8 Ways to be a More Productive Writer that I Haven’t Learned from Any Other List

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1. It’s often not how much we get done but what we get done that makes us feel most productive.
We all have that never-ending list that we frantically race to finish. Don’t even bother trying. See # 2. I have found that it is not the number of items I check off in a day but what specific tasks I got done that make me feel most productive. For instance, writing detailed blog posts that have been fermenting in my head for days or weeks, tackling the never-ending process of editing, and publishing finished work are the things that make me feel most satisfied at the end of the day. They are also some of the most emotionally exhausting tasks so I often find myself procrastinating by mindlessly doing other, easier tasks in a misguided attempt to fool myself into thinking I have gotten a lot accomplished. It never works and in the long run always backfires. Train yourself to do the hard work first.
2. Think of your daily to-do list as a never-ending journey, not a goal to one day be completed.
Resign yourself now to the fact that you will never get through your to-do list. Heard of the game Whack-a-Mole? Items on your list will keep popping up just like those pesky moles. As soon as you cross one off, another two will pop up in its place. Change your thinking and you can take back the power your list has over you. I now add to my list freely without the stress that I will never be done because I know I never will be. That’s freedom baby!
3. Learn to let go of what doesn’t work in favor of what does.
I have listened to many an interview about average everyday people who have found extraordinary success in an online niche. They often like to tell of the strategies they employed to get to where they are today. Useful information and great ideas can be gleaned from listening to these stories but keep in mind that even if you employ the same strategies and apply them to your situation, they may not always work. In these cases, learn to let go and not get hung up on what worked for someone else. Move on to another strategy. You can always go back and try again at a later date. Though there are fundamental smart strategies for success in any realm, each of our journeys is unique. There is no one right way or right order to do things. Figuring out what works for you takes trial and error and no amount of reading or listening to others can substitute for that. Gather all the info that you think you will need, then go do something. Stay fluid and don’t be afraid to change course if necessary.
4. Get it Out of Your Head and Down on Paper
Your beautiful brain can only hold so much. It can get crazy and cluttered in there real fast. When this happens, overwhelm and panic have a way of taking over. Bad decisions and an inability to focus inevitably follow. One remedy for this is to always keep a note pad handy and as soon as the pinging thought enters your cerebral cortex, get it down on paper. It works!
5. If you will be citing sources, cull and curate ALL research BEFORE you start writing
There is nothing worse than having to write an article or blog post on an unfamiliar subject and panicking about where you will obtain the necessary sources. Always research, cull and curate your sources first. Next, I like to take detailed notes and form an outline. With everything in front of me, it becomes much easier to clarify my thoughts, write the piece and cite my sources. The entire process goes much more smoothly and I learn far more about the subject.
6. Write something every day, even if it’s just a grocery store list.
This is not about perfection. Contrary to popular opinion, you do not have to churn out a perfect article or blog post every day unless that is your goal. If you do not contribute to the book you are in the process of writing every single day, it is not the end of the world. I do however recommend writing something, in any form. A journal entry, list, note to your spouse not to forget to put out the trash, anything.
7. Read. Every. Single. Day.
Reading won’t necessarily make you a better writer per se. You have heard of the Principle of Specificity, haven’t you? It will give you a much broader view of writing styles and a greater understanding of how they differ. It may also offer you valuable insight into what type of writing you would most enjoy. I also suggest mixing genres for both fun and additional smarts.
Be selective about whom you choose to write for.
I know how tempting it is to want to publish your babies so badly that you would settle for any forum just to make it happen. I have been there. But, where you choose to publish is just as important as what you publish. After a seemingly endless parade of literary rejections, I sort of lost my moral compass for a while. I felt that wherever I could publish my wares was good enough. I needed to build street cred so why not? Not so fast! I learned that some publishing credits can work against you depending on whom you ask. Writing for content mills can slam doors shut in your face just by admitting to having written for them. You think you are trading crappy to no pay for experience but it doesn’t always work to your advantage. I learned this the hard way. They are still an OK place to get your feet wet, practice skills, and perhaps make a few bucks but heed the warning that some experience might not be viewed as positive.