Are you a writer but your manuscripts never get finished? Do you constantly trash your work and start over, draft after draft, and end up with nothing but frustration? Maybe you stare at your computer screen or notebook with complete lack of inspiration or the dreaded writer’s block. If you struggle to finish a draft but dream of a steady stream of completed works, don’t despair. You too can become a prolific writer. Here are 5 secrets that will put you on the path to churning out material like a pro.
#1 – Love What You’re Writing About
This may or may not seem obvious, but you have to love what you’re writing about or have some sort of driving motivation – even if it’s just the challenge of writing to a deadline or researching an unfamiliar subject. Motivation is everything and if you hate or are disinterested in your characters, plot, or subject material then you’ll have a difficult, if not impossible, task ahead of you.
I’ve written roughly 200 articles over 18 months for My Best Life Secrets. Most are about 1500 words. Churning out articles takes endurance and dedication but it also takes love. I love writing these articles. Health, money, success and well-being are favorite topics that I can’t research enough. Because I’m interested, personally invested in the research, and want to help others by sharing what I learn, the motivation remains stoked and I have more ideas than I can ever pursue at once. And that’s just for My Best Life Secrets. In my spare time I write fiction just as prolifically, with literally over a hundred short stories, novellas and novels under my belt. How is that possible?
I am always writing about the characters, issues or subjects that speak directly to me, fascinate me and that I can’t help but commit to the written word. Often we’re told to write about what we know but really it’s a suggestion to write about what intrigues us – the world and people, ideas of what is and isn’t possible, etc. That gets the creative juices flowing more than anything. It’s certainly a major starting point.
The takeaway: In order to write prolifically, you have to love the process or love the material. That’s true inspiration and it wells and wells.
#2 – Toss Out Perfection
My secret to being prolific is 1) doing a good job, not a perfect one and 2) dropping unworkable ideas for better ones. As a result, I have literally hundreds of published articles behind me because I’m not mired forever on one piece.
One of the greatest hurdles for many aspiring writers is the urge for perfection. So many people edit their manuscripts to death or worse, trash them and start over again and again, never getting anywhere. Free yourself of perfectionism and leave editing for later. Just focus on a complete draft. It has to be good enough, not perfect. Get the idea down, then go back.
For my articles, I write a first draft fairly quickly, usually in a couple of hours or over two days at most. Then I read it over once it’s done to check grammar and article flow. After that, I let it sit at least a day before coming back to edit it so that the mistakes will be easier to spot and fix. The article gets maybe a handful of reviews before it’s posted, warts and all. The truth is, even after the grammar and syntax errors get fixed, there’s always something I could have word-smithed better or material I could have added, cut or rearranged. If I obsessed over a perfect article, it would never get posted – and neither would any others. My rule of thumb is for it to be good enough, not perfect. Then I post it and move on to the next draft and the next.
On the other hand, we sometimes try too hard to finish every piece but not all of them are winners. Now and again, I run into a wall on a story or article but I don’t trash it to start again. Instead, I have a special folder entitled “Hamper” where I place the unfinished work. It’s somehow soothing for me to do that rather than delete it or waste time rewriting it. Now and again, inspiration will return and I’ll remove the work from the Hamper and finish it – rarely but it happens. I encourage you to have a “Hamper” file for unfinished or abandoned works. Not everything is a winner and that’s okay. It’s good to know when to put down the pen and move on to the next idea.
Writing so much hones your craft, teaching you how to produce more quickly and efficiently. With each article you get better as a writer. Is everyone a gem? No. Some shine better than others. What’s interesting is that sometimes the ones I think are absolute failures are the ones that resonate most with readers. Because of that feedback, I have learned to trust that my work is good enough if I’ve put in the time and effort.
The takeaway: Strive for good work, do your edits and reviews with a critical eye but know that you’ll never get it perfect because something can always be changed. Rest your pen and say “finished”. Smile at a job completed and well done, celebrate, then start on the next piece.
#3 – Engineer Creativity
Writers love having inspiration whispering in their ears. When the muse speaks, sometimes it feels like we’re merely the typist that the muse dictates through. The words seem to write themselves.
And then there are the days when we sit stuck in writer’s block.
Engineering creativity is an art in and of itself. First off, go back to the first secret – love what you’re writing about. If you’re not loving what you’re writing about, you’ll be hard pressed to create anything substantial. Beyond that, here are some tips prolific writers often use to produce ideas that get the creative juices flowing.
Ingest material. Ideas originate somewhere. They can come through reading or even by watching movies and television. I’m always taking in new material – whether it’s about health and fitness, spirituality, self-development, finance, food or what not. Inspiration will often randomly strike after watching a good TV show or reading a book or news article. That keeps me humming along for My Best Life Secrets. For fiction writing, I get inspired most often by other books, TV shows, movies, and even video games. The most obscure reference in a show will strike me funny and next thing you know, I’m off writing stories for months.
Go for a walk. Ideas need incubation. In college, my best friend and I would go for long, rambling walks in the evenings and come up with all sorts of stories and characters we had so much fun developing together. Similarly, going for a walk alone or with others, or just getting outside in nature can be great for firing up the creative neurons. Maybe hiking, kayaking, swimming or skiing does it for you. You may develop ideas while outside or come back refreshed and energized and find that ideas flow more easily in that relaxed state.
Put your mind to work. I used to agonize every time I had writer’s block, fearing I might never have another idea again. Rather than be neurotic and obsess myself silly, I learned to let go of the stress and anxiety and simply delegated to my subconscious the task of coming up with new ideas. After a small period of time, it always did. Maybe the inspiration would have come anyway but over the years, when a period of rest follows a period of productivity, I tell my mind to come up with the next idea. That, or if I’m stuck on a point in an article or story, I tell it to find resolutions for me while I’m sleeping or doing other things. Sometimes I can feel it working on the problem, even get snippets of ideas forming but not yet ready for execution. Eventually my subconscious mulls over an idea, brings it together, and then it materializes as a workable concept that I dig into. Your mind is programmable. Tell it to hunt out great writing ideas for you.
Switch it up. Sometimes we need a break from our main work. Some writers will right poetry, fan fiction or fluff pieces completely unrelated to their novels, research, etc. That bit of fun gets the energy and enjoyment back and can spawn ideas related back to the original work. Trying something different can unblock you and put faith back into your ability to generate ideas.
Where do you find inspiration most often? Does it come after conversations with others, after time spent alone or in nature, after writing in a different style or genre? Try to prime your creativity by arranging opportunities that support inspiration.
#4 – Make Time to Write
This is a sort of no-brainer but I have met so many “writers” who never write or make time to write. This procrastination goes beyond a busy life. They make time to watch TV, go out with friends, play video games, go to the gym and otherwise waste time. Writing is far down their list of priorities.
Being prolific doesn’t usually happen in 5 or 10 minute snippets here and there. It takes time. Lots of time. Developing a routine may not sound sexy but it’s necessary if you’re serious about churning out work consistently. For My Best Life Secrets, I generally draft articles between 10am and 3pm. That’s when I’m at my best and I tend to dedicate that time to writing anywhere from 2 to 4 days a week. Sometimes, when I’m particularly motivated, I set aside other hobbies and errands to continue with the flow. Writing is always a top priority and it gets hours blocked off at a time – and at the expense of everything else, not the other way around.
When it comes to fiction writing, once the idea crystallizes, I will literally write from 10am to 10pm and start again the next day and so on. I would write longer each day but after 12 hours, my eyes start crossing and the screen turns blurry. Usually this will go on for days or a week, then calm for a day to a week before starting up again and repeating until the work is finished.
Other writers have work hours less intensive – like 9 to 5 or so on. Most published and prolific authors, though, have a day to day writing routine. Even if the flow is low, they still use that time productively to map out stories and characters, undertake research, as well as plan future developments. They are constantly with their work, pen, notebook or computer at hand.
The takeaway: You have to make time to write and for long enough to get into the zone and the words to flow. Few writers can get into that groove if they have less than an hour to compose some of their work. At least two hours or more a day, several days a week, is ideal. A routine primes your mind to focus on work. Once you develop the habit, being prolific is much easier.
#5 – Eliminate Distractions
Writing is like being transported outside of yourself and into a separate world. Distractions keep us from getting into that zone or will jar us out of it. Prolific writers minimize distractions.
Turn off or mute your phone. Calls, texts, emails and social media are top distractions. Eliminate them by turning off your phone or at least putting it on do not disturb so that you’re not constantly hearing notifications. Then leave your phone alone and write.
Prioritize writing. Similarly, to be prolific, you have to prioritize writing over other pursuits that don’t push you forward as a writer. TV, games, chatting on the phone or other time wasters will only keep you from writing. Writing is work so don’t be afraid to turn down social invitations or commitments in order to pursue your writing. We only get so many hours in a day so we can’t do and be everything. Writing, like any other pursuit, takes sacrifice so that we can find the time for it.
End procrastination. This goes back to secret #4 – making time to write. Many writers will find any excuse not to write, even if it means chores they otherwise hate like cleaning the house or running errands. Get into a routine and even if you can’t write on the main work, try to at least use your time to brainstorm ideas, outline an idea further, or in some other way advance the work. Doing this day in and day out teaches you to stop procrastinating.
The takeaway: Where does writing fall on your priority list? Are you doing what you can to eliminate distractions so that you can be serious about your work? Minimize outside interruptions and self-sabotage by engineering your environment and habits to support you. That’s how you remove obstacles to being a prolific writer.
To be prolific as a writer, follow these 5 secrets:
- Love What You’re Writing About
- Toss Out Perfection
- Engineer Creativity
- Make Time to Write
- Eliminate Distractions
When you take these secrets to heart, you’ll find yourself brimming with inspiration, energy and focus. You will start churning out work and each finished piece will inspire confidence and momentum. Being prolific isn’t difficult but it does require removing blocks we generally tend to put before ourselves. Once those are out of the way, you can’t help but be prolific.
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