by Sarah Cy
Have you ever noticed that many of the world’s most successful writers are also the most prolific?
- Horror writer, Steven King famously writes 2,000 words a day, and over the course of his career he’s written nearly one hundred books (and counting).
- Romance writer, Barbara Cartland produced over 720 novels in 75 years, winning a Guinness World Record for most novels written in a single year (23!).
- And celebrated Sci-Fi writer, Isaac Asimov produced 500 published works in his career, writing in a variety of forms, from books to short stories, screenplays, and more.
What about you? How many books/articles/screenplays have you written so far?
What? Less than 500? Tsk. Tsk.
Just kidding. It’s okay if you feel like you can’t quite compete with King, Cartland, or Asimov. Writing that much, after all, is not easy. And we all have lives to live, families to spend time with, bodies to take care of.
But guess what? So did King, Cartland, and Asimov (and many other writers like them).
You can become a more prolific writer than you are right now, if you follow these four tips:
1) Gather (a Lot of) Ideas
Writers need ideas the way bricklayers need bricks. Without them, we have nothing to write about. But fortunately for us, ideas are everywhere. Here are three great places to find them:
The most obvious places to look for your next brilliant idea, is previously existing content: books, audiobooks, podcasts, Youtube videos, classes, etc.
Anytime you are consuming content, turn on your writer brain and keep a notebook to catch the thousands of stray ideas that may be triggered by your reading.
Mine your own and others’ stories for valuable material.
People love to talk about themselves, so not only will you collect fascinating ideas for your writing, you’ll be doing them a huge favor if you take the time to listen. Win-win!
Another place to look for ideas is in the comments and reviews section on Amazon, Goodreads, or writing blogs.
Writing is about serving reader’s needs and answering their questions. So find out what those needs and questions are — straight from the horse’s mouth.
Your collection system
Don’t forget to use a note-taking system to capture and organize ideas. You need to be able to review and access your raw material quickly and easily when you start writing.
2) Limit Yourself
In one Calvin and Hobbes comic, Hobbes asks Calvin when he will finish writing his story.
Calvin says, “I’m waiting for inspiration.”
Hobbes asks what that entails. Calvin replies: “Last-minute panic.”
Can you relate? There is something about last-minute panic that brings out the “best” in us.
But why wait for outside deadlines when you can create your own? The following are two practical ways to do just that:
Limit your time and/or word count
Give yourself three months to finish your first draft, set a timer to write two pages in ten minutes, or set a daily minimum word count goal.
The key is to make the limit real. For example: some people post goals on social media, or giving their friend a check to their least favorite charity with instructions to mail it if they don’t hit the goal.
If you’re feeling sadistic, you can also try Write or Die, which deletes your work if you stop typing.
Limit your environment
Get rid of distractions. Clean your physical and virtual spaces. Clear your table, your desktop, and extra internet tabs.
Keeping yourself focused will go a long way toward helping you write more than you thought possible.
3) Work on Multiple Projects
Have you ever watched eating contest competitors consume a beverage or side dish alongside the main item?
It doesn’t make sense, at first — shouldn’t they be trying to conserve stomach space?
But there’s a reason for this: Variety.
Eating a massive amount isn’t easy, but add to that the mind-numbing sameness of one food-type, and it’s enough to make a person throw in the napkin…er, towel.
It’s the same with writing.
If you want to be a prolific writer, you should have a few works-in-progress going at the same time.
That way, when you don’t feel like writing your novel, you can switch to poetry.
When blogging bores you, you can brainstorm songs for your musical.
When editorials make you scream, you can work on your short stories.
It helps if the different projects you are working on are creative in different ways. You can even work on projects in different languages.
Novelty gives your writing brain a second wind, so use variety to prevent boredom and increase your productivity.
4) The Most Important Tip: Plan Ahead
If you’re serious about writing, you will need to know what writing project you are working on and set aside time to get it done.
According to Hofstadter’s Law, people tend to underestimate the time it takes for them to accomplish large projects (such as novels).
But people also procrastinate to fill time (Parkinson’s Law). Experiment with your writing speed and find out what works for you.
Consider your health as well: It’s hard to write when you’re sick or tired. So plan to get enough sleep, exercise, and family time to keep your brain running.
Why Should You be a Prolific Writer?
Prolificacy is practice. Practice leads to skillful writing, and skillful writing leads to success.
Of course, writing prolifically is not your main goal as a writer. But mastering prolificacy can help you achieve other goals—reaching more readers, earning more money, etc.
Being a prolific writer is a matter of will and skill, and you can be more productive than you currently are, if you so desire.
So what are you waiting for?
The world is looking forward to your next book…and the next…and the next…and the next…
You got this!
Do any of these resonate with you? have you tried any of them?
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Sarah Cy is a blogger, copywriter and writing coach. Her mission is to inspire readers and writers through succinct, sincere, (and sometimes silly) writing. Get her free Write Purpose Manifesto to learn about writing to change lives--including your own!