneur. Though it is extremely rewarding to start seeing the marketing efforts generate passive income, it is also exhausting.

At times I can’t help but wish I could just write an article then forget about it and still earn a couple of dollars.

Enter freelance writing.

Though I have no desire to give up authoring my own books, I am very interested in earning some additional income using my skills as a freelance writer. Below is my plan of attack to make this happen.

As I complete each phase, I’ll write a post that describes any success, pivots, and learning experiences.

Phase 1: Get Educated

I’ll be signing up for at least one of the two courses: Tom Ewer’s Paid To Blog course and Gina Horkey’s 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success.

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After doing quite a bit of research I’ve decided these two look like the they offer the most bang for the buck. My goals are to learn where to find jobs and how to get them. I’ll report back to let you know if either of these courses helped me achieve those goals.

Phase 2: Build A Portfolio

While I’m taking the course(s) I’m going to focus on writing within three categories:

The portfolio will include articles that I write that are published on other sites. These will cover a range of topics.

Phase 3: Start Pitching/Find Clients

No idea how to go about this but hopefully in a few weeks after a few articles I’ll be ready. Stay tuned for an update on this.

Phase 4: Increase My Rate 

Right now I’m thinking long term which means I’m not focused on earning a ton of money right now. As a novice freelancer I know that I’m going to have to prove myself as a reliable, high quality writer. Once I successfully do this I’ll shift my focus on increasing the rate. My goal is $100 per hour.

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My logic is as follows:

If I eventually charge $.10 per word for a 1000 word article, with an average word per hour rate of over 1000 words I can realistically earn $100 per hour.

Regardless of the outcome I’ll be sure to share my progress (or lack thereof) to help make the process as easy as possible if you decide to become a freelance writer yourself.

For now…go write!

 

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Being A Perfectionist Is Just Procrastination

I average 20,000 words per month while working a full time job, maintaining this blog, running my side hustle (see The Amazon Sales Formula) all while being the best dad and husband I know how to be.

You’re probably thinking I’m full of myself for starting a post with such a statement but in all honesty it is simply to prove one point.

I get things done.

Again, you’re still probably thinking I’m a bit conceited but hear me out.

I am able to get things done because I refuse to let small details prevent me from moving forward. Every first draft I write is pretty weak. It has even gotten to the point where I couldn’t finish my first read over before sending to the editor. At times I’m literally embarrassed at the content I create. However, I know that once I send it through the editing and revision process I’ll be able to create something that is valuable and helpful to many (not all) readers. smiley-452694_1920

Moreover, I believe that most of what I and others create will most likely not be gold at first. It will take some adjustments and some tweaks no matter how much of a perfectionist you are. For this reason I say focus more on getting the first draft out of the way.

If you identify yourself as a perfectionist then I hate to break it to you but you’re creating a permanent excuse that enables you to produce content at a snail’s pace. You might disagree with this and maybe you’re right. But before you ignore this article, I urge you to ask yourself the following questions.

Are you a perfectionist? If yes, then move on to the next question. If no and you’re not happy with the amount you produce then you may want to check out my book The Persistence Formula.

Are you happy with the quality of content you produce? If yes, then move on to the next question. If no, then I recommend you focus attention on methods to help spark your creativity in addition to reading authors you’d like to emulate.

Are you happy with the quantity of content you produce? If yes, then ignore this rant of an article. If no, then you need to ask yourself what you can do to step up your game. The reality is, you’re busy so your time is limited as it is. So you’re focus should be on taking advantage of the time you have. In other words, if you’re busy then you don’t have time to be a perfectionist. Get the draft done as soon as possible then either edit it yourself (though I would not recommend being the only person to edit your draft) or outsource that process. You can find some high quality yet affordable editors at elance.com and/or fiverr.com.

If you find yourself struggling to complete your writing or maximize the small amount of time you have available to write then check out the three strategies below. Bare in mind the strategies focus on helping people who struggle to produce because they are a perfectionist.

Track Your Words Per Hour

Strategy #1: Identify your current words per hour pace. Give yourself challenges to beat the current pace by five words or so. Time yourself and constantly assess what your speed is. Track the data. Focusing on improving your words per hour will help you avoid editing your words as you write them.

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Strategy #2: Verbalize your words into a voice recorder first then transcribe those words as you listen to your recording. Just focus on writing everything you say in the recorder and only go back to edit once you’ve typed everything you just recorded.

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Strategy #3: Incorporate more personal stories within your work. Obviously you only want to do this when it is helpful and valuable for your readers, but when it is this can be a great way to get yourself into a write zone. Use that momentum to continue writing.