7 Habits of Highly Prolific Writers

prolific writer

Are you eager to write?

People call me prolific.

Yet I don’t spend all day writing.

You don’t have to go “full-time” to be a prolific writer. And in this article you’ll see why.

It comes down to being efficient.

Knowing what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.

I’ll share my habits, and the habits of other prolific writers I know.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Routine

Write daily.

Write often.

Even if you work full-time, you can make time for your writing.

I write in the mornings right now. That’s my creative time. What’s yours?

2. Outline

When you write, start with an outline.

Map out what you’re going to write and what message you want to convey.

This is more true for non-fiction writers than fiction writers. When I wrote this article, I mapped out the 7 habits first, and then I filled in the blanks.

It makes my life much easier.

And it allows me to write the first draft for this article in 10 minutes or less.

3. First Draft

Once your outline is in place, it’s time to write a horrible first draft.

New writers make the mistake of trying to edit while they write. It doesn’t work, so don’t even try.

When you write your first draft, it should be at lightning speed. You should get everything out of your head and onto paper. Let it flow uncensored.

Don’t worry about editing or rewriting. That comes later.

4. Rewrite

After I’ve written my first draft, I rewrite.

But I don’t rewrite right away. I let my article rest for 24 hours first.

I sleep on it.

And with each 24 hour cycle, my article gets better. I come back to it several times with a pair of fresh eyes.

Sometimes I’ll rewrite an article three times over 3-4 days, and each time it improves.

5. Demon Bashing

This is a biggie.

When you write, you will run into your inner demons.

You’ll run into that negative voice. It’ll tell you how:

  • You’re not good enough
  • You have nothing to say
  • You might as well give up

Whenever it pops up, say hi and keep writing. Writing isn’t effortless for prolific writers. But they keep going anyway.

They sit down and write. Even if nothing comes out, they get things done, because they have a structure in place.

6. Confidence

When you first start out, you won’t be very confident when you write.

And that’s fine. It is as it should be.

When you write a lot, you get better, and you gain confidence.

I’ve written millions of words and thousands of articles. I started out horrible, but I’m getting better with each passing day.

There is no quick fix to finding your writing voice, or eliminating fear. It all comes down to sitting down and writing.

7. Read

Prolific writers read – a lot.

They gather inspiration from books. They observe the structure other writers use, and they steal what resonates with them.

For example, I help change makers build a thriving online business, so when I’m reading sales copy and it moves me to buy, I backtrack.

I go inside and look at what it was that moved me. Then I think about how I can use that in my writing and business.

The Wrap Up

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this article, it’s this: sit down and write.

Being a prolific writer is all about refusing to listen to your own excuses. It’s about eliminating any obstacles that prevent you from writing.

Writing never seems to be easy.

There’s always some way you could procrastinate, but if you want to get your message out there, you have to just sit down and write.

The world needs what you have to share.

So write.

 

About the author:

Henri Junttila is a freelance writer and the founder of Wake Up Cloud, where he helps people turn their passion into a thriving online business. If you’re interested in learning more, grab his free special report.
Image: Dog with Pencil from Bigstockphoto

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70 thoughts on “7 Habits of Highly Prolific Writers”

  • Susie says:

    Thanks very much for this. As someone who has spent the past year wanting to write and reading almost every writing blog I can find, I still can’t find the confidence to really go for it and put my work out there.

    I really like how you’ve simplified everything – it makes the task seem much less daunting. I’m going to use this weekend to follow step 4 and not try to become demotivated if my first draft isn’t perfection.

    • guest says:

      We tend to make things more complex than they have to be, especially writing.

      The best solution I’ve found is to just start, and be okay with the first draft looking truly horrible, mine always do :)

      • I still get jobs from job boards and its a very tempting exercise. The good news is that, I just have to pick the job and then I now have to do it. For writing, I think Susie should just start. Let her look for something like 750words by Buster.

  • Wilf says:

    Excellent. Short, pithy. the inspiration it gave me is that this doesn’t just apply to writing. I shall now go out and do some of that garden work I’ve been putting off. Thanks.

    PS, was it Mark Twain who said “If you want to write you begin by applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair?

  • Thanks Henri for these simple steps to follow. I been working on my book project too long:) I am ready to get it out to the world.
    Cherri Walston recently posted..Invest in Your Business, Invest in YourselfMy Profile

  • Jevon says:

    These points are spot on with my experience. Its all about outlining, drafting, rewriting, and bashing demons. And it was only when I started reading more often that I thought about writing seriously.
    Jevon recently posted..Mistakes of a New AuthorMy Profile

  • Great tips! But I disagree on outlining being more for non-fiction writers than fiction writers. The biggest problem most fiction writers have is that they don’t plan enough of their story and then they end up writing a million drafts to figure it out. When you plan ahead of time, know your story milestones and know exactly what’s going to happen from beginning to end, you’ll write a much better first draft that way.
    jennifer blanchard recently posted..Do You Make This Rookie Writing Mistake?My Profile

    • Henri says:

      Thanks for the tips for fiction writers, Jennifer. I don’t write fiction, so I took the safe road on that one as I’ve heard some famous writers “just write.”

    • mike says:

      Hi Jennifer. Hope you don’t mind me jumping in here. I see it much differently than you. I do not use outlines when writing fiction. I think it ruins the story! I think of it this way- when you read a good piece of fiction- you are caught up in the action or suspense and are thinking “where is this going next?”- that is the beauty of it- you do not know where it is going next! That mystery is magic! So when writing, why would you want to know where the story goes next? It takes away that magic and becomes structured. It takes away the good stuff found in spontaneity. I believe that knowing the beginning and/or end is a good thing and having some structure in place is good….but I’ve read stories that were planned in advance and to my eye, it was completely obvious. Now this is my take on it and I certainly respect that everyone writes in a different way. I feel it is important to write quickly and not to overthink it because when that happens, the story line is lessened. I write not knowing most of the story because that keeps me open to twists and turns- just as if I was entranced reading a great piece of fiction!

  • Leslie says:

    Outstanding article! As a professional writer, I frequently realize the amount of money I am charging my clients is no longer enough. But if I was to be able to do their work in half the time… I would have effectively doubled my hourly rate, and freed up the time to take on (higher paying) new clients. Writing blogs in half the time is my new goal!
    Leslie recently posted..Stretching before WritingMy Profile

  • Carmelo says:

    Hey Henri … loved the “started out horrible” comment. Funny what parts of an article will inspire you, isn’t it? It’s probably because of what you happen to be going through at the moment you’re reading. This is a simple and great outline (simple usually IS the best.)

    Just yesterday I “hit the wall” and needed something to get my confidence back. When you’re writing a book, you’re not getting any feedback and it’s easy to wonder if anyone will really want or read what you’re working on once you’re done.
    Carmelo recently posted..Welcome To Critter WisdomMy Profile

  • Perfect. Now if I could do some lightning speed writing. I so struggle with that in fiction but not so much in non-fiction. Great article.
    Makasha Dorsey recently posted..Death at the Double Inkwell by Shonell BaconMy Profile

  • Reads like a summary of Stephen King’s “On Writing.” An excellent summary of it.
    Joel D Canfield recently posted..Quashing the Need for ApprovalMy Profile

  • Henri,

    Thanks for contributing this article on this fab blog. I must say I have been a fan of your blog for the longest time.Then again, you are already aware of this fact and I am merely stating the obvious.

    Stephen King recommends writing at least one thousand words daily. Until it becomes your routine. And routine becomes a habit.

    The first thing to do when you jump out of bed in the morning is to sit down and write. Just do it. That would be your morning ritual. And rituals can be a great way to get back in the saddle: it is like your therapy. It is catharsis: a purging of the emotions. It is a great way to keep on moving forward; keep the momentum alive.

    Finally, a writer has to find what works best for him or her. Not everybody can write daily or write one thousand words per day. If not, find out what works for you. And then go out there and just do it. Cheerio.

    • Henri says:

      Hey Archan,

      I remember you from the early days of the blog, and I appreciate you’re still reading, even though you don’t comment as much.

      I completely agree. Get a ritual and follow it. I’ve found that my ritual tends to change throughout the seasons, but writing in the morning works best for me.

      Cheers!
      Henri recently posted..The Secret to Finding Your Life PurposeMy Profile

  • This is a sweet breakdown man. Super easy to read and really effective steps. I’m going to start implementing the “sleep on it” portion of draft writing. I find that I’m constantly editing while I’m creating the article. I’m going to try to non-filter the first draft and see where it takes me. I completely understand the feeling of needing to get everything out of the head and onto paper, so to speak. Great stuff man.
    Jeffrey Friend recently posted..10 Ways to Stun Your Significant Other Today, and Why You ShouldMy Profile

    • Henri says:

      Thanks Jeffrey!

      I’ve found it much more effective to write my first draft one day, then come back and edit it the next. Often I may sleep “on” an article several times, and each time I come back and make it better.

      And the good news?

      There’s a minimal amount of stress involved.

  • Thanks for an inspiring article. I have been writing my travel blog consistently this year (after two previous false starts) and part of my journey has been to commit to publish a new article every week. So far I am proud to say that I have managed to do this, despite some later nights when I get to my self imposed deadline!

    I have also been learning the craft of blogging – when I look back at my early articles I realise I didn’t know much, but I think I am now progressively improving and more people are now reading my work, which creates more confidence that I am creating something which is worthwhile for people.
    Pretraveller recently posted..8 Exhilarating Australian Animal Swims You Haven’t Tried YetMy Profile

    • Henri says:

      It’s all about showing up. That’s most of the battle.

      If I look back at my earliest work from 2006-2007, I’m horrified, yet people still enjoy it, somehow.

  • MLSwift says:

    Wonderful post. Simplified, but each bullet a keeper!!
    MLSwift recently posted..Meet Monty TuckerMy Profile

  • LOVE the Demon Bashing part. Other than adding that, I’m doing your list. These are all great reminders, especially the reading part as ideas form and grow as we expose ourselves to numerous thoughts and points of view. Thanks, Beth
    Beth @ Boomer Highway (twitter) recently posted..Caregivers, Admit It: Sometimes The Stress Is Just Too MuchMy Profile

  • Thanks for the simple reminders. These things are simple, but will make a big difference. I’m a firm believer in not waiting for perfection. Just get that first draft out and revise later.

    Thanks, Henri
    Sarah L. Webb recently posted..Who’s Your Worst Critic?My Profile

  • Useful reminders! It sounds so obvious when you read it, yet amazing how often we let routines fail.
    Dolly Garland recently posted..Do You Aspire To Mediocrity?My Profile

    • Henri says:

      Oh yes. When it comes to actually doing it, it’s not as easy. But then again, it’s done one step at a time. One moment at a time. Anyone can do that, if you let go of your demons and just write.

  • Henri,

    These are valuable tips. I’ve always wondered about point three though! Is it really true for every writer that they should write their first draft at lightening speed without rewriting? For some reason, this never works for me. I edit as I go along in my first draft and it helps me generate the next sections of the piece. Like you, I also set my drafts aside and do a rewrite a day or more later. I do value the fact that our sub-conscious mind continues working on the piece. But, I write and edit simultaneously and it seems to work for me. I wonder if there are other writers like me.
    Sandra Pawula recently posted..Exceptional Links on Writing, Blogging, and Microbusiness – October 2012My Profile

    • @ Sandra,

      Just read your comment, and wanted to pipe up–I write and edit simultaneously as well. I do it with a light(er) touch and edit later on as well. I’ve tried to do it differently, but it feels like a left handed writer being told to write with their non-dominant hand.

      @ Henri

      Great list! I especially appreciated your observation that “Writing isn’t effortless for prolific writers.” it’s easy to see people generating a lot of content and imagine that they can just sit down with a cup of coffee and belt out wonderful writing all day long.

      I’m sure that the most prolific writers, at least those who maintain a high standard, are working their tails off facing their own insecurities, rewriting, and reading other writers.

      When I imagine great writers having an effortless process, I feel disconnected from them and my dream of becoming a better writer. When I assume that the are working to face the same difficulties and overcoming them, I feel connected and more hopeful.
      Dave | a small field recently posted..noticing notes: point of contactMy Profile

    • Henri says:

      Hey, if it works for you, then no need to change it. And I’m sure there are plenty of other people doing it like you.

      I personally generate the whole article when I do the outlining. That allows me to just freewrite the whole article and get everything out.

      The next day I come back and make it read better. Then I often come back the next day after that for finishing touches.

      But in the end, trust yourself and go with what feels best.

  • sukumar karmakar says:

    Someone rightly said –
    ”I learn writing by writing”.
    Page full of words is not writing. Eliminating unwanted is, perhaps. Problem comes there. Killing of any type is really troublesome. Really.

  • Great post. I have to fight the idea that if I can’t write a decent article on my first try then I must not be a very good writer.

    And I love the reminder about letting it sit 24 hours. When I’m organized and have my blog week planned out, I can take the luxury of letting a post sit 24 hours. I always make changes! But usually I’m working today for tomorrow’s post so I have to be content with a few hours. But I HATE writing and then posting immediately. It scares me.
    Patty@homemakersdaily.com recently posted..Grilled Lemon ChickenMy Profile

    • Henri says:

      Hey Patty,

      Planning is key, because without it, you can’t let a post marinate.

      You might even let a post sit several 24 hour cycles. That’s what I do with my posts as often as I can. If I have something due on Monday, I may write the first draft on Wednesday, then let it marinate and come back to it on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and so on.

  • Yolanda says:

    Thank you for this article, its just what i needed to hear as I’ve been battling with those inner demons. So now I’ve said ‘Hi”, and its back to work for me.!

  • Nice and simple. I guess it is intimidating to ‘write’ and offer that writing up for people to see. But you are right, practice does make better if not perfect. So keep going is the best advice. Nice to hear it reiterated … :)
    Suchismita Pai recently posted..What do you do when you see a devil at the airport..My Profile

    • Henri says:

      Yes. Keep going. Even when fears pop up, keep going anyway. Your writing will improve, and the fears will become less important as you move forward.

  • Ted Villamarzo says:

    Hello, Henri!
    Just to add to the numerous comments on your post.
    Your post is timely and useful, and so inspiring, for me.
    Friends call me a “promising” writer. I promise a lot, but I couldn’t deliver.
    This post is another nudge for me to “deliver”.
    Thank you!

    Ted

    • Henri says:

      Hey Ted,

      Just write and forget about being promising. Let the words flow and drop the concepts. It’s much easier that way, yet it’s not easy at all.

      Let me know if I can ever help.

  • The demon bashing step. Ha. That’s the most important step, actually!
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  • I’m fairly prolific as well, and your tips are great. I have to admit, though, that I don’t do all of them; at least not all the time. Depends on what I’m writing. If I’m writing a blog post most of the time I only need a blog title and I’m good to go. If I need to research something maybe that takes a bit longer, but often I remember what I’ve read, which is what’s inspired the post in the first place.

    Confidence is the biggie though. Without that, people don’t finish or are always changing things up and thus writing becomes a chore; that’s never fun.
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted..5 Things About Writing That You Might Never Think OfMy Profile

  • Henri says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Mitch. Good points and thanks for sharing. You don’t have to use them all, just pick what resonates with you and then write!
    Henri recently posted..The Most Dangerous Threat to Building a Business Aligned With Your PurposeMy Profile

  • Stacia says:

    Awesome and direct article. Great mover for the procrastinators like myself. Thanks a bunch!

  • kelvin kariuki says:

    Thats just what I needed, so greatful men for the tips. Especially that part of re-writing. I may have played a victim in several articles. Now I aim the ultimate prolific writer.

  • What works for me is writing a few stories at the same time. I don’t outline, so sometimes I find myself stuck. When I do, I simply let that story be for a few days and write another one instead. When I am done figuring out where to take the first story, I get back to it.
    I also have to write or edit for three hours a day six days a week no matter what. If I have to stay up late to do it, I will stay up late.

  • Saurabh Sisodia says:

    i can’t understand one thing here.
    if nothing is coming out of my head to write then how to continue writing.
    should i sit back ideally and wait for the ideas to come, like a dumb man.?

  • don says:

    Very helpful advice.

    Thanks for sharing and I will be sure to pass along.
    don recently posted..The Black MadonnaMy Profile

  • AH says:

    Thanks for a great post. A lot of times I find myself paralyzed by fear. This was a great help. I should add, sometimes fear comes when you have high expectations for yourself. So maybe one should be “write horrible first drafts”. Lower your expectations to overcome the inertia
    AH recently posted..Stand Out and Be ExtraordinaryMy Profile

  • Lisa Steyn says:

    Thanks so much for this…it really makes sense and as you say that ‘fear’ that you’re not good enough can be crippling! Great post!

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