It’s NaNoWriMo / AcWriMo Time!

It's that time of year again!   Visit our NaNoWriMo Resource Center so that, come November 30, you'll be partying like SuperWriter!   … [Read more...]

The 14 Rules of Prolific Writing

The proper goal for all writing projects should be to “Get it done.” (Not fabulousness, comprehensiveness, to create a best seller, “revolutionize my field,” impress my advisor/family, make a fortune, etc. See Rule #13 on Quality, below.) Use a speedy, free-writing, free-revising technique. Aim for a large number of quick drafts where you make a few easy changes, versus a small number of “megadrafts” where you try to change every single thing that needs changing. (The latter technique wastes time and catalyzes perfectionism.) The proper number of drafts is “as many as it takes.” Use Anne Lamott's “one inch picture frame” technique, from her book Bird by Bird, to avoid overwhelm:  “All I have to do is write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being. All I am going to do right now, for example, is write that one paragraph.” When you run into a problem, don't stop and ponder; solve it via writing about it. Don't research during your … [Read more...]

Why Amazon is This Writer’s Best Friend

Right now, there's a contract dispute going on between Amazon and the publisher Hachette Book Group, with the result that Amazon is delaying shipment of some Hachette books and removing "pre-order" buttons from listings of others. Read some news stories and you might think all authors are pro-Hachette and anti-Amazon. But that is not at all the case. Many of us strongly support Amazon, including famous writers like Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, and Bob Mayer, and many lesser-known writers--like me. One reason is that this is no David-and-Goliath story: in 2012, Hachette, a division of the multinational conglomerate Lagardère Group, pleaded guilty to e-book price fixing. It is no friend to writers, except for perhaps the already highly successful ones. But another is that Amazon has been good to many, many writers. Like me, for instance: thanks to "the Big A," I've been able to create a mini global publishing empire, with books in English, Spanish, Japanese, and soon, Hindi and Russian. I sell hundreds … [Read more...]

Summer 2014 Online Classes

I'm teaching three great online classes this summer, two on writing productivity, and one on weight loss. Online classes are fun, convenient, inexpensive, and you do get loads of individualized attention from me. Check out my Events page for more information, and hope to see you in class. … [Read more...]

Why Tough-Guy Metaphors About Creativity Don’t Work

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the best writers on the web right now, using his Atlantic.com blog and other venues to discuss race, culture, history, and a myriad of other topics. He writes long, thoughtful pieces, and even his commenters can be dauntingly erudite. He's currently debating New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait on whether there's a "culture of poverty" in U.S. black communities, and while the debate is definitely worth checking out for its main points, I glommed onto this statement by Coates: "The set of practices required for a young man to secure his safety on the streets of his troubled neighborhood are not the same as those required to place him on an honor roll, and these are not the same as the set of practices required to write the great American novel." Let's talk about that. There is no shortage of grandiose or martial metaphors for writing and other creative work, and no shortage of assertions that suffering and isolation are the natural realms of the artist. You'll … [Read more...]

Do You Suffer From Marketer’s Block?

Recently, I've noticed an interesting evolution in the writing productivity classes I teach. Up until a few years ago, writers almost always took one of my classes because they were procrastinating or blocked on a book or other work. These days, however, many who take my classes have finished their book: it's their marketing they're stuck on. And many of those who are stuck are indie publishers. What gives? To understand what's going on, you first need to understand that procrastination isn't caused by laziness, lack of discipline, lack of commitment, or any other lack, but disempowerment. Disempowerment means you're not missing anything; just separated from, or constrained from using, that which you have. Locate and remedy the disempowering forces in your work and life, and your energy, discipline, commitment, etc., will "automagically" reappear. Here's more info on how to do that.  So what would disempower an indie publisher? The major disempowering forces are: perfectionism, ambivalence, resource … [Read more...]

Sorry, Kurt Vonnegut, You’re “Not Compelling Enough”

Everyone gets rejected. Even Kurt Vonnegut, Madonna, Andy Warhol, and others who went on to be luminaries in their field. If you get rejected, don't take it to heart. Learn from the experience and move on. Mostly, rejection is simply proof that you haven't given up--which is a great thing. … [Read more...]

Ann Patchett on Surviving Creativity’s Core Disappointment

Ann Patchett has many useful things to say about writing in her new essay collection, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, and in particular about the core creative challenge of surviving the fatal moment when, having finally summoned the courage to bring your vision to life, it immediately disappoints: "Only a few of us are going to be willing to break our own hearts by trading in the living beauty of imagination for the stark disappointment of words. This is why we type a line or two and then hit the delete button or crumple up the page. Certainly that was not what I meant to say! That does not represent what I see. Maybe I should try again another time. Maybe the muse has stepped out for a smoke. Maybe I have writer's block. Maybe I'm an idiot and was never meant to write at all...."Somewhere in all my years of practice, I don't know where exactly, I arrived at the art. I never learned how to take the beautiful thing in my imagination and put it on paper without feeling I killed it along the way. I … [Read more...]

What is the biggest barrier standing between you and greater productivity?

In my case, it used to be perfectionism that shut down the creative process before it started. I spent nearly five years writing and rewriting the same novel chapter because I was terrified of having others see it and judge it. Then - as I got less perfectionist - my biggest barrier became time management. I had to learn to aggressively get rid of unimportant and even semi-important activities to clear lots of time for writing and my indie publishing business. Nowadays, I'm not very perfectionist, and I also have more time. But I still have to watch myself because it is easy to say "yes" to requests I really should say "no" to, and even short digressions for nonessential tasks turn out to be surprisingly big drains on my time, attention, and energy. So I really work to keep those to a minimum. I'm also working on becoming a more efficient writer -- a.k.a. "boosting my writing tempo," as I discuss in Chapter 5 ("Optimizing Your Writing Process") of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific. Specifically, that … [Read more...]

10 Ways to Seduce a Writer

No, not that way, silly!           They're all fine suggestions, but they missed the best one of all: Buy his/her book! … [Read more...]

On The Importance of Going OFF the Internet

Going off the Internet seems a radical act, but for most people it's essential for creativity. The Internet is inherently and continuously interruptive, and that's not a good mix with creative work, or productivity in general. In classes, I quote Jonathan Franzen (“It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”) and other famous writers on the importance of disconnecting. Then I urge students to disconnect by having two computers: a stripped down, "vanilla" one without any Internet connectivity, games, or other distractions. That's the one you write on. And, a "normal" computer where you do all your other work Alternatively, you could use a non-WiFi-enabled computer, and only connect to the Internet intermittently via a cable located far from your writing desk. You can do this even if the rest of your household uses WiFi simply by not saving the WiFi password in your computer. I did that for years--I had no idea what the household WiFi password … [Read more...]

John Scalzi on Why You Should Never Let Your Reviewers Get You Down

The Inimitable One offers a list of one-star reviews of books that later went on to win science fiction's celebrated Hugo award. My favorite is this review of Scalzi's own novel Red Shirts, which actually uses the word "onanistic": This is an onanistic shallow and very disappointing book. Little or no character development. What should have been an interesting short story based on a somewhat interesting conceit has been puffed out to novel length and suffers hugely from the increased exposure. Don’t waste your time or money… The only interesting element was the coda about writer’s block which, I fear, seems to be very close to home for him as reflected in recent work. Also, this review of Neil Gaiman's classic The Graveyard Book reminds us that some.reviewers.just.don't.get.it: I am amazed that this book has won awards — I wonder about the judges who voted for this completely unsuitable book. The book revolves around graveyards, murder, ghosts and a child called Nobody. Being called nobody … [Read more...]

My Most-Read Posts from 2013

My most-read posts from 2013, in case you've missed any of them. Why, in Writing, Process Trumps Product, And Why You Shouldn’t Worry About The Quality of Your Work This is Called Situational Perfectionism Why You Shouldn't Wait for Ideal Conditions to Start Your Project What to Do If You are Stuck in the Middle of a Project Amanda Palmer on Why Artists Should Self-Promote (Bonus: How To Do It Without Selling Out!) Want to Get More Work Done? Then Show it Early and Often Six Things You Should Never Say to a Photographer Live from Kalamazoo: A New Shot at Love How to Measure Your 2013 Successes so as to have a Happier, More Productive 2014 (Part I) (Part II's coming!) Giant Page of Tips for Finishing NaNoWriMo or AcWriWriMo (useful for any writing project!) … [Read more...]

Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler vs. the Authors Guild and Old School Publishing

If you want a super introduction to the benefits of indie publishing, especially over traditional publishing, read Joe Konrath's Newbie's Guide to Publishing blog (and the book derived therefrom) and Konrath and Barry Eisler's Be the Monkey (both available via Amazon). They were early visionaries and vocal proponents of indie publishing who helped liberate countless writers, including me. Now Konrath and Eisler are taking on the Author's Guild, which continues to advocate for old-school publishing (which IMHO benefits no one but the publishers and a few already-rich-and-famous writers). Read their take here. When I was a kid there were all these ominous ads on TV warning against the evils of "pay TV." I didn't know wtf they were talking about but decades later I realized that those ads were from the networks and they were warning about ... cable. (And well they might.) I'm also thinking of how for decades the traditional publishing industry devoted so much energy to despising "vanity publishing." Why, … [Read more...]

Wise Words From John Scalzi About Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Your Legacy

Related to my prior post on why you should take an expansive view of success, here are some wise words from science fiction author John Scalzi, one of my favorite bloggers. Inspired by the recent death of British SF writer Colin Wilson, he writes on why you should just do your work and not worry about your legacy: Gaze, if you will, on the New York Times obituary for Philip K. Dick, on March 3, 1982. It is four graphs long (the final two graphs being two and one sentences long, respectively) — which for a science fiction writer is pretty damn good, when it comes to obits in America’s Paper of Record, but which, shall we say, does not really suggest that Dick’s notability would long survive him. Now, look at the voluminous record of writing about Dick in the NYT post-obit — an index of five pages of thumbsuckers. Pre-death, I find one note about Dick in the index, and it’s one of those Arts & Leisure preview bits. So, yes. The obit was not the final word, because the work continues — or at least, can. … [Read more...]