Anyone Can Become Productive, Including You.
Productive and prolific writers don’t burst out of the egg pecking at their keyboards. Although, it’s possible Isaac Asimov asked for a second typewriter for his third birthday, but we’ll never know.
Being productive is not a genetic trait you were either born with, or not (too bad).
Writing fast, writing when you say you will, getting things done…these are not personality traits hard-wired into your psyche.
Anyone can be efficient, minimize procrastination, write lots, publish lots and build up a backlist that makes steady, decent money over the long term.
Take me, for instance.
Lemme back up for a second. If you’re new to this site and this is the first post you’ve read, then I must summarize quickly: I currently write 6K words of fresh new manuscript six days a week. I publish a novel every four weeks. I have over 156 titles available for sale. I manage four websites, three of them blogs for which I write all the content.
Yes, I write full time, but I didn’t always. Up until December 11, 2015, I have always (except for one short stint) had a full-time day job and a daily commute that chewed up at least two hours, usually more. I’m married, I’ve raised three kids, and have all the usual family and social commitments and responsibilities.
In other words, I’m very average.
When I first started writing (back at the dawn of time), I was flaky. I would write in bursts, a couple of weeks here and there, then not touch the story for months and months. No reason, just didn’t get back to it.
Even when I committed to writing properly and was writing (more or less) every day, I didn’t have a serious word count. I was already imbued with a desire to write lots, thanks to Isaac Asimov’s enthusiasm, but it was just a slow burning back thought at that stage. I wasn’t putting into practice all the strategies and tactics that enable a writer to produce a lot, quickly.
There was a lot of wishful thinking going on. Not a whole lot of execution to back it up. Taking direct and massive action (a la Tony Robbins) just wasn’t my thing.
In fact, taking any action at all wasn’t something I was very good at. I was brilliant at theorizing (a more sophisticated version of wishful thinking). Eventually, that transmuted to being good at planning.
I couldn’t seem to shift beyond the planning stage.
Writers can be like this. We live so much in our heads, that getting our bodies up out of the chair (or into the chair) is a skill we actually have to learn.
What made the difference? What made me change?
A lot of things, but the major driving force for more than twenty years was a desire that evolved into a raging obsession to quit the day job and write full time. A series of shitty day jobs, crappy bosses and the demoralizing loss of 10 hours of my day spent doing meaningless and thankless grunt work helped the transition.
Now I actually am writing full time, there is a primary drive pushing me into (over)delivering every month: I want to continue to improve my sales, my work, and every aspect of the business, so it thrives.
This is not the negative, fear-driven motive it seems to be. Although, for the first year, I panicked at the idea I might have to go back to a day job. Now, into my fourth year of writing full time, that fear has subsided to a tiny worry patch at the back of my mind. There are so many interesting aspects to building a writing business that absorbs my interest every day. I want to keep the business going simply so I can keep doing this interesting work.
How do you shift from where you are to become a productive, prolific fiction writer?
There are two steps to this process (and it is a process).
1. You must believe that the change is possible.
If you’re poo-pooing my story, and still muttering about “I’m just not like that”, then you have some limiting beliefs to root out.
If, in the back of your mind, you think every writer who reports the sort of productivity I do is fudging their figures, or has a secret hack that makes it possible, you’re never going to become productive or prolific yourself.
There is no secret to writing fast, release lots of books and making money.
It simply takes time and effort…which is not beyond anyone’s capabilities.
You do have to believe you can change, though.
2. You must learn how to be productive and prolific
Productivity and writing lots are both learnable skills, and this site (among many others) is devoted to teaching and sharing those skills.
Find a model to inspire you – another writer who has done what you want to do. Learn all you can about their work methods and how they schedule their time. If they’re still alive, see if you can arrange to speak to them at a conference, or by email or phone. Then adapt their strategies and tactics to suit your style of working and your life.
And if those strategies don’t work, find another model, or another process and try that.
Be open to experimenting, improving in increments, keeping records, and testing, testing, testing.
And become enchanted with the process, not merely eager for the outcome. Love the work involved in becoming more productive and prolific, then no matter how successful you are at improving, you will be happy with what you do.