I’ve finally woken up at a sensible hour and am here, back with my daily habit. Writing.
If you’re on this blog for the first time then welcome.
I want to talk to you today about my insights on how to become a prolific writer.
This is something that I’m working towards doing, with my quest to write every day…for as many days as I can.
I’m roughly on day 105 now of writing pretty much every day – and the year before this (2020) I also built up some decent streaks and I encourage you to check out my blog to see some evidence of that.
Each morning, pretty much 7-days a week – I’ll wake up and blog.
And therefore I want to share my insights into prolific writing:
What is a prolific writer anyway?
A prolific writer is someone who writes consistently and therefore is able to build up an incredibly large volume of work. Writing prolifically doesn’t necessarily mean the work you produce is going to be incredible….
But nonetheless, it’s impressive to be able to produce content consistently and over long periods of time.
Some examples of prolific writers
This Russian born author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University was a science fiction writer who was an incredibly prolific writer. He published almost 500 books…which is absolutely ridiculous. Almost incomprehensible. Outside of this he also wrote an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards.
This all happened whilst he was a teacher and was someone who kept writing well into his 70s and upon his death was given many honours and considered one of the most talented sci-fi writers of the 20th century.
And it wasn’t just books he wrote – he also published over 90,000 letters and postcards during the course of his lifetime.
Upon his thoughts about his own writing, Asimov said ‘ [T]he only thing about myself I consider to be severe enough to warrant psychoanalytic treatment is my compulsion to write…’.
He would enjoy nothing more during his free time to isolate himself in a room and write for hours.
The famous book that you’ll likely know of is I, Robot – as popularised by the movie with Will Smith. This is what put Asmiov onto a stage – when coining the term Robotics (don’t quote me on that).
A Belgian writer (who I’d never heard of until I googled this) has almost 500 novels and novellas to his name similar to Asimov. His most famous work is the creation of the fictional detective Jules Maigret.
Jules Maigret has found his way into popular Belgian culture and is the subject of many adaptations of books, films and plays.
Just between 1921 to 1934 he used a total of 17 pen names and wrote 358 novels and short stories – which is incredible.
He was capable of writing 60 to 80 pages per day, which led to him being considered prolific and altogether his about 505 million copies of his works have been printed, and there are translations in around 50 languages.
Other famous, prolific writers
Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, Ezra Pound, Lope de Vega…and the list could continue – I’m sure there are many more.
So now that you’ve got some context on examples of prolific writers, and what it means to be prolific – now let’s get into the weeds of how to actually become a prolific writer based upon my limited experience.
Some things to consider –
- I’ve never done anything but self-publish
- My writing is all delivered through the vehicle of blogs
- I’ve not been doing this (writing) very long
So do take my advice with a pinch of salt of course.
However, you’ll see from my blog that I’ve got a fast-growing body of work and through shipping daily – I continue to build upon it.
So without further ado – let’s get going.
Build routines, forget goals
This is something that I picked up from James Clear Atomic Habits – to not be too goal focussed – but rather to focus instead on building powerful routines.
It is routines and systems that help you become world-class more than anything else.
Practically – what that means is that for me – writing is a routine. It’s part of my daily life – to get up in the mornings and write.
A day without writing is some kind of disruption to my routine.
In this way – I’ve bake writing into my daily life.
Over the past couple of years – I’ve always been more goal-focused when it comes to the production of content.
This led to a very stop-start nature of writing where I would have a couple of day sprint and then need a break. Or I’d write something and try and hit a specific word count.
These processes inhibited my ability to get into my flow state – which we’ll go on to talk about later.
However, here and now – I wouldn’t even think of writing as a ‘goal’ anymore at all. It’s faded into the background and become part of my daily life.
Previously, over the last years I’d definitely make a lot of fanfare about writing, and writing daily.
Now – nothing. I write in the mornings (the time now is 5.45 am) and it’ll be as natural to me as drinking a cup of coffee.
If this is something that you can build into your writing – you’ll be able to outproduce 95% of writers without even trying.
Because you won’t be ‘trying’ – it’ll just become part of your daily routine.
Aim for one sentence per day
Another mistake I made when I was trying to become a more consistent writer – was to try and write too much.
I’d set myself a target of X,000 words – and I’d get overwhelmed and psychologically burdened by that word count.
If I didn’t make that word count I’d feel disappointed with myself and talk about my writing negatively.
This made it a lot easier to get into a negative loop – or rather introduce this idea that I’d write for a period – and then I’d need regular breaks of a few days at a time.
This changed quite dramatically when I accepted my writing coaches advice which is ‘just write – even if it’s one sentence a day that’s fine’.
So with that in mind – is it sets you free.
It sets you free to have ‘off-days’ – days where not much writing gets done and days where you don’t feel like writing at all – all you need to write is just that one sentence
The power of showing up
This builds upon the one-sentence per day philosophy.
If you just set a target of one sentence per day – it’s not daunting at all – even on the days where you really don’t feel like writing.
What happens then when you have such a low target – is that you also tend to have a higher ‘appearance’ or ‘turn up’ rate.
Great – Deepak turned up to write today.
And what tends to happen when you do turn up – is that you’ll more often than not write much more than one sentence.
And overall – it leads to much higher production levels.
I’ve written several posts about losing my will to write, alongside how to write effectively….
In the main – what’s noticeable about all of these pieces – is that I AM still writing though 😛
Start right now
If you’re coming to this blog for the first time – and perhaps because you’ve got a desire to increase your content output, or perhaps you’re just starting out.
Then I urge you to do that – upon finishing reading this blog – fire up whatever you use to write – Google docs in my case – and just start writing.
It’ll break you free from the inertia of ‘not writing’ – and ultimately compel you to write much more than one sentence.
As soon as you feel the resistance – take a break
This was a big lesson for me. The importance of taking a break – and incidentally – NOT fighting the resistance.
So there’s a well-known book called ‘The Resistance’ in the writing community that many writers will know of.
The basic premise is centered around there being inertia and many excuses and otherwise, that come in the way of writing.
All of these excuses and otherwise are known as ‘The Resistance’ – and that professional writers ignore this and write like a professional. And how do professionals write? – They write every day without fail.
This is the caveat I want to add to Pressfield’s idea – that actually you need to embrace taking breaks when the feeling comes up.
The trick is – is just to resist it a little more each time – and over time the breaks will become fewer and further between
Write At The Same Time Of Day
My body and mind are primed to write in the mornings – and not any later in the day. Anytime I have written later – it’s felt strange.
It feels like I’m doing the ‘right thing’ but at the wrong time.
This is the power of building habits that is powerful when you aim to write prolifically
Build A Writing Ritual
My writing ritual will be having a brainstorm about what it is I’d like to write about immediately before I start writing – and then to do some keyword research on Ahrefs and the like.
I identify a low-competition subject that marries up with what I’m interested in discussing – and then I’ll put that keyword into the top of a Google Doc like I have today:
And then I’ll put my headphones in and start writing.
Listen To White Noise
I have a white noise video from YouTube that’s several hours long (check you’ll find plenty) that I’ve ripped and turned into audio.
Once I’ve done my real brainwork which is doing the keyword research – I’ll put on white noise and do the ‘easier’ work of writing.
But the white noise is the prompt that I’ll use.
Write With The Door Closed
Stephen King talks about this concept and I absolutely love it. It’s this idea that when you put together the first draft of anything –
You’re writing with the door closed – i.e writing for yourself.
This is, to begin with, the most powerful way to write.
Since I understood and heard of that concept – it’s changed the way that I write now.
All of these blogs that you’ll ultimately read are written with 80% of the door closed.
Hopefully, that’s why you’ll see they’re clearly written by myself, Deepak, and not outsourced to a slick writing team.
Writing in this way will enable you to create great work
Write About That Which You Already Know
This has definitely been critical for me.
When I produce blog content – it’s all based upon the experiential learning I’ve had recently.
As opposed to needing to go away and conduct independent research – I instead write about a specific experience or thought that I’ve had.
That’s why – for better or for worse you’ll often see very little from me in the way of external references.
It significantly speeds up the writing process.
Edit Later, If At All
These blogs I write – I don’t edit.
There are two other people involved that help me with that work. That’s my head of operations, Lydia.
She will comb through this and make corrections as she goes – and then Sahil will add design elements.
Between those two it’ll then get passed to our web designer who’ll go on and upload the blog.
So I get to do the easiest part – which is the writing.
Just Do It, Don’t Overthink It
This has broader applications for many other areas.
Federica, one of our internal team members was asking how I find the time to do everything and I reflected upon this yesterday.
The truth is, is that I ‘think’ very little about the work I’m doing.
I really just act upon instinct and that helps me get thing’s done.
The gap between me thinking about doing something and then just doing it is very small.
Especially in those instances where really I have a fair send of what I need to do already – so it’s just a case of sitting down and doing it.
If you can achieve mastery over quieting the mind – you’ll have alot of success with increasing your rate of output.
I’m hoping to record 5-15 videos this morning after this – so let’s see if I get them done 🙂
Myths About Writing Prolifically
You should do it
It’s worth underlining this – it’s definitely a choice. If your writing suffers when you write/aim to write prolifically – don’t do it. It has to have meaning for you. If it’s simply a vanity metric then it’s absolutely NOT what you should be doing
Great writing is always written first thing in the morning
Write in a time that fits your routine. My videos and my blogging all happen before I start my day job at around 9 am. That’s what works for me.
It seems that that is the case for many people I know of.
However – if you prefer writing in the middle of the day or the afternoon then do it.
Several famous writers like Kafka, Woolfe and others didn’t write in the morning but late at night.
More Hours = Great Writing
I definitely see with me that’s not the case. Each morning when I write, it seems that somewhere between 800-1.5k words I begin to feel some level of resistance.
Right now I’ll generally take that as a signal to just wrap it up and not continue.
When I have tried writing after that – it’s felt so painful that it’s not been worth it – especially relative to the poor content that’s then been produced.
Build An Audience
As much as writing for yourself is important – building towards having some kind of audience will be critical to your success.
It’s really difficult to write and not get any feedback whatsoever – which is why getting blog comments, positive feedback and the like will be an important part of your progress.
So whether that means getting paid traffic, or commenting on other blogs to bring them back to yours or doing SEO – whatever that might mean – it’ll definitely help you push forward.
A little positive feedback can go a hell of a long way.
Developing Daily Discipline
I think in the end this is what I’ve managed to develop over the last couple of months.
I almost go into autopilot these days.
It’s not something that I think about anymore – I’ll just wake up, get my laptop and the like ready – and start writing.
That’s why Federica asked me if I was still producing content.
It’s not something I think I discuss with anyone anymore.
I just get on with the actual writing and then tag my relevant team and that’s it done for the day.
Like trying to build any habit – the first 3 months of building that habit are damn hard – but if you can push through – you’ll do really really well.
This has become my realisation with my writing process – and I’m now trying to do the same with the video content I produce.
Well – I hope this has been useful for you as you travel on your journey of becoming a prolific writer.
I can definitely tell you that it’s an exciting journey and a road (from my very limited experience so far) worth walking.
I encourage you to start writing – right now – immediately.
Write something, write anything – even if it’s just one sentence.
And then come back – and try and do the same thing tomorrow.
By day 4 or 5 I promise you – you’ll be writing much more than just that one sentence 😉