It’s that time of year again: the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, the pool is beckoning, and you are…stuck inside, trying to make progress on your latest draft. Sigh.
We all know that writing is notoriously difficult during summer—which is partly why we tend to concentrate our creative efforts during fall and winter (such as NaNoWriMo in November and for New Year’s resolutions in January). But just because the weather is warming up, doesn’t mean it has to melt you into a puddle of unproductivity! Besides finding an air-conditioned coffee shop to work from, you can also use certain techniques to help you focus and write faster. And of course, once you’re meeting your writing goals head-on, you’ll be able to actually enjoy that time by the pool, without feeling like you’re putting off important work.
To that end, here are five tried-and-true hacks to help you write more this summer—not least so you can reward yourself with a nice cold piña colada.
1) The Comic Sans hack
You may have already heard about this one, as it’s been popping up pretty regularly on Twitter lately. Some people love it, some hate it, but most have begrudgingly admitted that it works… even if it’s not exactly pretty.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Comic Sans hack, it goes like this. Rather than using the favored 12 pt Times New Roman or Arial to write, you change your settings to 14 pt (or larger) Comic Sans. That’s right; Comic Sans—the eminently mockable typeface, the Jerry Gergich of the typography world—might just be the key to unlocking your creative potential.
The idea behind this hack seems to be that, while “serious” fonts like Times New Roman can be mentally intimidating, “fun” fonts like Comic Sans allow us to loosen up a bit and write more freely. As this article on font psychology notes, Comic Sans was “designed to feel fun and playful, and that’s a tough emotion to resist”—especially when you’re slogging through your third hour of writing and you’d gladly sacrifice your firstborn for the smallest hint of joy.
So when writing starts to feel like a chore, give this hack a try. Swallow your pride and embrace the possibilities of a font that resembles your elementary school handwriting: it might just help you slip back into that carefree mindset again.
2) The FocusWriter hack
On the other hand, sometimes when writing, you find yourself having a bit too much fun—switching back and forth among ten different fonts, falling into a Wikipedia hole while “doing research” etc. If you’re like me, you definitely have days when you basically need a sensory deprivation tank to keep yourself from getting distracted.
Enter the FocusWriter hack. Again, you’ve probably heard of this one in some capacity; FocusWriter has been around for about a decade now, and many writers swear by it. So now are you wondering what the “hack” is? Well, it’s the extra couple of things you can do with FocusWriter to get the absolute most out of it.
Firstly, you can set a timer (under “Tools”) for a given number of minutes, during which you’ll concentrate solely on writing—similar to what you would do for the Pomodoro technique. Secondly, you’ll always want to use the app in full-screen mode to minimize distraction. And thirdly, if you still find yourself thinking about the tantalizing prospects of the Internet, consider using a website/app blocker to restrict your access…or simply disconnect your WiFi.
The result should be a completely immersive, distraction-free writing interface. You’ll end up writing for however many blissful minutes straight (don’t worry, the FocusWriter timer will send you a notification when the time’s up). Then you can allow yourself a break—or if you’ve managed to enter “the zone,” which I’ve found happens pretty frequently with this particular hack, simply reset the timer and keep going!
3) The Tetris hack
Of course, we all need to take a break occasionally. That’s where the Tetris hack comes in.
I’ve experimented with many different types of breaks to come up with this one (well, “experimented” being a generous term for “procrastinated”). As you might expect, I’ve found that watching Netflix or scrolling through social media tends to be a little too enticing (i.e. you won’t actually go back to writing when your break time’s up). On the other hand, meditating or doing laundry isn’t enough of a break to clear the mind: I usually just keep thinking about my work, which doesn’t help if I want to come back to it with fresh eyes.
Luckily, playing three to five games of Tetris turns out to be the perfect balance of satisfying and structured. You enjoy the game, but it’s not so interesting (no offense, Alexey Pajitnov) that you get sucked into it for hours and hours. It requires physical and mental concentration, so you’re forced not to think about your work. Yet you remain in a goal-oriented state, which makes it easier to transition back into writing when the time comes.
In other words, Tetris is just the ticket for breaks, especially if you’re doing a prolonged writing session. I like the Free Tetris platform online, but you can also try downloading it on your phone, so long as your other apps won’t distract you. Speaking of which…
4) The iPhone Notes hack
The iPhone Notes hack is pretty much what it sounds like: instead of drafting on a desktop word processor, draft on your phone’s Notes app. (Any smartphone will do, but I have an iPhone, so that’s how I’ll be referring to it.) This one works best if you’re often stuck on public transport with nothing else to do, but can be just as useful if you’re looking to shake up your general routine.
Similar to the Comic Sans hack, the iPhone Notes hack relies on the psychology that a slightly different aesthetic presentation will encourage you to write—though in this case, it’s not so much the typeface as the associations of the phone keyboard that motivate you. Because what do you use a phone keyboard for? Sending texts—which are typically much easier to write than full-on stories. If you can get into that same relaxed mentality, your writing will start to flow as quickly as texts to your friends.
The main downside of this hack is that you might not have your previous work loaded onto your phone for reference. However, this can actually be a boon if you’re the kind of person (like me) who tends to get caught up in editing rather than actually writing.
And on the days when you find it hard to write anything, you can pick up your phone and just start freewriting, or take a look at some writing prompts to inspire you. Ironically, sometimes letting go of restraints—like your standard word processor and current project—is just what you need to get back on track.
5) The Hemingway hack
Finally, we have the Hemingway hack—named so because Hemingway himself used this tactic back in the day! (Nothing to do with the Hemingway app, though I’d definitely recommend the latter if you have trouble with purple prose.)
All you need to do here is: every time you take a break, stop writing in the middle of a sentence, and ideally in the middle of a paragraph/section, too.
It might seem counterintuitive to intentionally not finish something before a break, but if you already have some idea of where it’s going, it’ll be that much easier to get back to it. If you stop writing only when you’ve run out of ideas for the time being, you’ll feel accomplished…but then when you sit down to write again, you’ll realize it’s a lot harder to start something (e.g. a new chapter) than to pick up where you left off.
Hemingway said, “Always stop while you are going good, and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time.” I can’t vouch for the subconscious part, but I do know that this hack works damn well.
Of course, everyone has their own quirks, preferences, and optimal strategies as a writer. So feel free to pick and choose among these, depending on what you need—just remember that summer is no excuse for unproductivity. Trust me, that piña colada will taste so much better when you’ve really earned it.
Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. During the summer, you can usually find her sitting outside with an iced coffee, trying to will herself to work.