Clea Hernandez

6 Ways to Write More, and Like It

What do sketches, kittens, and blaring car alarms all have in common? Would you believe they could all help you write more and like it? Every artist has her favorite tools. Mine involve all three of these things.

Sure, it doesn't take anything fancy to write: just some blank space and something to mark it up with. But like any other creative pursuit, writing can be grueling. Even if you love doing it.

It's all about cultivating habits and staying invested in them. Depending on what motivates you more — fear or reward — it helps to find little tricks to calm your mind and drive you forward in your practice. Take one of Savannah's most celebrated authors, Flannery O'Connor: It's rumored that she used to chow down on vanilla wafers to get in the zone.

And sometimes, it’s simply that you need a little help sorting your ideas, words, and phrasing.

Here are my three most valuable writing practices, followed by my three favorite writing tools.



I recently started this practice after picking up a book in the Focus Lab library called “Accidental Genius,” by Mark Levy. Basically, you write whatever comes into your head, as fast as you can, for a set number of words or period of time. I mean whatever comes into your head. If you get jammed up, rewrite the last word you wrote over and over again until the next idea pops up.

Why does this work? Because it shuts down your inner editor — that voice in your head telling you what you just wrote is crap, knocking you off the idea train. You’ll need to go back and edit later, of course.

Mind mapping. 

I’ve been mind mapping for a few months now, and it has revolutionized my storytelling practice. It’s a visual thinking tool that allows you to structure your ideas and points before you begin to write. There’s also something about the free range movement of sketching that stimulates your creativity.

I recommend making your problem or topic the nucleus of the map. Write it in the center of a blank page in a circle, then write bubbles around any thoughts that progress from it, radiating out in a logical assembly. The Wikipedia page on mind mapping will give you more instruction.  

Sc Tools 1A My mind map for a blog post.

Reading great writing... then copying it, word for word. (No, I don’t mean plagiarism.)

I know, this sounds weird. Everyone knows they should read more to write better, but how much value can there possibly be in hand-writing or typing out someone else’s text verbatim?

I don’t have any stats or case studies for you, other than to say it absolutely helps me better understand and absorb the style and voice of the writer I’m copying. I set a timer and do this for 10 minutes every day. The cadence of typing the words, slower and more deliberate than reading them, creates a precise mental imprint. It’s also a meditative, inspiring, and pressure-free way to ease into a writing session later.

“If I waited until I felt like writing, I'd never write at all.”

- Anne Tyler


Write or Die and Written? Kitten! 

These are both websites that either encourage or annoy/scare you into writing more. Write or Die has a dashboard that allows you to set your session to Consequence, Stimulus, or Kamikaze mode. I use this one when I freewrite (see above), because it forces me to write very quickly or… bad things happen. The aforementioned car alarms will start up, or babies will scream, or fog horns will boom. Even in Stimulus mode, your screen will turn blood red if you don’t continue writing at the speed you designated.

Because I’m a gentle flower, I prefer Written? Kitten! For every 100 words you write, you are rewarded with a new kitten image!

Sc Tools 2 Imagine the masterpiece you could write as this fella cheers you on.


Like a thesaurus, but better. Type any word into the box and you will receive a bounty of synonyms, broken down by their parts of speech. Writing a love poem and need a rhyme for “eyes of green?” Type in “green,” select rhyme, and voila... aquamarine? Jimmy Dean? You get the idea.

Hemingway App

Do you tend to use too many words, like me? The Hemingway app will set you straight. In honor of its namesake, this app will help you boil your prose down to the bone. It also identifies the reading level your text speaks to.

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