Positive Writer

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6 Weird but Awesome Hacks for a Happy Writing Life

Whether you’re a full-time writer, a hobby writer, or a writer with another full-time job, you have to admit that being a writer is a pretty good life. On the whole, we’re pretty lucky to do what we love. But…

Writing at a coffee shop for bliss!

But like any lifestyle, it’s got some rough spots, some things that need to be smoothed out. Such as:

6. Get your writing juices flowing early with writing podcasts.

Writing podcasts are a way to instantly connect with your writing self, whether it’s 6:30am or 9:30pm. As a writer with another full-time job, I write early in the morning, late at night, and on weekends, but I still have trouble just jumping right into the writing mindset when I’ve just rolled out of bed, or when I’m tired.

But when I turn on the Writing University podcast, hosted at the University of Iowa, I can always find a topic that gets me excited for words, even before my first cup of coffee.

5. Mechanical pencils are where it’s at.

If you like to write in long-hand, you know that every writing implement has its issues. Gel pens get clogged, ballpoint pens get stuck and pencils make your hands smell like graphite and kindergarten.

But consider the mechanical pencil for a moment. Unless you pump out the graphite point too far (user error), mechanical pencils will never fail you. They’re smooth like a ballpoint pen, easy to see like a gel pen and best of all, they’re erasable.

I know we all like the cachet of writing with pens, but for absolutely hassle-free writing, consider the humble mechanical pencil. It’s pretty awesome.

4. Writing in a coffeeshop? Bring cash.

Unfortunately, I learned this one from experience, and I’m a slow learner.

Mostly, I write at the coffee table in my downstairs family room, but I love to write at local Starbucks when I get the chance (no indie coffeeshops in my fair rural town).

However, developing coffeeshop-dwelling habits can get pretty expensive unless you plan ahead. Leave your debit card at home, and bring only exactly the amount of cash you plan to spend while you’re at the coffee shop, and no more.

Go to a coffee shop for sweet writing bliss. (Tweetable)

3. Keep your preferred hot beverage hot without leaving your writing spot.

Mr. Coffee makes a USB coffee mug warmer. Use it for coffee, use it for tea, use it to keep yourself in your writing chair and not walking back and forth to the microwave to warm up your java when it gets cold.

Just use it. It’s convenient and ensures that a cold cup will never again break your concentration.

2. Put distance between yourself and the Internet.

If you’re the kind of writer who can’t get through a paragraph without compulsively opening a browser window (hi! I’m one of you), this tip is for you. Freedom is a software program (it costs $10 – no affiliation) that will not allow you to access the Internet for a set period of time while you’re writing.

For more low-tech solutions to this problem, unplug your Wi-Fi. I know this seems harsh, but sometimes unplugging it is the best way to break yourself of the browser-opening habit. Eventually, you’ll be able to leave the browser window alone when writing. It’s just going to sting a little bit.

1. Schedule breaks slightly more often than you need them.

My ambition works against me when I’m trying to hit a writing goal. If I say to myself, “I’m going to sit in this chair and not get up for two hours,” I know I’m setting myself up for failure.

I need breaks about every 30 minutes or I’ll run out of writing steam, so I set a timer for 20 minutes, and take the break while I’m still excited about what I’m writing. This is a variation of Ernest Hemingway’s famous advice to stop your writing midsentence, while you still know exactly what’s going to happen next, so that the next time you sit down to write, you can pick up your momentum where you left off. Same idea.

What are your favorite writing lifehacks? How have you creatively solved some of the common problems presented by the writers’ lifestyle?

We’d love it if you’d share them with us in the comments.

This post was written by regular Positive Writer contributor, Shanan Haislip.

About Shanan Haislip

I'm a full-time business writer, an essayist, and webmaster at The Procrastiwriter, a blog about ways to fit writing in around a full-time life (without going insane). I'm also a regular contributor on PositiveWriter.com and contributed to The Audacity to be a Writer. Join me on Twitter at @Write_Tomorrow.

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Like a good friend, Bryan guides you through the process of facing your inner demons, conquering the craft, and creating work that matters. ―Jeff Goins



  • Michael Kelberer

    Nice! And promoting the virtues of mechanical pencils – been reading about writing for a long time and that’s a new one! I’m a fountain pen person, not for cachet, but speed.
    Like the idea of starting with a podcast!

    • Michael, I know I said it in the article, but I really, really love Writer’s University. Even just hearing the carefully crafted speech of other writers – our own tribe – can really get one in the right frame of mind…

      • Michael Kelberer

        I will definitely check it out!

  • I use a ball point pen when i write, and often write in a local cafe which is attached to a farmers/gourmet market and a nursury. The temptation is to browse through them. However, a walk through either market or nursury does give me a break and refreshes my mind. When at home and at the computer the temptation is to surf the net, especially to check out other writing blogs and leave a post, such as I’m doing now instead of finishing the story i began a few days ago. Enough stalling! Off to write.


    • I admire your discipline. I would never be able to stop wandering the market. I’d probably only sit to write sonnets about food.

  • Norm Hamilton

    I too use mechanical pencils. Great tool for jotting notes, getting quotes, etc. especially when it’s freezing.

    • Fellow mechanical pencil user! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Kitty

    I like my gel pens. 🙂
    My area of discipline is telling myself to STOP writing once I get started. It doesn’t matter if I get up in the middle of the night and can barely keep my eyes open. I almost obsess about writing.
    I must finish the next sentence, the next Scene, the next Chapter…
    Since I struggle to find the time to write, my behavior is somewhat understandable, but too much to the extreme. Forcing myself to get up and take a break when the house is quiet (a rare oddity in my house!) feels something like I am betraying myself, wasting precious time.

    • Kitty, you’re one driven writer! I admire that quality; wish I had a bit of it, myself.

  • My fiance got me hooked on the Evernote app. It lets me organize all my “notes” (some of which are whole chapters) into notebooks and it syncs across all my devices. It lets me add tags and edit, lets me add images and audio clips. It dates and times everything and will sync to my calendar so I can search a specific date I was writing or observe my progress over time. I have a notebook for each story I’m writing and in it are character profiles, summaries, scenes, chapters, and anything else that I find story related.

    Ultimately I just find it very convenient. I can use my computer, tablet, and phone to add to my work. When I’m out and something hits me I always have my phone and I can jot down a note or two. I also have a notebook just for great images that come to mind but don’t belong to a specific story just yet. My biggest complaint is that my swipe keyboard is the most awful thing for auto correct, but I’m starting to use handwriting software on most my devices with an electronic pen. I tried out a Surface 3 tablet computer the other day and it is AMAZING. That will be my next writing reward to myself!

    • Veronica

      Sounds great Tess. I use Evernote too and find the email facility very helpful. This allows you to email things you find on the internet to a specific notebook in Evernote. Have you come across that? How do you sync notes with your calendar? I haven’t come across that bit yet. 🙂

      • I haven’t used the email feature yet. I’m really trying to wrap my mind around all the features. I was using it to organize my Facebook habit. I would have a link I would want to keep and I would add it to a notebook or stuff I wanted to get around to (eventually). I will look into the email feature now that you mention it. Thanks!

        • Veronica

          You’re welcome. I am planning to go to the Evernote presentation in Melbourne later this month. Should be helpful. There are just so many features to Evernote.

    • Tess, I’ve been thinking of getting a tablet but I have an all-Mac household here. Did you compare the Surface to other tablets? What made it such a winner? My MacBook is old and creaky.

      • I did a lot of comparison. I’m NOT a Mac person so I kind of threw that out the window right away. I compared most tablets and laptops and found the features of the Surface 3 fit what I wanted to do. It’s a real computer. It’s not a tablet trying to be a computer, or a laptop that has been shrunk down so it’s not really a laptop anymore. It’s a computer in a tablet. It runs Windows and some of it’s specs are actually better than my desktop! You can get all the way up an i7 processor, but you really only need that if you do a lot of video or photo editing. I’m going with the i5 with 8GB ram. It will be fast, and highly effective. The part I love about it the most as a writer is the integrated digital pen technology. It’s really as responsive as pen and paper. In addition it has buttons that do most of your navigating without having to drop your pen. It also has a button on top that immediately opens S Note, so if you wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea you just click the pen and start writing. It really in incredible technology. I also really like the keyboard which is actually magnetic and a cover for the screen as well. The keys are well positioned (unlike some notebooks) and they are quiet (which is huge if I’m working in bed while my family sleeps). It has a built in kickstand. It can also be dropped into a dock that has a full size monitor and hard drives attached, so at my desk (where the dock will be) it will replace my desktop entirely. I’m really excited about it (if you can’t tell). Hope I answered your questions!

  • Amy Morse

    Solution to the internet problem and kill two birds with one stone: head to a coffee shop that doesn’t have Wifi and write there. I’m also a big fan of the mechanical pencil when I’m writing the old fashioned way, or, write the old fashioned way in a coffee shop. Great tips – thanks

    • Amy, I do believe you e described the ideal writing situation. What would we do if we had no reference tools, just our own minds to write from?

      Thanks for reading.

    • That is a great idea and reminds me of a tip I just read on another post – If you’re going to write in a coffee shop only bring as much money as you want to spend and leave your cards at home – or you may develop a very expensive coffee habit!

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  • Veronica

    I love this Bryan. In fact I love your helpful hints and tips and philosophies and … Been meaning to write to you for a while but, at long last, here I am. Thanks for all the wonderful advice. This time: I really like the tips to turn off the wi fi and use a mechanical pencil. I love my mechanical pencil for all sorts of things but haven’t used it for “writing” writing. I’ll give it a go. With the wi fi, I turn it on because I just might need to check a fact or two as I write (I’m a non-fiction writer) and then, of course, I get side-tracked down a seductive alley way of fascinating info and the writing comes to a full stop!!

    • I think we all get side-tracked from time to time, Veronica. 🙂 That’s okay. It’s true though, this post has some great tips. Shanan wrote this one. 🙂

  • Eddie de Jong

    While I was still working in the corporate world, I managed to relocate myself to a ‘lab’ – a small room with equipment and no other people. That’s where my writing career started, hidden away in my own little corner.

    I am now officially ‘retired’ and have my own study, overlooking my deck and garden. Wonderful, stress free surroundings! I can see and hear the birds, and the garden is only a few steps away.

  • Pat Roa-Perez

    I used to believe I could only write when inspired. However, when it happened, I wasn’t always able to write. So after trying different things, I found the best time for me to write was 4 am. Whatever the day’s schedule is, I can always write at this hour every day, including weekends. It was hard at first but now is a piece of cake.

    Most days by 7 am I’m done with the writing scheduled for the day, which then makes it easier to focus on other aspects of being a writer — author platform, promotion, social networking.

    So it doesn’t become monotonous, I change it a little once in a while, and here you’ve given me something new to try — writing podcasts. What a great idea! Sometimes before I start writing, I read a little which can be challenging at 4 am. Listening instead of reading while enjoying my first cup of java sounds pretty good.

    Thanks for the tip!

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  • Going to the library with phone turned off always helps me find some of the quiet time needed to get back to writing