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Seven Habits of Productive Writers

Write for a living? Here’s how to sharpen your tools.

Here at iostudio, we study productivity and efficiency like some people study the Kardashians’ Instagram—with an intense fervor, paired with unadulterated delight. That’s why we asked one of our most prolific writers to share some tips for how she cranks out so much golden material. Here’s what she had to say.

Last year, I traded a full-time gig as a magazine editor for a new career as a freelance writer slash stay-at-home mom. I write from home … or the coffee shop … or that one bench at the playground with the whisper of a Wi-Fi signal. This job is a hustle, and it probably takes forever to master. But here are some rules I’ve come to live by that help keep me on task and on payrolls.

Being a great writer is awesome, but being a working writer is even better. To do that, you’re going to have to be productive. Here are seven tips for doing more with those writing tools you’re sharpening.

1. Read.

Avidly. Actively. And not just the medium or genre in which you work. Read the newspaper, the classics, and the comments on your clients’ Instagram feed. Read book reviews, in-flight magazines, song lyrics, and poetry. I guarantee you’ll learn new words, gain fresh perspectives, and hone your craft. Plus, you never know what might spark an idea.

2. Write.

Every day. No excuses. To hell with writer’s block! Writing isn’t all romance and epiphany; it’s hard work, so treat it like a job. Make time, focus, commit to putting something on the page. The words won’t always be good, but the practice will.

3. Never be without your notebook.

Or your laptop, or a notes app—for the times when inspiration does strike like lightning, be prepared. For me, this usually happens on the cusp of sleep, when chasing the thread of an idea isn’t enticing enough to drag me out of a warm, cozy bed. But, experience has taught me that ideas don’t often stick around till morning, so I keep a pad and pen on my nightstand. For you, it might happen in the shower, at the gym, in the carpool line. The point is to be ready all the time, everywhere. Apps like Index Card, Dragon Dictation, and Evernote are helpful when you’re on the go—and don’t even act like you don’t have your phone with you 24/7.

4. Find your niche.

It’s easier and more fun to write when you love what you’re writing about—and the product usually turns out better, too. At iostudio, content for our Army National Guard client is written in large part by actual soldiers, and it just works, both in terms of writer satisfaction and audience engagement.

5. Talk it out.

When you hit a wall (and you will), don’t hesitate to ask for help. A few trusted peers can make all the difference when it comes to unraveling a story. Maybe they’re fellow writers or editors. Maybe they’re experts on whatever it is you’re writing about. Meet up for a cup of coffee or a beer, and spitball. Chances are, something will stick.

6. Toughen up, buttercup.

Pitching can suck. You’ll get rejected—repeatedly. Even when you get a bite, the published piece may end up looking pretty different from your original submission, thanks to editors. Trust that this is all part of the process. Don’t take it personally. And, never give up. (Award yourself 100 cool points for learning from these experiences to increase your chances of success next time.)

7. Don’t sell yourself short.

Writing is a passion, but the flame tends to burn even brighter if you know you’re getting paid. If an assignment isn’t going to be worth your while, financially, turn it down. Then, devote the time you would have spent on it to nailing down more satisfying and lucrative work. Saying no can be scary, but you’ll thank yourself in the long run.

Know what else produces results? Hiring iostudio to do the writing for you. Just pick up the phone. We know you have it with you.