“I have a beautiful study, but that’s not what makes me a writer. Writing makes me a writer.”
Cathy Pickens, the author of Southern Fried Mysteries, has conducted creativity workshops for writers, dancers, painters, and even Fortune 500 CEOs. In the December 2016 issue of “The Writer” magazine, she shared some helpful tips we can all use to increase both our creativity and productivity:
Schedule time for deep, creative thought: Dedicated focus is essential to pursuing and improving craft — and it’s vital to give yourself time to think deeply about your creative work. Whether you make time for this daily or once a week, don’t allow interruptions. “Great ideas don’t come in 15-minute increments, and when your concentration is
interrupted, you can’t get into deep creative thinking,” Cathy notes.
Keep a notebook with you: Making a commitment to writing something every day encourages sharper observation and better communication. And one way to foster this habit is to have a notebook handy to jot your ideas and responses to your environment. “I found that all creative people use this, not just writers,” says Cathy. It’s a simple but powerful tool for capturing ideas and images — and no one needs to see it but you.
Cultivate a daily writing habit: Make writing daily a general rule; if “life intrudes” and gets you off track, pick up and keep going. Even if you only have a few minutes available, you can still be productive” “You can hand-write 250 words on a legal page in 15 minutes. Just doing that, you’ll have a book in a year.” Even spending 15 minutes a day can help keep your mind actively engaged on your writing and help develop your skills. As Cathy puts it, “You need to keep limber. It’s like exercise — if you do it only once a week, it puts too much pressure on yourself. You can’t do a whole week’s worth of exercise in one day.”
Figure out where and how you work best: Some writers need quiet and solitude to work most fruitfully. For others, a coffee shop provides just enough background noise and activity to help them work effectively. Put yourself in that environment. Some writers work better with a daily time allotment; for others a daily mandatory word count is most productive. Whatever your preferred strategy, make a commitment to it. If you miss your word count for some reason, don’t try to add it to your next writing session — that just adds pressure. “Each day is a new day,” she notes.
Accept your words as they come: Fostering a writing habit isn’t easy and Cathy Pickens encourages writers to recognize this reality. Some days you’ll struggle and others, your words will come more easily. Just keep writing; you can always revise.
Wise advice as we all write on!