I recently attended a conference here in Calgary at which there was panel about productivity. You may have heard of the man who presented it. His name is Kevin J. Anderson, and he actually has over 23 million books in print. (I'm trusting his word on that statistic...) He's also considered a prolific writer, which is a title I hope to carry myself some day.
He gave us 11 tips on how to become a prolific writer, tips that I'm now going to share with you. Of course, because this is my blog and I get to torture you...I mean, share my thoughts with you...I'm going to give you my own opinion on each of these little tips.
Shut up and write
This one is pretty simple. It's the basic idea behind writing in general. You have to just write. Don't talk about writing, just sit down and write. Get those words down on the paper, and you're taking your first step on the rode to being a writer.
Defy the empty page
Again, simple. Don't let the empty page defeat you! So many writers stare at that empty page and just don't know what to write. They agonize over every single little detail, and can't seem to make that first sentence perfect. But that's kind of the problem, isn't it? It can't be perfect! You have to write the sentence and just let it be whatever it is. If you obsess over that first line, I can promise that not only will it never get written, but you'll get frustrated and never want to write anything again.
Dare to be bad
Not everything you write has to be amazing prose. Just get it down. This falls under the heading of my favourite saying ever. You can edit crap. You can't edit nothing. Once the words are on the page, you can go back and fix them. The first draft doesn't have to be the best draft, it just has to be a draft.
Know the difference between writing and editing
This one I couldn't agree with more, and it's a distinction I made long ago. Don't edit while you write. This is along the same lines as the last one. It can be bad the first time around. If let yourself go back and edit before the draft is finished you could get caught up in the details. Details are the leading cause of books getting shelved before the first draft is even finished. Know when you're writing, and know when you're editing.
Use every minute
If you know that you're going to have ten minutes to write, don't spend eight of those figuring out what the hell you're going to be writing about. Think about it when you can't be writing. When you're caught in traffic, or sitting at the hair dressers, spend that time considering what you could be writing next. It will save you time, and who knows what you can get done in those ten minutes.
Set goals for yourself - and stick to them
Don't let yourself pick some arbitrary date. If you make a goal, you accomplish that goal. Simple as that. I know, I know, I'm guilty of this one too. My deadlines and goals blow by and I end up wondering what the hell just happened. But I'm working on it, and I think it will definitely help my productivity once I figure it out.
Work on different projects at the same time
This one I can definitely do. All you have to do is look at the corner of the page and you'll see my different projects. Unfortunately this one isn't one that everyone can do. Some people are consumed by one project and can't stop until they finish it. Just like anything with writing, these are just tips to be taken with your own process. Don't let yourself feel confined.
Create your best writing environment
Set up your work space well. Make it somewhere that you can work. Don't think that you can set up shop wherever you want and everything will work out, because the truth is that there aren't a lot of writers out there that can do that. Get to know yourself, and tailor your workspace to what works best for you.
Think outside the keyboard
When he first told us about this one, I was really iffy about it. Of course, that might be because he equated it with dictating. I cannot dictate. Trust me on this one. I barely manage to string a sentence together while talking. Somehow my typing seems much closer connected to my brain. Then I started really thinking about my process. All of my planning is done in a notebook, and it definitely helps. If your frustrated at the keyboard, take a break.
If you're stuck, get out in the world and look around you. Do some people watching. Try the bus, or a coffee shop. Become a sponge and use what you see!
Know when to stop
You have to finish eventually. I don't even just mean the first draft, either. You have to find a point when you're willing to stop. Or even just give up and realize that it will never be perfect. Every single writer out there wants to continue editing their work even after it's published. If you never finish, you can never get it out there. Simple as that.
Well, those are all of them. I adored the panel, and I hope that you find some use for it. I like to think I'm pretty productive already, but I think that I can still improve. Which means that I will be taking these tips to heart and doing what I can to become prolific.