The advice I’m about to give you goes against a fundamental method to becoming a better writer, namely, writing like mad.
In fact, I pretty much gave that advice this past Monday.
But seasoned writers recognize you’re going to run the machine into the ground if you don’t do this on occasion…
Robert Bruce made that point today in How to Create World Class Content by Never Writing Again.
And in response to Monday’s post Don Sturgill wrote, “Writing exercises are for those who don’t write enough. What writers need is a walk by the river (think I’ll take one now).”
Maybe we’re on to something.
Write too much and you start to repeat yourself. Do I need to say any more?
This past summer I took an accelerated biblical Greek class. The idea was to compress 16 weeks of a normal grad-level course into five.
It was hell.
I had to memorize 40-60 vocabulary words three times a week, 4-6 memory paradigms three times a week and take a quiz every time we met. No joke, but I routinely studied for 17 hours straight.
Here’s the sad part: I failed. I wasn’t being efficient with my time or resources and became counter-productive. The same can occur with writing.
If you never take a break from what you are doing to rest or exercise or relate to a human being then the law of diminishing returns will curl in and crush you. And you lose.
3. Revise More
Writers don’t make their money off of rough drafts. They make it off of tightly-focused, rock-solid refinements.
That’s called revision. Editing.
So if you never slow down the pace of your output, you may be prolific but you won’t be profitable. See point 5.
4. Fill Your Resources
At some point every writer comes to that point: exhaustion. Emotional, possibly physical, exhaustion.
But don’t forget mental or intellectual exhaustion.
Write yourself silly without a break and you’ll reach the end of the idea road. When you do, ride your bike to the library, university or book store. Cram as many books into your head in a evening as you possibly can. Watch a movie. Talk to strangers. But fill up your resources. See point 6 for more ideas.
5. Demand More Money
Being a professional writer is not scalable. Meaning, you get paid for the work YOU do.
Sure, you could hire a couple of copy cubs to farm your work out to, but why manage other people and trust them to do as good as a job as you could?
That means you have two choices if you want to make more money: increase your volume or increase your prices. I vote for B. But you can only vote for B if you are worth it. Are you?
6. Enjoy Life
Do like Don did and go to the river. Or shoot some hoops. Grab a 12-pack of IPA [which is my favorite beer, by the way, if anyone wants to get me something for my birthday] and hang out with your neighbor [the one you don’t like].
Hang out with your wife, the children. Draw. Hunt. Toy with a psychic. In other words, enjoy God’s green earth, people.
7. Teach Someone
I said this in my post 7 Ways Writing Saved My Life: “Learning to write well doesn’t terminate on you. It terminates on those who need it most. Those who suffer. Who hope. Who beg. Who read.”
I’ll add to that, “those who want to learn how to write.”
Teaching someone how to write well will make you a better writer because you will uncover concepts you forgot about. You’ll see old ideas in new ways. And that interaction with another human will fill your resources, too.
8. Pursue Solitude, Rest
Yeah, the writer needs fixed times of solitude to become the world’s greatest copywriter, but he also needs solitude so he can rest. Writers are typically introverts. Introverts recharge by being alone. Sometimes when you are working. But other times when you are not. Get some rest.
9. Someone’s Dead
Perhaps it was Anthony Trollop. I’m not sure. But there’s a writer out there [“out there” meaning “among the living and dead”] who’s devotion to the craft is revered because he skipped his OWN son’s funeral when it conflicted with his writing time.
He’s not devoted–he’s demented.
As much as it pains me to say this, people matter way more than words on a page. Trust me.
One of the risks of relentless writing is you lose focus.
Banging out that novel in 30 days takes some serious pressure–and not a whole lot of time to step back and say, “Am I going in the right direction?” Or how about this: am I even working on the RIGHT things?
Should you have accepted that assignment?
Taking a break from writing allows you to evaluate your life, your schedule and sanity. All good things to keep an eye on.
What other reasons can you think of for writing less? Share your thoughts in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you.