As someone who’s in the business of writing about productivity hacks (i.e. what I’m doing now), I have certain routines and rituals. My wife, also in the writing business, has her own routines. This has led to some interesting discussions, shall we say, as to which of our routines is more productive.
For example, I need my office environment, timetables, quiet, and a trusty laptop. She, on the other hand, excels and gets inspiration when she sits with a notebook while sipping coffee in the local coffee shop beneath our house. There are a few advantages that go hand in hand with her style including:
- Enjoying the 70 Decibels of productive noise a coffee shop offers
- And writing the same content two or three times (she has a blog and she writes the posts on paper).
There is no question that for her, it results in excellent, inspiring and consistent writing; every writer’s dream…
This got me thinking. I started researching prolific authors and their productivity hacks. In doing so, I discovered some interesting habits. Indeed, each author had a peculiar method to his madness.
1# Ernest Hemingway – Quit While Ahead.
Hemingway talks about his unorthodox approach to progress and creativity at work, an approach that makes total sense:
“The best way to write is always stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”
That was a real eye opener for me as I always tried to get all my thoughts onto my laptop. I can tell you from experience…writer’s block is not fun.
2# Oscar Wilde – Live, Don’t Earn a Living.
Wilde was quite the extrovert and an extravagant one at that. He knew how to live his life to the fullest and that’s exactly what fuelled his motivation and creativity:
“We live in the age of the overworked, and the under-educated; the age in which people are so industrious that they become absolutely stupid. And, harsh though it may sound, I cannot help but saying that such people deserve their doom. The sure way to know nothing about life is to try to make oneself useful.”
Productivity runs on fuel, Wilde stopped at every possible gas station.
3# Honoré de Balzac – Strange ritual.
Balzac worked at night; while others slept he was at his best. Although this is not a recommended ritual since he died at 50 from what may have been caffeine poisoning. I definitely can see the allure and magic in working this way.
During the night, there is no one to bother you while you’re working, no distractions and a clear mind that can be focused on one channel. There’s also that sense of “how cool am I working while everyone else is sleeping.” :)
4# Mark Twain – Fighting perfectionism.
On top of being a devoted horizontal writer (i.e. he lay in his bed while he wrote), Twain was also a shrewd writer. He understood that writing darn good is better than almost perfect. Trying to be perfect is a waste of time and only serves to further you away from the work at hand.
“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”
Perfectionism is just Procrastination.
5# Edgar Allan Poe – Happiness?
The six years Poe lived in Philadelphia were his happiest and most productive. In addition to all of the novels he wrote, he wrote comics, book reviews etc.
The largest amount of paper he was able to produce was written while he was quite content with life. Remember, this is a guy who is famous for writing horror stories…inspired by his life. But even he seemed to be productive during what one may call his happy period.
6# Truman Capote – Zero-motion sickness and changing workspaces.
Truman Capote felt he wrote his best novels in motel rooms. He often bought a train ticket and spent the entire trip writing. Between New York and Chicago he could finish 140 pages with ease.
Changing your work environment from time to time and subjecting yourself to that pleasantly productive 70 decibels noise (produced both from coffee shops and old train rooms) helps to focus you because it’s calming. It closes the brain’s multichannel approach towards information, focusing you on one channel – writing. Add to that, the creative effect of working from new and exciting places and you get a recipe for creativity and getting things done.
7-8# Isaac Asimov & Stephan King Productivity Hacks – Single-minded dedication and organized work habits.
All of the above is great; tips and tricks that will help you do more work and do it faster. However without dedication, setting goals and establishing daily rituals that will support them, none of the authors above would get anywhere.
Two great examples of authors that pushed it to the max are Isaac Asimov and Stephan King.
Isaac Asimov shared once that, on average, he was able to churn out a nonfiction book in 70 hours. He woke up at 6 am and continued writing until 10 pm. Before his death he authored almost 500 books!
Stephan King has a daily goal agenda that makes him a book creating machine…
“I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span”
He published more than 50 books to date.
I’m sure that even non writers can use some of those productivity hacks, until next time.