A lot of people ask me how I manage to write so much.
‘You wrote a novel while studying at university?! That’s crazy! I couldn’t write a novel in my life.’
I hear those words a lot. Of course, I take it as a compliment; a friendly way of saying ‘well done!’ but it does kind of frustrate me, particularly the second part, ‘I couldn’t write a novel.’ As a writer, I feel it’s partly my responsibility to encourage all budding storytellers to get something written, but 9.9 times out of ten, people just ‘don’t have the time’.
Well, I’ve got a great bit of news for you: you do have the time, not only to write a novel but to write several. No — I’m not voluntarily paying your bills so you can afford a luxury writing lifestyle of beans on toast and lots of cups of coffee. Instead, I just want to you to reframe your relationship with time. That way, you can become a prolific writer.
‘Reframe my relationship with time?! Steady on, Dr. Who!’
Unfortunately, I don’t have a TARDIS. If I did, I certainly wouldn’t be sat writing this blog post. But anyway — reframing your relationship with time and thus becoming a prolific writer is a lot less science-fiction than it sounds. It simply comes down to this one simple and effective sentence written by David Farland:
“To be prolific, just string one productive day after another for an entire lifetime. It adds up!”
So simple and yet so true. Think about it: the prospect of writing an 80,000 word novel seems absolutely unattainable. The prospect of writing a few in a year seems impossible.
However, 7,000 words in a week? Still difficult — we’re accustomed to struggling with 2,000 word studies and critical reports.
How about 1,000 words per day? That’s possible, right? Sure — but nobody could ever become a truly prolific writer that way, could they? Well I’ve got some news for you. If you write 1,000 words per day, taking weekends off, you’ll have a finished 80,000 word manuscript in front of you four months later.
Bear in mind that’s with weekends OFF. Just imagine what you could do if you wrote, say, an extra thousand on a Saturday? Or, God forbid, 1,500 words per day?! You’ll finish the year with a few novels under your belt and have the right to label yourself a prolific writer.
Finding thirty minutes
I realise that life’s tough and has its pressures. Sometimes, the last thing we want to do when we get in from a busy day at work is write, a cuppa on the sofa much more appealing. But how about writing for thirty minutes after work? Or thirty minutes before work? OR your lunch break?
Using my writing speed as an example, I could probably get around 750 words written in thirty minutes. I’m a fast writer though, so round that down to 500 and you’ll finish a novel in six months by finding thirty minutes. You can do that, right? Maybe after trying those thirty minutes, you’ll find yourself in the flow and write for an extra fifteen.
Go on: take a look at your schedule tomorrow. Where could you squeeze thirty minutes of writing time in? Make a note of it in your diary and commit to it. Remember, you only need to write 500 words in that time to finish a novel in six months. Even if you only manage 250, that’s a novel in a year.
And for what? Thirty minutes of work.
This isn’t a post for writers who already have their working methods. It’s a post for writers who struggle to find the time and question how it’s possible for so many part-time writers to be prolific writers.
For a bit of real-life context, I’ve just sent off Killing Freedom to Brenda for edits, have a first draft of a third novel completed, and have just started work on another top-secret project which I’ve been raring to go on for a long time. Today, I managed to pen over 2,000 words. Not a bad day at the office, huh? At that rate, I’ll be finished in under a fortnight.
The secret to becoming a prolific writer? Break your goals down into daily wordcounts and go with the flow. You’ll be surprised just how quickly you work.
Do you struggle to find the time to write? How often do you write and how long do you spend doing so? What tips can you offer on becoming a more prolific and productive writer?
Image courtesy of avrdreamer via Flickr.
Excellent post, Ryan. Thanks for the reminder.
Thanks a lot, Jane. It’s as much a reminder to myself as it is to others — I think it’s really quite easy to lose focus from time to time. Nature of the game, eh?
I sort of view writing a novel (or another big project) as an iceberg. Many get intimidated by its sheer size and consequently never attempt to chip away at it; however, for those who do consistently take the time to practice their craft in a directed manner, the seemingly insurmountable goal suddenly becomes far more achievable.
thanks good buddy! i’m motivated. Now to eliminate the evil in my life. Ha. if I don’t I ain’t gonna make no breads.
For the past forty years of my life, I’ve want to and even dream of writing a book, or an article for others to read but I never have. I feel I can’t accomplish such big task because of not knowing how to master materials for the writings. I feel deprived of information to write about.