Samuel Johnson once stated that you would need to be a ‘blockhead’ to write for money and there are certain weeks, nay months, where I would be inclined to agree. Writing is deemed to be ‘easy’ and by extension, it is assumed that writing well is also relatively simple; why else would companies offer a pittance for writing services in comparison to what is paid for website design etc? Unless you have a love for writing to begin with, it is so unrewarding that most people believe it isn’t worth the effort.As I write this article from a cardboard box and look to catch the eye of a passer-by with my Styrofoam cup (and noting that the cup contains more cash than I get from writing), it is hard to argue with that sentiment. However if you’re hopelessly addicted to writing like the Romantic poets were addicted to opium, the best solution is to write more. While there is no substitute for quality writing, increasing your productivity is never a bad thing so below, I look at ways in which you can become a more prolific writer and hopefully, a better one. All I ask is that you don’t churn out god-awful novel after turgid novel like they did back in the Victorian age.
This falls into the ‘Captain Obvious’ category but it is a tip that is ignored by most writers. While some benefit from writing huge amounts in short periods of time, the majority of people work best when writing bits and pieces each day. It is a practice that has worked for many successful authors including George Bernard Shaw who reportedly wrote ‘5 pages’ a day no matter what and Anthony Burgess claimed that he wrote 2,000 words at least on most days, irrespective of how much he had to drink and following in the footsteps of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Flannery O’ Connor, Burgess liked a tipple! Admittedly, Burgess was misdiagnosed with a terminal illness and this sort of forced his hand as he thought he was going to die and he wanted to leave a legacy of work to make money for his wife. Hopefully, such drastic action will not be required on your part!
Once you get used to it, you’ll find that the act of writing actually results in new ideas being formed quite unexpectedly. Personally, I aim for 5,000 words a day from Monday to Friday and while this is easy on days when I have lots of work to get through for clients, it gets considerably tougher when I don’t have any deadlines. You’ll find that life has a habit of getting in the way but you’ll also discover that with a little bit of self-discipline, most seemingly insurmountable obstacles are really little more than minor hurdles.
One of the biggest time consuming activities is browsing the Internet and I am as guilty of that as the next person. Although you can use the Internet as a means of breaking the monotony of writing and for sourcing ideas, you must begin to limit the time you spend online. There is no better feeling than reaching your daily quota by midday as you feel both smug and fulfilled for the rest of the day (or perhaps that’s just me!)
The best writers manage to strike a balance between how much they write and how much they read. In my line of work, this kind of takes care of itself since I have to read quite a lot of articles and research papers to come up with the material I need for my clients and my personal blog posts. There is simply no better way to come up with ideas than through the process of reading. This also goes for fiction writers as well. Last night, I began reading The Great Gatsbyfor the third time and by the end of chapter 1, I had already come up with ways to improve my first novel The Automaton Empire (which will hopefully be available on Amazon during the year).
From talking to fellow writers, I gather that the biggest reason why people don’t like to write is that they are ‘perfectionists’ or in other words, lazy. Saying you’re a perfectionist is an easy cop-out because you continue to procrastinate rather than getting on with the job at hand. First of all, you need to not only love writing; you must love YOUR writing. This makes it easier to look at and edit when the time comes.
Secondly, don’t hesitate, plan or wait for the ‘right moment’ because all you’re doing is wasting time that could be spent writing. Even if what you end up writing is a jumbled mess of unusual thoughts, it is still far better than a blank sheet. Perhaps one of the reasons we’re so reluctant to write in the first place is the **fear **that what we create turns out to be utter garbage. There is something soul-destroying about finding that your rich tapestry of ideas looks like raw sewage on the page. One way to deal with this problem is to simply accept everything that ends up on the page at first and only switch into critical mode once you sit down to edit.
There is a huge disparity between the number of people who want to write and those who ultimately follow through. I don’t believe that it is incorrect to state that those who manage to grind their way through end up being the kind of people that achieve success in their lives. Don’t be the excuse-maker; the person that thinks everything has to be ‘just right’ in order for writing to commence. Instead, be the individual that just sits down and begins; you’ll find that ‘the magic’ begins to happen and the page gets filled with your thoughts and believe me, that’s a wonderful feeling.