GUEST POST: 7 Ways to be a More Productive Writer

It’s a pleasure to present here another Guest Post by prolific freelancer, Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen. You may remember her last post on this site, 19 Editorial Tips from a Senior Editor, which drew kudos from readers. This Guest Post is also sure to be a big help to every freelancer who reads it.

Even the great writers – Margaret Atwood, Mark Twain, Joan Didion, J.K. Rowling – had to start somewhere! We’re all on equal footing when it comes to a blank page, a blank computer screen, a blank slate. We all struggle with motivation, inspiration, and productivity.

Here’s what Atwood says about the writing process:

“All writers must go from now to once a upon a time; all must go from here to there; all must descend to where the stories are kept; all must take care not to be captured and held immobile by the past,” said Atwood.

Whether you’ve been writing for 24 hours or 24 years, you have to find ways to get from a blank page to a great story – without being held immobile by the past! I hope these seven ways to be a more productive writer help smooth your journey…

1. Focus on accomplishments – not activity. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend burrowed away in your writing hole…it matters what you are accomplishing. As a full-time freelance writer, I could spend all day “writing” but not actually accomplish anything. To be a more productive writer, I need to set specific goals: find a new writing market or two every day, brainstorm a new magazine article idea or two a day, recycle old query letters and ideas, etc. What goals should you be focusing on?

2. Commit your plans to paper. I don’t always write my writing goals down on paper – but I need to! My motivation to write this “ways to be more productive” article is that I’m in a waiting place: waiting for magazine assignments, book contracts, and new websites to launch so I can apply to write. Instead of waiting, I need to step away from the laptop and revisit my writing goals…because this is my career.

3. Reject unrelated activities. “Refuse to become involved in anything that does not move you closer to the accomplishment of your goals,” writes Winget in People Are Idiots and I Can Prove It (if you can get past the title, it’s a good book!). If an activity does not move you closer to where you want to be as a writer, then don’t do it.

4. Protect your writing time. To be more productive, you need to jealously guard your writing time! It’s one of those “simple but difficult” writing tips: set your writing schedule, and do not answer the phone or knocks at the door unless someone is on fire.

5. Write when others aren’t around. If possible, schedule your writing time for when you’re alone: an empty office at lunch or after 4 pm (if you have a day job), early in the morning (before everyone gets up), or on weekends when the family is doing their thing. People are distracting!

6. Set limits on the time suckers. For instance, as much as I love – and learn from – Twitter, it can be a HUGE drain on my time and energy. Connecting and building relationships with other writers and “Tweeps” is great, but it’s not a way to get more writing done. Your writing schedule should not include Twitter, Facebook, or internet surfing activities. Your writing time is strictly for WRITING.

7. Remember how fast time flies. My biggest fear is turning 95 years old and regretting that I didn’t spend more time deliberately planning my writing career and life. I’ve got no problem with getting older…I just don’t want to waste my days doing things that get me nowhere! So, to get more writing done, remember that you only have a limited amount of time. If you don’t write now, you won’t likely be writing later.

If you have any thoughts or questions on these ways to be a more productive writer, I welcome your comments below!

Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen is a full-time writer and blogger who created and maintains a series of Quips and Tips blogs: Quips and Tips for Successful Writers, Quips and Tips for Achieving Your Goals, and Quips and Tips for Couples Coping With Infertility. She’s also the Feature Writer for Psychology Suite101.

Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen’s websites:

Quips & Tips for Successful Writers

Quips & Tips for Achieving Your Goals

Quips & Tips for Couples Coping With Infertility

See Jane Soar: Life Lessons From Successful Women

Come follow me!

© 2009 by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

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6 Comments on “GUEST POST: 7 Ways to be a More Productive Writer”

  1. Laurie PK says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to write a guest post here, Laverne! It’s great to be back 🙂

    By the way, are you on Twitter? If so, what’s your handle?


    • ldaley says:

      I’m not on Twitter yet, Laurie, although I think I should be. Maybe soon……

      And thanks again for your guest post. Looks like others like it as much as I do.

  2. Jan O'Daniel says:

    Spot on! In 22 years of professional writing and freelancing, these are the same techniques I return to again and again to crank out great copy.

    • ldaley says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jan. It’s really nice when veteran freelancers like you validate the tried-and-true techniques. Good to hear from you.

  3. Jack Cavanaugh says:

    After 25 novels, with my love for writing still intact, it doesn’t get any easier. There’s no better feeling at the end of the day than a good word count, no worse feeling than blank pages. Thanks for the post, Laurie. I started a new blog this week on writing myself — If there’s one thing I enjoy as much as writing fiction, it’s talking about writing fiction.

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