The Productive Writer’s Code


I’ve written 50k words for NaNoWriMo in five days, written 95,000 words novels in three weeks, and knocked out novellas in a couple of days. I’ve also gone months on end without writing a word. I’ve sat and stared at a blank page and a blinking cursor for an hour before closing the document without adding anything to an ongoing project. I’ve whiled away countless hours refreshing the same few websites instead of forcing myself to start typing.

The thing is, I love writing once I get started. If I can get over that initial hurdle, I invariably get lost in the work. To help me push through that persistent negative voice, I recently sat down and wrote out a few commandments to keep me from avoiding work for what almost always amounts to a ridiculous reason.

First and foremost, write for yourself.

There will always be people who hate your work. If you’re not happy with what you’re producing, you’ll feel twice as shitty when the negative reviews eventually roll in. Write the stories you want to read.

Forward momentum is everything.

Don’t hesitate. Don’t second guess. Take time to think about the story, but never in a way that prevents you from moving forward in the narrative.

Write every day.

How can you maintain forward momentum if you’re not working every day? Write more than you do any other activity except sleep.

Trust yourself.

Trust your voice. Trust your knowledge of craft. Trust your sense of story. Trust your intentions. Trust your vision.

Finish things.

None of it matters if you never finish anything. Stories need endings. Finish your work and get it out there.

Surround yourself with positive and talented peers.

Writing for publication is a long and often lonely road. Community is important. These are the people who will keep you honest, help you improve your work, and bolster you when you feel you just can’t take another hit.

Share your time and experience with other writers.

Be an active member of your writing community. Give critique. Give moral support. Read their work. If you like it, be generous with your praise and recommend it to others. Be a positive voice that raises others up whenever possible.