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 canΒ  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: IΒ  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.Β  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!

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

  1. Great advice! No two have the same writing process, but everyone must put some distance between themselves and their work. If only because the work is either going to be praised or torn apart, and neither is good for you.

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  2. Reblogged this on Critical Margins and commented:
    Here’s a reminder from bottledworder about how to avoid getting stuck as a writer. It’s possible to be a more productive writer by remembering these common sense things.

    This morning, I have a request: don’t read this blog (or any other blogs). Go write! Turn off the computer if you have to. Just write something (anything!) and come back later to share it.

    –Kevin

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  3. ” Would you be as stressed out about making a chair or a vase?”
    Yes, I think I would be, if I had a strict deadline to stick to; the person who commissioned the chairs or vase to be made told me nothing about what kind of chairs they want and I only had the vaguest idea of what their tastes are; and I wasn’t sure where to go with it, because it was extremely important that I please them and I don’t want to spend so much time on this chair only for the completed product to be rejected by the person who asked me to make it.
    In the process of mapping out my writing style last week (it’s on my blog), I realized that there is nothing 100% constant about how I create. It really depends on the nature of what I am writing, who I am writing it for, and my emotional state around that time.

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  4. I know this was probably written originally with blogs in mind but I like all of your rules and can completely relate it to my main adventure at hand which is to write my novel!
    *lets out a very girly yaaaay*

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  5. Great advice. Clear and well-written I liked the part about not ‘writing about writing’ too much. The same goes for reviewing on critiquing websites – you can easily end up spending more time reviewing other people’s work than writing your own… speaking from experience πŸ™‚

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  6. As someone that is fairly new to blogging other than to just put a personal thought down here and there, you gave some great advice. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge.
    Easter Ellen

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  7. Lots of good advice! I too struggle with #5. Interestingly, yesterday I was reworking a piece to submit to an anthology, and before I got down to serious business, I looked over the comments that my writing group members had made. I was amazed at how different they were! One person said to get rid of the gerunds, another warned me about exclamation points, and still another chastised me for mentioning the skin color of the protagonist without also mentioning everyone else’s complexion. Still another pronounced it “wonderful.” What I’m saying is that writing is a process, one that we’re always working through.

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  8. Another great post on a great blog! Your musings about writing are interesting and (like this one) really practical and educational. Always great to read another writer’s blog. Thanks, too, for stopping by and liking mine πŸ™‚

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  9. Number five reminds me of this quote by Anne Lamott: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. ”

    Thanks for the list!

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  10. Hi,

    Thank you for liking the “My new balancing act…” post on my arnnarn.com blog. Sorry for taking so long in responding, but now that the book is out I can take care of other responsibilities. Hope you come back soon.

    Bruce

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  11. I like the idea of setting goals. I have started to set goals on writing a certain amount of time daily. Another goal might be to finish a certain piece within a specific space of time. Yes, that is a very good principle to follow.

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  12. Pretty good advice overall, but there’s one point I’d add that new writers need to know about: Your writing will never improve until you start writing. A lot of people don’t write because they’re not good at it and they don’t understand writing requires practice, just like everything else!

    There’s nothing wrong about ending up writing about writing, someone has to write that too.

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  13. One thing I’ve discovered is that when I’m deeply in a writing spree, I’m nearly irritated to the point of clawing skin if I get interrupted, so I’ll hit the computer at work two hours before we open, clear my thoughts and start going, and plug in the earbuds, listening to music that targets what I’m writing at that moment. What sucks, is some days that writing spree can run all day, sometimes 11 hours at a time. (Did I mention my day job’s boring?) But that’s when I do my best work.

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  14. I really like this piece. I think you hit on some really sensible strategies. I especially like the part about having some distance between your identity and what you write. Ultimately I think there are larger forces acting through our words. Heres a really interesting TED talk that deals with that:

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  15. Rather good post here. I found out more writers burn themselves out in the early stages. [Which leads to writers blocks and loss of passion to what they are writing].

    How ever, I have never planned out any stories nor took it easy.lol. I just get on with it. But I know going out and enjoying certain hobbies, that help relax yourself, does work out better. Sleep and a decent meal can too.

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  16. Enjoyed this article very much. Even when we know ourselves, our writing can always surprise us. I was ever the outliner then one day, inspiration struck and I was fly-by-pants girl. It didn’t last but at least I listened and tried. Thanks!

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  17. Thanks for visiting my blog and introducing me to yours. Lots of great advice here – I’m looking forward to reading more from you!

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  18. So much good, practical advice. You’re right — all types of writing has different approaches and takes a different frame of mind. I loved writing copy for brochures and newsletters, writing for space and now creative short stories and novels. Technical writing was NEVER one of my fortes. Enjoy your blog very much!

    Like

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