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A Simple Tool Every Writer Needs To Know About

by Jennifer on February 16, 2010

By Jennifer Blanchard

A couple weeks ago, writer and The Faster Times columnist, Nancy Rawlinson, was kind enough to share with me (via Twitter) a link to a recent column she wrote on writing procrastination.

The tip Rawlinson shared in this column is simple, yet brilliant: Use a start-up list to keep yourself on-track when you’re getting ready to start a writing session.

“ This is a simple tool that gets you into your writing through a series of steps,” Rawlinson says. “My start-up list is typed and saved on my computer. I print out twenty or more copies at a time. When I sit down to write, I take out my list and go through the items one by one. It takes about ten minutes, tops. As I ‘accomplish’ each task, I cross it off the list, which is satisfying. When I’m done, I have cleared away all my distractions and I’m ‘in’ to my writing. Sounds too simple to be true? It is, in a way. It’s just a list. But it works.”

A start-up list is very similar to having a writing ritual. It’s a tool that will put you in the mindset to start writing.

As Rawlinson mentioned in the column, each writer’s start-up list will be slightly different, depending on what you typically do before you start a writing session.

The reason this tip is so brilliant is because it allows you to do all those tasks you usually berate yourself for doing (checking e-mail, posting an update to Facebook) before you start your writing session. It allows you to get all those distracting tasks out of the way immediately so you can really focus on your writing.

I think that’s pretty great.

Here’s the sample start-up list Rawlinson gave in her column. Feel free to use it and customize it for yourself:

The start-up list for procrastinating writers

1. Make cup of tea/coffee

2. Clear desk

3. Check email

4. Block internet for ___ hours/minutes

5. Decide what you want to accomplish in your writing that day and write it down

6. Open the last writing document you were working on

7. Reread that document

8. Start work

The best writing productivity tools are the ones that fit you and the way you like to work.

So if you would rather keep the start-up list on your computer or use a virtual Post-It notes program (not an affiliate link, I just love these!) to keep your list instead of printing them out, do it. If printing them out helps you, do that. And if you’d rather just make a list once and keep it on your desk so you can refer back to it, do that.

Do whatever works for you and whatever will get you into your writing session.

To get more details of how Rawlinson works through her start-up list, be sure to read the column.

What tasks do you have to complete before you can enter into your writing session?

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is founder of Procrastinating Writers. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Eliza February 16, 2010 at 5:21 pm

I always get number one done first and foremost. And I think I should start doing number six. That seems really smart, declaring to myself what I mean to accomplish that day, instead of just going at it for hours, and accomplishing whatever.

Other than that, I have to make sure I have my cell phone nearby in case I get an important call, and I have to have Pandora up with my earplugs plugged in, and thesaurus.com up to solve those niggling word problems. So that’s me, not blocking the internet. At that point I will generally choose an arbitrary time in the future, either or twelve minutes ahead (on a round number like 12.15 or 2pm) and I can check email up to that point. Then it’s writing time!

2 Rebecca February 17, 2010 at 10:42 am

I love this idea! Thanks for sharing. I need coffee and (somewhat sadly I guess) to browse the blogs. I technically have blog time scheduled after writing time in my calendar but I always seem to switch the order these days.

3 Jodi Ralston February 20, 2010 at 6:21 am

Excellent post. I’ve made a list of things to do in a week that directly relates to writing tasks, but not a list of tasks geared to move me to start the day’s writing and it is the starting that is the hardest thing for me to do sometimes.

Jodi

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