Six ways to become a more productive writer

I’ve been thinking about how to become a more productive writer. Here’s six ways I came up with that could get the creative juices flowing:

Make chairs

1. Taking the stress off: Too many times, we forget that writing is just like an art or a craft or any other activity. It’s about making something. Would you be as stressed out about making a chair or a vase? Often, if it’s strong enough to serve the purpose (to sit on or hold flowers or convey meaning), it’s good. The finessing can come later or never. Being as worried about it as if you were about to author an epic or the next philosophical tome of your generation is not only foolish but self-defeating.

2. Mapping your writing habit or persona: Do you write during the day or at night? Do you write plenty of words first and then edit or do you fill pages slowly but surely so that your first draft is close to the final one? Are you more comfortable outlining first/ writing down the body first and then working on the trimmings or do you just start and keep writing as it comes? Mapping your writing persona can help you plan but more importantly, it can prevent a feeling of frustration on days when you’re seemingly not producing anything but may be conceptualizing ideas.

3. Exploring the kinds of writing you can do: Many people make the mistake of lumping all kinds of writing together and having a vague idea that they want to be in the writing profession. Although none of these differentiations are watertight, some people are better at critical, academic writing, some at creative writing, some are funny, some serious, some better at logical expository writing while some can do technical writing. Many significant years can be wasted pursuing a kind of writing that isn’t a good fit based on what one wants to do rather than what one can do. At the same time, some of us make the opposite mistake of thinking these areas are completely separate. Common sense is a friend here but this self exploration can  prevent wastage of time and other investments including emotional ones.

4. Setting weekly realistic goals: Based on mapping your own writing habit and exploring the kinds of writing you can do, it’s a good idea to set realistic goals. Realistic is key here. If one has a day job or very young children or other commitments, it will only lead to frustration at the end of the week if one has set up goals one is unable to fulfil. Even within writing commitments, it helps to set aside time for long projects vs. short ones. For most people, critical writing comes more slowly than creative writing. For some, writing comes in uneven spurts. It’s a good idea to keep these specifics in mind while planning to get a periodic sense of achievement and prevent feelings of frustration.

5. Settling for the good enough rather than the perfect: While it’s not a good idea to send out every stray idea that comes our way, perfect has often stood in the way of the good for many of us preventing us from writing that first line or by making us obsessed with revision before sending out anything. Beware of perfection. It’s far better to have a nice, comfortable kitchen chair than the ethereal throne that does not exist!

6. Separating yourself from your work: I  read this somewhere about entrepreneurs who set up startups. Apparently, if you’re too attached to the company you’ve made, you’ll burn yourself out constantly tracking it and thinking about it.  You have to concentrate and write but also distance yourself from your work to maintain your sanity.

Finally, beware of ending up mostly writing about writing (as opposed to actually writing).

I know. That’s this blog here!

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321 thoughts on “Six ways to become a more productive writer”

  1. I’m sorry I found this post so late. It’s one of the best I’ve ever read about writing. Many of your bits of advice I’ve discovered on my own, others I need to think about, all should be required reading for anyone thinking about taking on the label, writer.

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  2. No. 1 is definitely the hardest for me. I was an editor for a short time, and the result is that I now edit when I write. I have a difficult time getting it all down and revising later — which is exactly what I should be doing. But every time I write a sentence, I’m tempted to rewrite it over and over before going to the next. It makes the whole process slow and unbearable — and it certainly sucks the joy from my writing. It’s a constant struggle, but I’m working just to get the words down first, then worry about the finessing. (Note: I edited this post seven times as I wrote it.)

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  3. Some excellent advice here. It is also important to have some time away from your writing before doing the final edit. That’s often why writers have more than one project on the go at one time. If you stare at the same piece of work for months on end you will never see where improvements need to be made.

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  4. Great post! Some I had figured out on my own or from schooling. Some I had a hint about but could not express. One I have to absolutely disagree with comparing chair making to writing. Both can be equally stressful, but one releases much more stress chucking a messed up chair across the workshop than throwing a word processor in you computer across the office. I have also noticed that unlike editing and realizing you have cut a but too much out of your writing, it is easy to add more. Once you have cut a chair leg too short, it doesn’t matter how many more times you apply the saw, it is still too short!

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  5. Those where great tips, set up realistic goals and go for what you can do to oppose of what you want to do. Very true. Know I have to find my writers voice and figure out what I can do after a 11 year hiatus of not writing at all.
    And by the way, I´m sorry you stumbled upon my un paid crazy blog, hope you´ve havn´t had to go to a shrink after reading that nutty thing. Good for me though since I stumbled upon you.

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  6. I’ve been sporadically blogging for a little over a year, and I got my WordPress about three months ago. I finally want to start posting regularly and make my blog an actual blog, and these tips are incredibly helpful! Thanks for sharing.

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  7. the rule hardest for me is “settling for the food enough and not the perfect” sometimes I feel totally OCD crazy about my writing and I cant put it away until its absolutely perfect. Sometimes you gotta force yourself away because when you come back to it, you will see the flaws you haven’t before.

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  8. Fantastic! As someone who is just beginning to get her hands around the concept of “being a writer”, practicalities such as these are good and grounding and confidence building. They were encouraging and great to read this morning. Thanks for posting!

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