Reading time: 4 minutes
Prompt: Foregoing today’s January Jumpstart prompt to talk about the discipline (and challenge) of writing prolifically (and how my own creative process is built on procrastination!).
Between assignments for clients, my own blog, and other personal projects, I write about 20,000 words in the average week. Is that a lot? I don’t know. Some weeks it’s less, others it’s more, but a week without writing is something I can barely imagine. For some, 20,000 might seem impossible, for others it’s a good start. What I do know, is that for me, obsessing about the stats doesn’t help. Counting the hours I spend writing, accounting for every word, and trying to quantify the work that way can be counter productive. Yes, being a prolific writer is about volume, but what does it matter if I write a lot, if what I write isn’t very good?
Writing: seems easy, but isn’t
Firstly, let’s acknowledge that writing is not an easy thing to do. It can be rewarding and exciting, but it doesn’t always come easy. You can have all the information, imagination, motivation, time, and education to make your writing amazing, and it can still be an uphill battle. This is because good writing (yes, good and bad exist, no it’s not universally subjective) requires more than just one or two of the above conditions to be in place: it requires a balance of many factors, as if the stars must align. It’s not enough to be educated if your ideas aren’t compelling. Ideas are not enough if you don’t have the time and resources to make them come to life. Being motivated is great but it won’t get you far without some skills. Writing can be hard, but it’s harder still when you leave inspiration and practice to chance. It becomes incrementally easier when you apply some rigour and find the sort of discipline that works for you.
Writers don’t just write
“The best writers are readers” is a phrase that gets bandied about, and while it’s not empirically untrue, it’s not that simple either. Lots of people consume books like oxygen and never write a word. Others write boldly without ever having thumbed through the classics. Yes, you can argue that it’s essential that writers also be readers, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be an excellent writer if you haven’t read a million books. Writers are artists, and artists are observers and interpreters. Ask any artist, in any medium, and they will tell you that the spend a huge amount of their life watching and learning, listening and absorbing, taking in the sensory parts of life so that they may reinterpret them and express them with their own voice. Likewise, with writers it’s about more than books. Observing the world and noticing the mundane, the liminal, the missed and forgotten moments – these are where so much inspiration comes from, for so many.
Creative processes are personal
Writing is a practice and a discipline, but that doesn’t mean it comes easy. When you first start to write regularly, prolifically, it can be really hard to find what works for you and allow yourself to embrace your process. My personal creative process is grounded in procrastination. I mull and think and plan and imagine silently, in my head, and then it all comes out at once – often right before a deadline. I used to force myself to make notes and plan pieces out and what I got was an overwrought, diluted version of what was in my head. It was frustrating to find that a more structured, academic approach to organising my ideas actually detracted from the result. I had to learn to trust the moment when it felt right to take it from my head to the page/screen, and that simply getting it down in words was only the beginning of the process.
If you are a writer, what’s your process like? Share your tips in the comments!
Identifying and embracing your process is just the beginning. Let me know if you want to read about some of the rituals, tips and tricks I have learned for making writing a prolific and regular (but low-stress) activity.
This post is part of January Jumpstart 2023, a community writing project designed to help you get a jumpstart on a new year of writing. Want to join in or get more info?