At the age of 13, I fell in love with Isaac Asimov. Not him as a person, just his sci-fi books. I thought of him as a genius. I still do. Back then, as much as I admired him, I was unaware of the magnitude of his accomplishments.
Over the years, I’ve learned he authored or edited 500+ books. That would be enough to put us all to shame. But, no, he didn’t stop there. It’s said that he wrote some 90,000 letters and postcards to fans, along with other short stories and essays.
And he’s not the only one.
As per our Wiki friends, here’s a list of prolific writers (prepare to be humbled):
After scanning the list, you’ll feel like a lazy writer. You’re not alone.
Prolific writing has long been a goal of mine. I do write a lot. But I’m not quite prolific. I’ve often wondered: How can I write and publish more? Outside of gluing my fingers to my laptop and stapling my eyelids open, how would this be possible?
I’m on an experiential mission to figure out how to make this a reality.
Want to come along for the ride?
I think you should.
I believe we can become prolific writers. We won’t reach Asimov standards, but we can write consistently (whether blogs or articles or books). We can set big writing goals and reach them.
And most of all, we can leave a legacy of words in a body of work that’ll be admired long after we’re gone (or not. But by then we won’t be bothered, being dead and all).
But all of that is empty words without figuring out how. How are we going to radically change the way we work and think and write to make this a reality?
That’s the point of this guide: to summarize the how.
It’s a living guide because this is an unfinished feat. I’ll add more to the guide as I improve and learn.
The guide is based on three main factors:
- What’s helped me boost my own word count over 5 years of professional writing
- What I’ve learned from others about prolific writing
- Habits of prolific writers.
So far, I’ve condensed everything down into two L’s and the three R’s
Here are the two L’s
You’ve got to love what you’re writing. This isn’t optional. It’s impossible to write prolifically if you are not in love with what you’re writing.
If you’re feeling the near opposite of love with your current writing projects, here are few suggestions:
Try varying your topic, niche, even industry.
Again, back to Asimov (this is a real Asimov lovefest, here). His writing varied. He wrote about sci-fi, philosophy, religion. Writing about the same topic can get dull. Change it up.
For example, I believe in self-care. But most people have no idea how to create a self-care plan they actually stick to. So, I’ve been quietly (up until now) working on a self-care plan based on the concept behind nursing care plans. As a former nurse, I have the knowledge base to do that. Voila! Hot, steamy idea sex.
Let’s cool down, shall we?
Can you have idea sex in your writing? It’ll spice things up and re-ignite your writing love (no, I’m not a former marriage counselor as well).
But I want to make something clear. Love does not equal full-time bliss. Just like being in love with a person, there are good and bad days. There are things they do that enamor you and things that make you want to stick your head in a pot and boil it.
Writing is not all saccharine sweetness, all of the time. Beware of that, and don’t give up on projects too soon just because you’re having a bad writing day (or week or month, even).
The more you learn, the more you have to write about. One trend I see among bloggers, especially, is only staying within their niche. Try learning something totally outside of your niche. Take a local class, binge read on a topic for a few months, find a mentor in a hobby or subject you’ve always wanted to know more about.
Never. Stop. Learning. And not just about writing and creativity. Expand your overall knowledge base, and you’ll always have things to write about.
(now for the 3 R’s)
Writing is a ruthless endeavor. You cannot write while doing anything else. You have to shut out the rest of the world to write.
This is me on a daily basis:
No, I won’t scroll through your most recent Facebook album starring your cat (or anybody else’s). Yes, they’re cute. No, I don’t have the time.
No, I can’t gaggle on about Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead for hours. Well, I can. But not if I want to be a prolific writer. No judgment here. Simply make your choice.
Don’t be afraid to say NO.
When I’m knee-deep in a big writing project, I cut phone conversations short, I don’t stay out late (because it affects my early morning writing sessions), and I manage every hour of my schedule like a hawk. I set firm boundaries. I’m selfish with my time. There, I said it. There’s just no other way. Again, make your choice.
Become a ruthless writer.
Write, even while the house is burning down. Okay, this is a stretch. But start focusing your mind on your writing and tune out from the whirlwind of distractions and family drama going on around you (how do I know you have family drama? Simple. We all do).
I have long accepted that my first (and 2nd, and sometimes 3rd) drafts are crap. Utter crap. This takes the immense ‘I’m a professional writer’-pressure off my back, where otherwise it sits, glaring over my shoulder at my screen, hurling harsh criticisms over every typed word.
I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much.
Find your writing rhythm.
Do you write best every morning before the kids wake up? Do that. Every morning.
Or, is your writing game strongest once you set up at your local coffee shop and get high on your favorite latte? Then, do that.
Establish a rhythm and routine for your writing and stick with it. Your body and mind will respond to the rhythm and reward you with words. A plethora of them.
Setting a writing rhythm also helps you to write unconditionally. Unconditional writing is based on writing whether or not you feel inspired, whether or not you’re in the mood.
And the last factor (which didn’t fit in with my L & R sequence): courage
Writing takes courage. That’s sort of my motto. You probably already know that. I’ve written about building writing courage here, and here, and here. It’s my thing. I even offer a writing courage challenge.
Turns out, it was Asimov’s thing, too. Well, maybe he didn’t obsess about it like I do.
He didn’t care about critics. He wrote past any fear of criticism. He was open about his awareness of his critics and how it didn’t hinder him. The more you can tune out your fear of rejection and criticism and turn on your focus and drive, the more words you will write.
You’ve got to write through the fear.
So, what now?
Guide in hand, take one concept and implement it. Maybe you’ll spend this week focusing on writing rough and dirty or perhaps you’ll hone in on falling in love with your writing. This all sounds quite R-rated, somehow.
Pick one concept. Just one. Melt it into your writing life and then come back for another. Rinse and repeat. Doing it this way, one thing at a timet, makes the whole prolific writing idea more feasible.
I’m up for the challenge. Are you? Let me know in the comments.