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A guide to becoming a prolific writer

Sometime during my awkward teenage years, I fell in love with the late Isaac Asimov. Not him as a person, just his sci-fi books. I thought was a genius. I still do. Even back then I was unaware of the magnitude of his accomplishments. What does he have to do with becoming a prolific writer? Well, he was one.

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):

Prolific Writers

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.

Come along for the ride.

I believe we can become prolific writers. We probably won’t ever 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?

Now, 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.

This guide is based on three main factors:

  1. What’s helped me boost my own word count over 5 years of professional writing
  2. What I’ve learned from others about prolific writing
  3. Habits of prolific writers.

So far, I’ve condensed everything down into two L’s and the three R’s

So, here are the two L’s

Love

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.

how to become a prolific writer

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.

Become a consistent content creator. Join the Content Creation Collective.

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.

Another idea: try mixing seemingly disparate topics. One of my favorite bloggers, James Altucher, calls this “idea sex“.

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?

Or not.

Can you have idea sex with your writing? It’ll spice things up and re-ignite your writing love (no, I’m not a former marriage counselor as well).

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.

That’s amorΓ©.

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).

Learning

how to be a prolific writer

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 Rs)

Ruthlessness

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 a matter of 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, it’s just about the choices we make.

Becoming a prolific writer is about becoming 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).

Rough writing

I’ve 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.

the ultimate guide to being a prolific writer

Here’s an excerpt from an essay by Bird by Bird author, Anne Lamott (please tell me you’ve read Bird by Bird. If not, please do. Soon). Where was I? Oh, the excerpt, right.

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.

Rhythm

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 to becoming a prolific writer (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 in this post. I also wrote about it here, and in this article, too. It’s important.

Turns out, it was Asimov’s thing, too. Well, maybe he didn’t obsess about it as I do.

Still.

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 time, makes the whole prolific writing concept more feasible. Are you up for the challenge of becoming a prolific writer?

 

-Alicia-Joy

Filed under: write faster, write publish a book, writing encouragement inspiration, writing habits

Comments

  1. Great post! I think writing can be beneficial in so many ways. but no, it doesn’t always have to be “polished”. Post cards, letters, thoughts all of it counts. You’ve got to love it but it’s worth it.

    • I totally agree. Not all writing must be polished. It’s important to not worry too much about the final, polished piece and enjoy the process.

  2. I think the best part of this post is the “courage” part. It totally takes guts to let other people read your thoughts and feelings. I’m going to bookmark this for a quick look back when I’m stuck on my blog for sure.

  3. I so agree! This is an amazing list ? I think the love of the subject is paramount, at least in my experiences. I wrote a 60 page thesis and I can’t imagine writing it on a boring topic! Thank you for these other great tips too πŸ™‚

  4. Thanks for sharing this! I have just started on my journey and have a long long way to go! I definitely have the love and learning, a bit of ruthlessness and a sprinkle of courage… but the rest, definitely a work in progress!

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience and advice on this. I will definitely keep some of this in mind while writing!

    XO-Lisa
    http://www.thatssodarling.com

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