Friday Roundup: Writing Hacks Edition

This is what we call a Sunday roundup.

I spent Friday from 4am until past 12am on Saturday either at an airport (16 hours) or in the sky (four hours). 

I suppose I spent Saturday emerging from the rabbit hole.

On days like those it is very difficult for me not to beat myself up over lack of productivity. I wonder if listlessness strikes me particularly hard or if this is normal for everybody?

On some days I just…can’t.

Which I hate admitting because I spend so much time writing about productivity hacks and how to overcome lack of motivation. But that is why I write about it—to keep myself accountable…

park bench with "whatever nevermind" written on it

As Seneca says:


“So listen to me as if I were speaking to myself. I’m…calling you in to advise me as I have things out with myself.”


Maybe you can find some useful nuggets in here, too. Can the sick not administer to the sick?

I hit these lethargy valleys about once per month, and I wonder if I should start planning for them and setting the time aside as specifically non-creative periods.  They can be the 4-5 days during which I focus on reading or tackling mindless tasks like cleaning or organizing my inbox.

Does something like this happen to you, too? Is anybody out there?

Let’s move on from the boo-hoo, though, for indeed I do have a roundup and a rather writerly one to boot.


The Sunday Friday Roundup:

Writing Hacks Edition

1. Hemingway App Editor

2. Big Notebooks

3. Forest App

4. Inversion Tables

5. Scribophile


1. Hemingway App Editor

Self described as a tool to make your writing “bold and clear,” the Hemingway App is an excellent tool for the writer’s arsenal.

It’s not that I believe we should all write like Hemingway; I live for flowery language and his is definitively not that. But sometimes it’s too much, especially for novice writers with romantic notions of literary prowess (like me).

Certainly I don’t recommend taking all the suggestions on the Hemingway Editor, but it’s a solid second opinion on your work. To use it, just copy and paste your text and give it a second to scan.

It uses a colored system to highlight:

-Dense or complex sentences

-Long sentences

-Superfluous words (adverbs or “weakening phrases” like perhaps)

-Passive voice

Tech Tools for Writers gives a great how-to for the app, but it’s pretty self-explanatory if you just head to the site.


2. Big Notebooks

Whether you’re a writer or not, journaling every day is important. That is a fact from god. If you find it difficult to begin this habit, allow me to first recommend doing it first thing in the morning as part of a routine.

Why is routine important? Click here to find out.

Further, as Julia Cameron points out in The Artist’s Way:


“Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.”


Another tip to get you started is trying the five-minute journal method. Check out Sam Davies’ post on its breakdown and to get a free template.

I have my faithful morning journal, typically the Moleskine Classic 5 x 8.25”, but recently a friend (Hey Nick!) gave me a big beautiful Capri Designs Sarah Watts sketchbook for Christmas. It’s too big for my journaling style, but I started using it for abstract thoughts and drawings.

Now I’m addicted. I’ve dubbed it my Night Journal because it tends to serve as a dumping ground for “nighttime” thoughts. The darker, emotional, sleep-tinged things that flit through my mind at the end of the day. It’s cleansing in its way and also forms itself into a nice little piece of overall art to page through later on.

big notebook drawing

I blurred out this pic because I’m not quite ready for you to see how crazy I am, but this is the gist of my big notebook pages

Fearing its completion, I recently purchased the Strathmore 400 Series 9×12, which half the price and probably will be easier because it’s spiral-bound. Probably.


3. Forest App

If you like the Pomodoro Technique for accomplishing tasks, then Forest App is gonna be your jam.

Pomodoro isn’t for me because when I’m in a flow state, I want to stay there. Twenty-five minute bursts are too short for me since I have such difficulty refocusing. Probably I’m not the only ADD person who would say this.

Instead, I usually go for bursts just short of an hour, because I usually have to pee every hour. TMI?

What I like about Forest App is that it hangs out quietly up in the toolbar of Chrome and I can just click a small icon to begin a 50-minute segment of work. Meanwhile, a virtual tree begins to grow.

If I successfully complete the segment, I get to keep the tree, and the more trees I get the bigger my forest grows. If I visit blacklisted websites (facebook, gmail, or whatever you choose) or if I don’t complete the segment, the tree DIES.

In the same way I cared as a child whether my stuffed animals were sitting comfortably with their fellow stuffed friends, I care about this completely non-sentient forest. It’s kind of like having a coach. If you put me out on the field with no structure, I will quickly find the nearest patch of dirt and begin drawing in it with my shoe.

Give me some structure, though, (in this case it’s just knowing I have 50-minutes per work block), and I will play the game.


Sidenote #1: If you work at a desk, it’s extremely important to stretch consistently. If you know any  writers, you’ve maybe seen their permanently-hunched shoulders. I don’t want permanently-hunched shoulders, so stretching during every work break is part of my preventative routine. For some reason, if I don’t work with a timer, this habit tends to slip down the drain.

This gal’s accent is great and her stretches are too:

Sidenote #2: Try to use this app on your internet browser or a non-phone device because we all know you don’t need more excuses to be checkin’ that phone.


4. Inversion Table

Hey, since we’re talking about posture and whatnot, it’s a good time for me to mention inversion tables.

Tim Ferriss, the guru of self-experimentation and thorough research, recommends inversion techniques for back health, so I blindly believe him and have found one for $30 on Craigslist.

It’s tough to find definitive research on the topic (share your thoughts in the comments!), but it seems to make sense in the same way that downward dogs are good for you.

As a bonus, turns out inversion tables are extremely meditative. There’s nothing quite like it to magically empty my mind (except for maybe alcohol, which is much less preferable).


5. Scribophile

If you’re a new writer, Scribophile is SO GREAT. One thing I do not like is asking friends to critique my work. It’s uncomfortable, but also, they’re less-likely to be able to give unbiased opinions.

Posting your work to Scribophile will garner you completely random critiques and reviews.

It’s hit or miss, but the more street cred you rack up, the more likely you are to have better readers. And even if it’s a not-so-good review, it’s still an opinion on your work, and I tend to think that’s a good thing (even when it’s bad).

Oh, and it’s free. You’ll have to put in your time critiquing other people’s work (which can be quite tedious depending on the writing level) to earn points, and with these points you can gain clearance to post your own work.

If you’re a hyper-meticulous editor like me, you might have to find ways to curb this so that you don’t spend more time editing other people’s work over your own.

two journals and a pen between

get the work off the paper and out into the world with Scribophile

To keep things fair, Scribophile makes it so your work is listed at the top of the batch until it gets at least three long critiques.

Plus there’s a whole community component, a nice salve for writer’s isolation.

There you have it. Excuse my tardiness—let it ne’er happen again!

Since this roundup mostly deals with writer hacks, leave a comment for things I’ve left out or whatever helps you to stay productive!

Happy trails!


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