June 12, 2019 John

How to Be a Productive Writer

All of us who consider ourselves to be writers struggle with the same issue: How to go from being just a writer to being a productive writer.

All of us who consider ourselves to be writers struggle with the same issue: How to go from being just a writer to being a productive writer.

First and foremost, if you are reading this, then you are most likely already a writer, meaning you have written something at some point. Good for you! Being a writer is not only a rewarding experience and a satisfying creative outlet, it’s also just an impressive thing to tell people about yourself.

So how do you calm that nagging voice telling you that as a writer you must be more productive? I have found the answer to be quite simple…

Schedule time to write.

That’s all there is to it! And the more time you set aside, the more productive you will be! I, myself have decided to dedicate the entire day every Sunday to writing about all of the little things that pop into my head during the week. And I don’t bother writing them down as they come to me, because come writing day, I have no trouble recalling all of the great ideas that I haven’t forgotten. Forgotten ideas are most likely bad ideas. Your creative brain does a great job of discarding the fleeting thoughts that would have made for bad writing anyway, I think. That’s called Natural Idea Selection, and guess what? It’s already built into your DNA!

Yesterday’s writing day was one of the most productive yet. I made sure that I cleared my calendar of any external responsibilities, and even set my alarm to make sure I could get an early start of it. I told my wife and son that I was not to be bothered, and that they should plan to do something out of the house. Nothing was going to interrupt my writing day.

First, a hearty breakfast and a long shower. Nothing clears the mind like a fortified and clean body. Next, a little Sunday morning newspaper for inspiration. There are a million story ideas on every page and I made sure to read every word. I can’t remember the last time I read an entire Sunday newspaper, but I had a big day of writing ahead, and I needed to equip myself with topical material. While the millions of new facts and opinions whirled around in my brain, I headed outside to let the fresh air oxygenate my fertile mind and sort those budding seeds of thought into well manicured rows of words and stories. This process made me feel so exhilarated I found myself pulling weeds out of my back yard, one at a time. Before I knew it, there was not a single clover patch or dandelion in my plot, and my noggin was that much closer to housing a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. A quick pass with the old lawnmower, front and back, and I was inside to continue my writing.

Flipping open the face of my laptop, I noticed the clock in the corner telling me it was well past lunch time. This writer certainly isn’t going to hamper his genius with low blood sugar, so you can bet I headed straight to the fridge for a little “word-fuel”! Nothing but a full sink of dirty dishes stood between me and my special writing day sandwich, and once an entire weekend’s worth of dinnerware was hand-scrubbed, dried, and put away, with only a few extra moments taken to completely reorganize the silverware drawer and clean out the crisper, I assembled a 3 course midday feast that would have made Hemingway proud.

Back to my anxious computer, I began to type…


June 2, 2019. Writing. By John Cates.


My fingers were electric with possibilities as they hammered upon the keys. I was almost finished pre-numbering the first 50 pages of my essay when I decided to find my trusty old college thesaurus. How much better will my first draft of clever insight be with old “Thessy” at my side. And in the relatively brief time spent pacing around in a circle thinking up a nickname for my thesaurus, I actually remembered where it was! I was unstoppable.

Wow…memories, huh? Nothing like a trip through the boxes in the back of the basement to take me back to when I was still only dreaming of one day becoming a writer. If my younger, unfocused me could see me now!

With Thessy in hand, I headed back up the stairs to continue my art. Even though it is June, I was feeling as if I might write a holiday story. Perhaps the dust of Christmas spirit was still in my nostrils after reordering and relabeling 5 boxes of ornaments and decorations on my way out of the storage area. I almost felt sorry for Charles Dickens, imagining the possibility that his “classic” was about to become obsolete. Even he could not question his lower status, knowing the power of a writer with adequately scheduled time on his hands.

Over the next several hours, I ensured that no unforeseen intrusion would ruin my progress. The last thing the John Cates Literary Express needed was an interruption by a ringing phone or urgent correspondence. So I proactively replied to every unanswered email in my overflowing inbox, and phoned each and every member of my family to announce that I would be taking no calls for the remainder of my writing day. After all, the schedule is sacred.

Shortly after hanging up with my mother, who could not say enough about how proud she was that I was finally writing, my wife and son returned home from their day at the mall with new shirts for me. I couldn’t wait to try each one on to decide which would be my official writing shirt! I settled on a plain white T-shirt that felt somewhat symbolic of the white electronic pages that flickered with anticipation on my laptop screen.

Following a delicious dinner of steaks that I prepared on the grill, it was time for my writing Sunday to come to an end. It’s as important to stick to the end time as it is the start time, to ensure a solid writing day regimen.

So there you have it. How to be a productive writer. I can’t think of a more productive day in my adult life, and I’m really looking forward to next Sunday, when I will set aside another full day to devote to my craft as a writer.

I think I might finally get those gutters cleaned.

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