S2/E5: Productivity Hacks for Writers by Jessica Brody
This week we’re reviewing another class: Productivity Hacks for Writers by Jessica Brody class in her “Writing Mastery” series offered on the Udemy platform. She also offers courses through her website on topics such as how to deal with writer’s block, how to brainstorm and write a bestseller, and how to submit to a major publisher.
Jessica has written and published more than seventeen novels for teens, tweens, and adults, but you may also know her for her bestselling writing advice book, Save the Cat Writes a Novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need. Her books have been published and translated in over 23 countries and several are in development to be made into films. She publishes about four books a year.
She’s done all that by writing for only about two to three hours a day. So she has a thing or two to teach us about how to be productive and efficient.
She divides the course into three main components:
Hacking Your Brain
Hacking Your Space
Hacking Your Devices
I’ll go ahead and pull one thing from each of these categories, but know that there are many, many other good hacks under each of these topics.
1 The Hack Your Brain component makes up a good chunk of the course. During it she makes a strong case for following what she calls the “Morning Magic Routine,” before you write every day. The routine urges you to try getting dressed and moving right away after the alarm rings. Then she encourages you to follow that with a quick fueling of your mind (through meditation), body (with nutritious, protein-rich food), and soul (through gratitude journaling). Finally, a small writing ritual of your choosing. (She, for instance, doesn’t have her first sip of coffee until the computer is on and her work-in-progress is loaded up on the screen). She does have suggestions for you Night Owls, as well, called (wait for it) the “Evening Magic Routine.” Both of these routines are designed to reduce decision fatigue and help keep those creative juices flowing strong.
2 In the Hack Your Space category, my favorite one was so simple it almost embarrasses me to even include it here. Among the ways she suggests you create your “productivity oasis,” one of the most helpful things you can do is to move your phone out of the room you’re writing in.
3 Finally, the Hack Your Devices section offered lots of specific applications and software than can help you manage all of your information (like Evernote) and your tasks (like Trello) and your distractions (like Freedom). But my favorite concept in this section was how to deal with revisions. She likes to write a fast first draft, so she needs a place to keep track of all the things she knows that she’ll have to take care of during the revision process. She uses Trello to do this, but you could do the same thing with Google Docs, Google Keep, or even just a plain old notebook. She assigns pages for each type of revision issue she’ll need to address later and then makes sure to jot all the things related to that topic on that page. So, for instance, if you’re working on your first draft, you might keep two documents open on the screen – your actual manuscript and then another file where you keep a running list of all the things you need to fix, organized by topic or category like character issues or act one or setting issues or additional research needed. The idea here is to keep things grouped together so that when you sit down to do the revisions, you already have a handy (and reasonably organized) collection of thoughts about what you need to work on next.
A word to the wise:
“The hacks are simple, but they require some effort on your part. So you’re going to have to be willing to put in the hard work to see the changes in your productivity that you want. You can’t expect different results until you try different things.” Jessica Brody in Productivity Hacks for Writers (Writing Mastery)
*She starts with my favorite hack, which is essentially to Get a baseline of your work habits and word production. You’ll use that information later to both develop improved habits and an acurate project timeline. She offers among her downloadable materials a fantastic spreadsheet that allows you to enter your targets word count and finish dates for your work in progress and it will automatically calculate the number of words you’ll need to write each day to meet that goal. There’s also a place to enter your actual daily word count, and the numbers in the spreadsheet will once again automatically update to reflect your entries. It’s like your own little year-round NaNoWriMo chart. Love it!
If you go straight through the lessons, this course will take you just over three hours. She has lots of hacks, though, so many of the lessons are only three to five minutes long. I have the Udemy app on my phone and listened to it when I was doing other things and then went back to print off the numerous accompanying PDF materials later. Obviously, Udemy is available anywhere you can get a web browser, and I have streamed Udemy to my computer, iPad, and TV before with great success.
This class is listed for $99, but Udemy is great about always having sales. I snapped this one up for only $11.99. This class was a bargain, and I would strongly encourage you to give it a look.
Next week I’ll be reviewing The Business of Being a Writer (2018) by Jane Friedman.
Until then. . .
Happy writing, people!
P.S. If you’re interested in trying out the Plotter/Planner lifestyle, give Jessica’s book a try!