Some notes on productivity and creativity
I love this advice. I do try to write every day--that is, to actually put words down. But I don't think expect that writing to end up in a finished project. I do it because it helps me pay attention to myself and the world. It's really more an act of meditation than of composition. Periodically, I look back over the past few days or weeks and come across bits that coalesce into something substantial. But that isn't my expectation.
But more importantly, I absolute agree with your sense of what "working on a piece of writing" means. It could mean examining an idea or experience (with or without writing a word), drafting, identifying where the piece is going, pausing my writing (resting), playing by brainstorming/freewriting/clustering, revisiting my idea of where a piece is going, and shaping (revising) writing I already have.
So excited to find this Substack!
Very helpful as always! Probably because I've found myself in a bit of a - "not writing so better feel guilty about it" - creativity slump. Will try applying some of the newly acquired wisdom... (Then again, am I ever not in a self perceived creativity slump? Food for thoughts...)
That was SUPER helpful. I have always known that my own process does not look like writing every day. I was taught to use index cards to write things down on in school and it never worked for me and I always felt that if I just could use index cards my productivity would zoom into the stratosphere. And I also know that I can't write every day, because the way I work, especially early on projects, looks a lot more like random reading interspersed with walks and bike rides and staring at the ceiling, so the "write every day" recs leave me feeling dispirited -- if I could Just Do It, then I could be an academic superstar.
That you for articulating NOPE.
This was a wonderful newsletter. I really enjoyed reading this! For me, fiction requires a lot of problem-solving which means a lot of walking or embroidery where I try to let my mind solve the problems. I also started a substack and I have a column online so I can try to do different kinds of writing. I think back to when I was young and I know I would’ve written in my diary or journal every day and I used to write long letters to friends which were a kind of writing very different from email. But as you said and as all of my fiction teachers have said, writing every day includes taking notes or reading novels taking walks and just letting your mind work out problems. I think it’s more of a commitment to creativity and I really see that in what you do with all your wide ranging curiosity led work! I also really enjoyed your reflections in London! Are you still there?
I love drafting. Drafting feels safe. It's "productive." Look! I wrote a thousand words! That's measurable progress! And in an industry without a lot of things you can point to as markers of success, it's pretty seductive.
"I signed with an agent. The book may not sell. Lots of books don't sell on submission. Yes, that means you can spend several years writing and revising a thing only to have it fail." is not the easiest thing to explain to people outside publishing. It looks like failure. Kind of feels like failure, too.
But I wrote a thousand words today! Boy, that's a metric you can hang on to.
I have no real point here other than I draft very easily, but I'm not sure it counts for as much as the 'write every day' people would like to pretend it does.
Brave and wise piece Irina.
I am one of those who are dead scared of starting and take a long time to finish a story. Will check exercises from the book you mention
I love the title of this so much! It does get to be a bit of an orthodoxy. I also would like to have a word with the "write before the kids wake up" industrial complex. Talking with caregivers, I've found a lot of people who keep up the sustained work but also benefit from exactly the kind of sporadic writing retreats that the "WEDIC" would say don't work (myself included). Also I really appreciate this, because me too: "I am one of those people who is convinced, at the start of each writing project, that I have forgotten how to write and will never be able to do it again."
So many thoughts. One is some thing I learned a long time ago when I was becoming a professional golfer. “Practice makes permanent.“ So instead of practice makes perfect, practice makes permanent tells you that poor practice also makes poor form permanent.￼￼ it made sense in golf but I’m not sure how it applies to writing or if it does. For the past eight weeks I haven’t been able to sit, I can only stand or lay down. So writing every day which I was trying to do has had to take a backseat. It’s all I can do to stand enough to do my job without becoming exhausted, and some days I’m exhausted anyway. So that has left me in lots of time to mull over stories in my head and make up little funny poems and rhymes and Muse about Yellow birds or flowers or just something that actually never makes it into my writing but I think it’s making me more open and creative in the long run. So here I am eight weeks of barely writing at all, just enough to get my newsletter out every week, and I’m feeling like my writing and creativity are improving￼. Go figure.