Writing a Book: Learning to be More Productive

Jul 16, 2019 | Better Writing

You become a better writer two ways. You learn to write better content with a simple learning loop. You write. You get some feedback. You do better next time.

But that’s only one way you improve. While you’re writing a book, you should become a more productive writer. Every writer wants to write more good stuff faster. Learning to do that is different than learning how to write better content.

You’re unique. So what?

It’s true that we human beings are more alike than we are different. It’s also true that every one of us is unique. That’s why you must do things your own way.

Sometimes, that’s not much of a problem. Most people are either larks or night owls. Some of us get up early, raring to go, and do our best work in the morning. Other people wake up more slowly.  They do their best work at night, sometimes after everyone else has gone to bed. Which are you?

That was an easy one. There are lots of moving parts to writing productivity. There’s when you write, and where you write, and how long you work at a stretch. Some writers start out with a longhand draft, while others compose at a computer keyboard. Some of us dictate our first drafts. And there are many ways your lifestyle affects your productivity.

Become Your Own Writing Productivity Scientist

What would you do if you were a scientist and you were curious about what makes you productive? A good scientist would observe and figure out what productive writers do. He or she would read advice and tips from other writers. Until that point, it’s all in the head, and not much has happened.

A scientist friend of mine says that all great discoveries start with, “Hmm, that’s interesting.” You may read a piece of advice and think, “Hmm, that’s interesting, I wonder if it would work for me?” The next step is to experiment.

Try your idea out. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, don’t do it anymore. Look for something else to try.

You Don’t Get Better All at Once

You don’t get more productive all at once. You make a small improvement here. Then another small improvement there, and then a third small improvement. Every now and then, what you think will be a small improvement turns out to be a big one. Every now and then, the magic is in the mix of the improvements you make. But you keep making small improvements.

That’s the spirit behind the following quote from Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp. He’s talking about products and companies, but you can insert “writer” for “company.”

“Like product development, progress is achieved through iteration. If you want to make a product better, you have to keep tweaking, revising, and iterating. The same is true with a company.”

Little changes in productivity build on each other and move you ahead. It’s like compound interest. You won’t get a big change until you string a lot of little changes together.

Bottom Line

There is no magic incantation that will make you more productive. Find things to try, then experiment to see if they work for you. Keep what works. Ditch what doesn’t.

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