Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Seven Top Tools For Productivity

Here are the seven things I suggest every writer has to boost their productivity. These are all tools that make the process easier, they are not vital for success, but they will have a huge impact on your word count if you use them correctly.

Unfortunately there is nothing you can buy that will make you sit your ass on a chair and write every day. That one is on you.

1. A dedicated writing space and computer.

Insomniacs know, if you’re having trouble sleeping, you should ONLY use your bed to sleep. No reading in bed, no watching TV, no playing with your phone. Beds are only for sleep, so when you lie in bed, your brain knows ‘okay, we’re sleeping now’

Likewise, if you have a dedicated place and time that you write, your brain knows that space is for writing, not checking facebook and playing games. If possible an older or cheap computer running only the three or four programs mentioned here is ideal, so you can’t possibly become distracted.

Having a room that is dedicated just to writing is ideal too. However it needs to be a room that you can be comfortable in. So appropriate heating and cooling and somewhere comfortable to sit is preferable. As is a door you can shut.

2. Noise cancelling headphones.

If you can’t close the door, or you live somewhere you can hear distracting sounds through the door, invest in some comfortable noise cancelling headphones. They shouldn’t be buds, as those increase the bacteria levels in your ears and are not ideal for everyday use. They should also be comfortable for long periods.

3. Ambient storm or cafe sounds.

Ambient sound tracks are one of those simple yet surprisingly effecting writing tools. The favourites tend to be coffee shop sounds, storm and rain sounds and rainforest sounds. These have no music, no speaking of any kind, just ambient noises. They are great for focusing you on your writing. You can find examples of these on youtube, either in one hour long tracks or ten hour long tracks. Download one or two with download helper on firefox and you can listen to them with your internet off.

4. Write or die

I believe Write Or Die is the best program for writers ever created. You can use it free on writeordie.com or buy your own version for $10. It is the best investment in your writing you will ever make. It triples my productivity when I use it and I can’t recommend it enough.

5. Turning off your internet connection

Sometimes I’ll be working and when I paused to think I’ll absently open firefox and start browsing. This is a terrible subconscious behaviour—one I have only been able to counter by disconnecting my internet. If you often find yourself checking twitter, email or facebook during your writing time, TURN OFF YOUR MODEM.

6. Scrivener

Scrivener is a writing program designed by an author for other writers. It has a huge list of amazing features that make writing a novel and keeping track of scenes, characters and plotlines much easier. The way people sing its praises you’d think it dispensed perfect coffee and did your taxes for you, but it really is very helpful for organising your novel.

7. Progress Jars

This is my secret weapon. However I keep it a secret because it’s a little bit kitschy. On my desk I have two jars (okay, they’re vases). On one is written: ‘Unborn Words’ and on the other is written ‘Breathing Words’. When I start a project I decide how long it will be and put a marble in ‘Unborn Words’ for every thousand words. So an 80, 000 word project would require 80 marbles.

When I write 1000 words, I move a marble from the Unborn jar to the Breathing jar.

Moving each marble becomes a kind of reward and it gives you a physical representation of your novel’s progress.

So there you go. Seven writing tools, they won’t make you a better writer, but they may make you a more productive one. Some may require a time or money investment, but I genuinely believe they are all worth it.

Tell me what you think.


  1. Combining those noise canceling headphones and storm noises (or the Bach cello suite which I am in love with) is a great tool, but only for use when someone else can watch my son ;p

    Turning off the modem (or at least your connection to it) is a total must. And I would marry Scrivener if it had a physical form and I weren't already married(doesn't bring me coffee, but neither does my current husband ;p ). Not to mention it's cheap as chips. Cheaper if you win NaNo too.

    I don't have a dedicated space, but I do have dedicated writing time: before my family gets up in the morning and a patch most evenings where my husband plays with my son and I hide in another room and do some work. the time can be as important as space, like telling yourself you're open for business from 5am to 7am ;p

    1. But the big question is, are you happy with the word counts you are getting or do you feel like something has to change so you can get more?