Getting the Most from Writing Tips

Dec 5, 2016 | Better Writing

They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!

Writers love to tell other writers how they should work. And writers suck up tips from everywhere looking for the magic one that will make the big difference. That’s why there are swarms of writer’s tips in places like Twitter and Facebook and a gaggle of blog posts.

Here are some thoughts on how to get the most out of this tidal wave of ideas.

There Are Two Kinds of Writing Tips

There are two kinds of writing tips, and they are qualitatively different. There’s advice about how to cobble together a manuscript. That usually comes in book form, like Stephen King’s excellent book, On Writing.

The other kind of writing tips are about productivity. How to get more out of your day. How to crank out more deathless prose than you ever have before. They’re the tips you’re most likely to find on places like Twitter and Facebook.

Productivity Is Personal

A couple of years ago, I read a marvelous book called Daily Rituals. It’s about the work habits of writers, artists, etc. Many reviewers of the book identified patterns that suggested ways any writer could work more effectively. I saw something different.

I noticed that the way people worked varied immensely. Some people loved to work in the morning, others preferred to stay up late. Some people wrote every day, others did not. Some did their work with people all around them, at home or at an office someplace. But others needed to retreat to a special writing place.

I could go on, but you get the point. Another person’s key to productivity may just be a waste of time for you. So how do you sort it all out, especially when the tips come flying at you in swarms?

Know Yourself

Start by knowing a little bit about yourself. When do you work best? What conditions have always brought out the best in you? Those things probably won’t change. I know they haven’t changed for me over the course of several decades. Once you know the things about how you work, be selective in the tips that you consider.


Try out a tip and make notes about how it works. How do you feel? How many words did you produce? How good were they? Essentially, you want to see if adopting a particular productivity tip will actually make you more productive.

Play the Long Game

If you keep notes on your experiments and what works and why, you’ll make wiser choices about what tips to experiment with next. Learning to be more productive isn’t something you do once and then become productive for all time. You’ve got to work at constantly. Mostly you get better through a chain of small improvements.

Bottom Line

If you make experimenting with productivity a habit, you’ll keep improving. You’ll write more and write better. And that, after all, is the goal.