Habits of Crazy-Productive Writers

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Everyone cherishes the image of a tortured writer, laboring long hours, crumpling sheets of paper, drinking in a back room, spiraling into depression.

I’d rather be someone who writes fluidly and creatively, while engaging with the world, family and friends. A normal person, in other words.

As a writer, your objective is to be crazy-productive, not plain crazy.

A friend remarked recently that I was the fastest writer he knew. His comment gave me pause — he is as ‘verbal’ as I am, and no doubt capable of writing as well, or better. But many people don’t know how to set themselves up for writing productivity.

Over years of writing as a career, I’ve developed a personal system of habits and techniques that shorten the unproductive parts of the writing process, so I can deliver thoughtful, well-developed work in relatively short timeframes.

Using these tactics, I spend more time in a state of “flow” with my writing, and less time in beating-my-head-against-the-wall frustration.

My writing mantra is: less frustration, more joy.

Great writers talk about their processes all the time. But people don’t realize that the strategies that work for the greats might apply to their own, everyday writing tasks and challenges.

With NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) just around the corner, this seemed like a good time to share my writing practices in this blog. Whether you’re writing a novel, a nonfiction book, a report or a blog post, these strategies may help you become a more productive writer, and have fun along the way.

Here’s the first writing productivity secret:

Procrastinate with Purpose

The first trick to being a fast, productive writer is paradoxical: don’t start writing. Not right away.

More precisely, don’t start working on a draft of your finished product. If you start drafting before you’re ready, you’ll soon find yourself in the frustrating state of staring at the blank page.

Do start priming your brain for the project as soon as you can. This might include:

  • Reading related pieces
  • Researching
  • Talking to people about the topic, whether in informal conversations or interviews
  • Freewriting, mind-mapping, or otherwise exploring what you know about the topic

Then go off and do something else for a while, so your brain can get to work. (You’re smarter than you think you are.) Ideally, wait until the next day. When you’re ready to start, your brain will be primed to gather your thoughts and create an outline.

Productive procrastination plays out out differently depending on what you’re writing. If you have a paper or report to write, you might spend a few hours researching or interviewing people. For a blog post, time spent sketching out thoughts and ideas might be enough to get your brain going.

I’m not a fiction writer, but I imagine that a similar strategy applies: explore ideas and thoughts for scenes or sections in freewriting or mind-mapping before committing them to a draft. If you’re a fiction-writer with a similar technique, let me know.

This post was originally published on annejanzer.com.

Image: NegativeSpace on Unsplash.com

Author, Writing Coach: Writing about Marketing, Technology, and Writing Itself (very meta). AnneJanzer.com

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