Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

How to become a prolific writer

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?  If you do, this post is just for you!

I received a note from a reader today.  He said how impressed he was that I managed to have a series of posts ready to be published whilst I was away last week.  He went on to say he’d love to be able to write as much valuable content as me, one day.

Many people seem to be waiting for some magical flash of inspiration to strike them, before they will start to write.  In my experience, you get a lot further, a lot faster, if you decide not to wait for inspiration to strike, but to proactively seek it out.

Writer’s block and bricklaying

My late father was a bricklayer and never once suffered from bricklayer’s block.  However, if he spent a while away from laying bricks, when he returned to work his back and shoulders used to ache and he found it harder.  You may have experienced something similar, if you start exercising again after a week (or 3) away from the gym; everything aches!  Interestingly, something similar happens when you write.  If you write regularly, it becomes easy.  If you write infrequently, it’s a lot harder.

I use a similar approach to writing as my dad used for laying bricks and have never had any issue with writer’s block.  I get to work at a set time every day (before my family wakes up is best for me) and lay one word down at a time, like my dad did with bricks, until I have the piece written.  I don’t wait until I feel like it, in fact, I’m not even sure how it’s supposed to feel!

Writer’s block and perfection

Many people tell me they have a perfectionist mindset, which means everything has to be perfect before they can write and that the actual writing itself has to be perfect too.  The challenge with perfectionist writers is that they seldom get started, because perfection is in very short supply.  I strongly suggest you drop the perfectionist mindset when you write, as it is both high-pressure and low output.

I decided a long time ago, to give myself permission to write imperfectly.  I am happy to say that I have stuck by this and have never written a perfect piece of work in my life.  I have, however, developed one of the most popular blogs in my niche and helped clients to make millions in sales, from copy I have written for them.

Something that helped me massively, was this quote from Ernest Hemingway:

For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can.  Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.

In short: Get started, write often and give it your best shot!

Photo: Wiertz Sébastien

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Jim Connolly

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27 Comments

  1. Great post. I’m working on making myself write on my personal blog every night. Sometimes posts go up at 9am, sometimes they go up at 11:30pm. But you just have to give yourself time to develop the content and do the work.

    Scheduling posts helps a lot. A buffer makes you feel more at ease and gives you time to go back and review your work. I generally keep 1 week’s worth of posts ready at a time.

    • I always have posts ready for publishing ahead of time too, Corey. There are days when the demands of being a dad or a business owner, make scheduling essential.

      I firmly believe there is no one right way to do this. It’s about finding how you write best and using that – But you have to get started.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. I love that quote! Every now and then I surprise myself by writing something so clever and insightful that I can’t help but think to myself, “Damn, I’m good!” But it doesn’t happen if you don’t keep writing.

  3. My philosophy is the same: Never let perfect get in the way of good.

    Humans read posts, not robots. While I make every effort to write a perfect post each time out, I learned a long time ago to not sweat the details.

    That’s not an excuse to be sloppy, but at the same time I have thrown away too many posts because I was afraid they weren’t good enough. In the same vein, I have published posts that I thought were average at best and those were the ones that notched highest in sharing.

    I don’t write for the sake of writing; I try to have a point, but I never let perfect get in the way of good. You never know what will resonate.

  4. Mr. Connolly I’ve always been afraid of magical flashes that strike, especially out of no where. But all joking aside, no lie…I keep a pen and paper next to my bed because I will have a glimpse of inspiration when I’m sleeping, so I wake up and write it down. Really! Then I have a nice list of topics to write about the next day. But I can also relate to what Paul said in his comment about not letting perfect get in the way of good. Just put it out there and for goodness sakes don’t compare your writings with other writers, you do that and you’ll never get anything written.

  5. Peter Devries was asked in an interview if he wrote only when he was inspired.

    he answered: Of course. And I make damn sure I’m inspired at 5 to 9 every morning just before I sit down in my writing chair!

    Jim – here’s something interesting about writing. We all have days when the writing flows effortlessly and it feels like we’re taking dictation (I LOVE LOVE LOVE flow days!). And we all have days where the words have to be dragged kicking and screaming from the sludge of our subconscious.

    But give it 6 months and look back – and you can’t tell the difference between a flow day and a sludgey day.

    The moral of the experience: even if you feel like crap, commit to the quantity and trust your subconscious to take care of the quality.

    Paul

    • I agree 100% there, Paul; regarding how you feel like you are writing pure magic when you are in a flow state, yet when you review what you wrote afterwards, it’s the same as your regular stuff.

      Excellent point.

  6. Jim,
    I’ve always loved to write, but never dreamed I’d have the courage to share my stuff online. When I started blogging last year my biggest fear was that I would run out of things to write about. But I started with one post and pushed “publish”. I was horrified seeing all of the mistakes! But I was stressed enough having it “out there” that I scrambled to fix the problems. Then new ideas I hadn’t thought of before started flowing in. Had I waited because of either of these two fears, imperfection and drought, I wouldn’t have learned a basic principle:
    “A journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step.”
    The journey is where the life is.
    Thanks!
    Betsy

    • Love that comment Betsy
      ““A journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step.”

  7. I like the bricklayer analogy – likewise if I head out for a walk on the fells it is much harder work after a long break from exercise.

    Writing is a similar process for me that gets easier with practise – right now I have at least 5 or 6 business blog posts “in the bank” and a similar number of private posts ready to publish whenever. I have built up a pile of posts which i will be able to publish whilst on a short vacation – I hope I still have the inspiration when I get back and dust off the keyboard.

    As for waiting until I was nearing perfection, well I wouldn’t publish a single word. I probably would also never have served up a home made meal to loved ones, written any songs, or ever stuck my neck out with my own ideas. It’s great to set the bar high, but there’s a difference between “high” and “impossible”.

    • The quote below, from your comment, is worthy of a post by itself, Tom:

      As for waiting until I was nearing perfection, well I wouldn’t publish a single word. I probably would also never have served up a home made meal to loved ones, written any songs, or ever stuck my neck out with my own ideas. It’s great to set the bar high, but there’s a difference between “high” and “impossible”.

      Well said, sir!

  8. I talk (and tweet) a lot which prevents me from getting bored! Not quite the same as writing as involves a lot less discipline and I’m sure it would take quite a long period of silence (which just wont happen) before I suffer from “chatters block” :o)

    Thanks for yet another great post Jim. You have so much valuable information to share – we are so lucky that you regularly exercise your writing skills.

  9. Jim

    I was so inspired by your post that it inspired a blog post of my own and a challenge. (Referenced below.) My challenge to myself… and anyone else that wants to participate is to get into the habit of writing a thousand words every day. I don’t think you need that challenge though. :-)

    (BTW, this blog post earned me another 68 words toward my goal.)

    Erika

  10. Natalie Smith

    August 7, 2011 at 16:52

    Hi Jim

    Thanks for this post, I’m relatively new to blogging but have always loved writing. Now that I’m blogging on behalf of my company I often suffer from stage fright and regularly put off writing until a more inspired moment hits me.

    Reading your post has been really helpful and I’m going to take your advice to stop worring and start doing with a more scheduled, regular approach.

    Wish me luck!!

    Natalie

  11. I really love this post because it has not only lifted the scale in my eyes it has equally challenged me to do something I’ve craved for a long time. I really used to wait till it hit me and usually when it disd it felt good but lasted for so short a time that it left me with loads of blockss. Now I do know better.

  12. But I started with one post and pushed “publish”. I probably would also never have served up a home made meal to loved ones, written any songs, or ever stuck my neck out with my own ideas.

  13. I agree with your thoughts on perfectionism. If something can not be done perfectly, perfectionists tend to put it off, and in some cases, never get it done.

    Keep in mind that all of us have something to say that others can benefit from. We will never write a perfect blog post, and most people do not read that critically anyway. They are seeking information and instruction; they are not seeking to see how well we can write.

    Thanks for the great points in you article.

  14. Inspirational post thanks Jim. Good to be reminded not to struggle for perfection.

  15. Justice Abraham

    December 13, 2012 at 12:17

    jim thank u for your counsel. i work with a media house as a photo journalist but i really want to be a good writer please help me out.Am form Nigerian

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