How Badly Do You Want It, Writers?

Bottom line: before you can be a super-productive writer, you have to want to be. I’m guessing you do, because you’re reading this material. And that’s great.

Some authors write every day; they feel they have to. And maybe finding time to do so isn’t an issue. Others write sporadically, sometimes putting writing off for months, for whatever reasons. But how frequently you sit down to write, or how many words you write a day, doesn’t necessarily correlate to how much you produce.

Plenty of authors who hardly have an hour to write a week put out more books a year than some authors who write all day every day. And while being a “fast” writer may imply you can crank out more books than a “slow” one, that’s also not necessarily the case (I put those words in quotes because fast and slow are a matter of perspective.)

Do you recall the fable of the tortoise and the hare? Who won the race? We’ll talk about all this later on.

So, time does not equal productivity. The trick is to get the most “productive” bang from each minute you write or engage in any writing-related activity.

You may have a picture in your mind of what success looks like to you—and that picture includes having numerous published books that sell well. You may have already written a book or a dozen books, but perhaps you’re not feeling productive.

You may argue that too many things are vying for your time, and you can’t get into a schedule and mind-set to produce on a regular basis.

This is the challenge for just about every writer, and it’s nothing new. Creatives of all types, throughout the centuries all across the globe, have had to figure out a way to carve out the time for their creative pursuits. Much of the time, creative people have to work other jobs to support themselves. Not all of us have the luxury of devoting huge chunks of time to our writing.

Yet, surely you’ve heard of many writers who’ve “cranked out” books while working full-time. Or raising and homeschooling a passel of kids. I know one writer who’d penned six award-winning novels in that many years, wrote and published about six hundred magazine articles a year, while raising and homeschooling six kids under the age of ten (at that time). Not sure why six is a constant here, but it is.

Was I astonished? You bet. Jealous? Oh yeah. I, who many consider crazy productive, felt like a worm when I learned about this author. How in the heck did she manage all that? She must be a genius (well, she is, with multiple advanced college degrees in subjects that would blow your mind).

Okay, I chalked it up to her being an exception. An unusually organized person. Maybe borderline (or beyond?) neurotic. A type AAA personality that would make my type A look like a wet noodle. No one can be productive like that. Or practically no one.

Or so I thought.

Super-Productive Writers Are Just Crazy, Right?

I’ve gotten to know a number of super-productive authors. They each have published more than one hundred books, many of them best sellers. Many of them long, deep books—not eight-page picture books for children.

These authors also find time to teach, raise kids, conduct workshops, tour, go fishing or play golf, keep up a blog, teach online courses . . . and the list goes on.

What I learned about these authors that surprised me is this: they’re not neurotic. They’re not obsessed, foregoing sleep, burning the candle at both ends until they melt into a puddle of wax. They’re actually quite balanced and level-headed. They show no hint of madness—as far as I can tell (other than the usual creative madness).

So, what’s their secret?

I’m going to share some identifiers of productive writers with you. But keep this in mind as well: everyone is different, and what works for one writer may not work for you.

My aim in tackling this topic is to give you as much helpful insight into productivity as possible so you can become the highly productive writer you dream of being.

We’re going to look into attitude, habits, hacks, and practical steps you can take to squeeze as much productivity out of you as possible without making you crazy. They’re the ABCs of success.

If you want to be a successful writer, you have to be productive. It’s that simple.

So get ready to learn some cool things and be open to making adjustments in your attitude and schedule and habits.

I believe every writer can become a productive one, and that being productive brings great rewards. We feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment when we publish a book and send it out into the world to readers. But we feel an even greater satisfaction when we crank those books out and repeatedly thrill our audience that is eagerly awaiting our next masterpiece.

An Important Consideration

I don’t want to ignore this one important point, though: some writers have huge challenges. Some suffer from chronic illness. Some are caring full-time for a loved one. Some have mental challenges. While it’s possible a writer with tough challenges might never crank out books, there are ways for her to at least be more productive during those coveted writing times.

It’s not helpful to lay on the guilt if you know you’re unable to produce like so many other writers. We should all find joy in our writing, regardless of whether we write ten books or only ten pages a year. However, I believe every writer can benefit from exploring these productivity ABCs. Only know your circumstances and abilities. So take this journey with me and see what works for you.

Ready to get cranking? Next Monday, we’ll look at the first big chunk we need to break into grist for the mill: attitude.

How’s your attitude? What attitude of yours gets in your way to becoming super productive? Share in the comments.

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  1. Looking forward to getting the specifics on this subject. I don’t operate at the highest of energy levels, but I am striving to complete projects faster. Learning craft helps enormously. So does practicing better work habits, i.e., butt in chair. I also need some pressure to produce — deadlines are my friend. Since I’m still building my readership, those deadlines are mostly self-imposed. Still, it’s hard to figure out what’s realistic in terms of goals. As for those writers who put out 4 books a year, yes, I’m jealous!

  2. I am a member of various and assorted writer’s groups and receive emails constantly. The one thing I tire of from these emails is the constant demand of DO IT NOW! As I have said to my students, “It is not a race.” I need for everyone to calm down and focus on the art of writing and not so much the speed at which it is done or the quantity of words. Who cares if one is a super productive writer? I don’t. Some of my favorite writers only wrote one, maybe two books, but those books are amazing. I don’t want to be super productive. I just want to write. I will not be pushed. I will do it on my time and no anyone else’s.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Not everyone wants to be super productive, and that’s fine! But many writers do. And they want to know how to make the most of their writing time. I hope you’ll glean some helpful tips via this series that will aid you to write at your peak!

  3. I have my days when I can crank out 2K to 3K, no sweat. The story is moving, I’m seeing the scenes, working in the character, really on fire for the plot. Then I have days where crafting one conversation feels like my creative teeth are being yanked on just to get a line that I will hate the next day. That’s depressing. Usually I find that a day out in nature or just getting away from my desk does wonders, but it’s a miserable state of affairs when the husband asks, “Did you get a lot of writing done today?” and the only answer that will work is to just pull the covers over my head and hope tomorrow will be better.
    So I guess my attitude adjustment needs to take into account the ebb and flow of day to day writing.

  4. I’ve also marvelled at (and envied) super productive writers, thinking ‘what’s wrong with me?’ I know what’s wrong. I am very easily distracted, I am going to have to re-learn focus, and somehow I am going to have to find ways to deal with having a retired husband at home in my once-solitary space.
    Looking forward to your posts on this!

    1. Hi Sherryl, I’ll be talking a lot about distraction! It’s, I think, our biggest problem! Well, it’s mine, for sure! So we’ll be looking at some cool hacks and ways to outdistract ourselves! (And there is always the closet to hide in. I go to the library when my husband is home and wants to practice the sax at full volume).

  5. Two attitudes slow my productivity:
    1. Desire for perfection (preferably right away); and
    2. Insecurity; fear that I’m not good enough.

    I look forward to learning your approach and overcoming my obstacles.

    1. Thanks for sharing that. I’m hearing these points a lot and since I’m now working on the posts about self-sabotage, I’m going to pay special attention to these two key issues.

  6. I enjoyed reading this post! I think so many of us feel guilty if we don’t write every day or get something done right away. It’s encouraging to know what really matters is not speed but consistency and faithfulness.

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