In just over two years, I’ve posted 200 entries to this blog. To mark this milestone, I’d like to celebrate some of the advice I’ve gotten that has helped me become a more productive writer:
Write, Don’t Think – Isaac Asimov spoke at my university back when I was about twenty years old. He said that aspiring writers should rush the pages through the typewriter as quickly as they dared. It took the deadlines of radio, almost a decade later, for me to get a good understanding of what he meant. It didn’t mean composing in stream of consciousness mode or getting sloppy. It meant writing without long pauses, without searching too long for a word, without questioning myself too much, and without ducking away for research.
Don’t Confuse Writing with Writerly Things – Kristan Higgins offered a key insight on a time waster. When you write regularly, it should be actual work on the manuscript. This is especially important in a world where promotion, networking, and other career-oriented activities can fill writing time. But it also applies to other activities (such as research) that can eat up writing time.
Screw Them – Harlan Ellison said this less politely, but blowing off the naysayers or even using anger toward them as a prompt to write more and better can be helpful. It might even be worthwhile to post a note in big block letters in your writing area or someplace else (refrigerator?) you’re likely to see it often.
Take Notes in Full Sentences – I never met Ray Bradbury, but this suggestion of his has been an amazing timesaver for me. I no longer waste hours trying to figure out I meant by short phrases and individual words marked down on the back of receipts.
Voice Shows Up When You Write Fast – This might not be the exact phrasing, but Liz Pelletier said something akin to this when I attended a workshop with her this summer. I think it’s true. Too often, labored prose reads like someone other than yourself or comes out in a bland anonymous voice. (Perhaps one that would please your high school English teacher.) Going full throttle releases something new, and that is a (sometimes disturbing) expression of the inner you, unfiltered. It accepts risks.
I wish I could give credit to some of my other productivity standbys – using a timer, writing a goal sentence the day before, replacing a word that won’t come with “bagel,” and many more included in these pages. With each of these, I’ve either forgotten the source or come up with them myself (probably reinventing the wheel).
... I've also gotten terrific advice that's less directly involved with productivity, such as guidance on character development and structure and choosing topics and refining ideas. Not to mention much needed encouragement. Writing is truly a community activity, with many generous hands contributing.
But I’m glad I can take advantage of this post to credit a few people and thank them for advice I’ve both benefited from and been able to share with readers and students.