Monday, January 3, 2011

How I Became a Productive Writer - and How You Can, Too: A Guest Post by Author Sage Cohen

I'm delighted to hand over my blog today to Sage Cohen, author of  The Productive Writer (just released from Writers' Digest Books); Writing the Life Poetic and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Sage blogs about all that is possible in the writing life at pathofpossibility.com, where you can: 
  • Download a FREE "Productivity Power Tools" workbook companion to The Productive Writer. 
  • Get the FREE, 10-week email series, "10 Ways to Boost Writing Productivity" when you sign up to receive email updates. 
  • Sign up for the FREE, Writing the Life Poetic e-zine.
  • Plus, check out the events page for the latest free teleclasses, scholarships and more. 
Sage has very kindly offered a free, signed copy of her book, The Productive Writer, to a lucky reader leaving a comment on my blog today. I will get my mathematical family to help me do a random drawing from all comments at the end of the day. (Don't forget to leave a way for me to contact you--an email address for example.) Thank you, Sage, and over to you:


How I Became a Productive Writer—And How You Can, Too: Guest Post by Author Sage Cohen

I recently heard Ira Glass advise an audience: If you really want to do something well, you have to be willing to do it really badly for a very long time. I think this is the key to the productive writing life; it has been for me. You have to love what you’re doing enough to keep on doing it, no matter what your results, no matter what anyone else says about the merit of what you are doing. From this foundation of commitment, anything is possible. I wrote poems for 10 years before sharing them with anyone. Eventually, it occurred to me that maybe I was a poet. From there, my writing life gathered a new momentum.

Once you have a secure foothold in your own writing craft and a confidence in your ability to show up to do the work, then it’s time to fine-tune your attitude. When I started sending out my work, I considered dropping the envelope in the mailbox to be my success, because that was what I could control. Getting up the gumption to try—and keep trying—was the real celebration. I knew that every writer is rejected exponentially more than she is ever accepted (if ever). My commitment was to simply keep trying. Getting published was the icing on the cake.

When we set our sights on a goal and don’t succeed, it’s easy to tell ourselves a story that keeps us chained to this so-called failure. “I’m not [fill in the blanks with your own favorite insult here] enough to accomplish that,” we may tell ourselves, then beat ourselves up with that story over and over and over, ensuring that we’ll never try again. But it is just as easy to tell ourselves a different story when we didn’t get what we wanted. And that story goes like this: “Well, that way didn’t lead me to what I want. I will try another way.”

These two sentences can be repeated for the next two days or two decades, however long it takes to find your way, that is, the way that takes you where you want to go. With this approach, there is no end point where we know for sure we can’t and won’t succeed. Instead, there is a spirit of practice and lighthearted fun. We are practicing getting somewhere and being creative about the ways and means of doing so. We are committed to the journey, and we are willing to keep moving in the direction we’re headed, no matter what. With this kind of spirit and fortitude, eventually we get there—with a smile on our face and the humility to enjoy and appreciate our results.

To help inform and inspire my writing life over the years, I’ve sought out classes, mentors and a community of peers. I’ve experimented with new techniques and approaches and listened carefully to people I respect. But most importantly, I learned to listen to myself and trust my own instincts. Along the way, my portfolio of publications slowly but surely expanded and my platform came into focus. Then, at age 37, I pitched a book, and it sold. The next year, I pitched another one and that book sold, too.

I am grateful to have been published along the way. But I’m no more grateful than I was those first ten years of writing poems for no audience other than me, because that was what I was called to do. As I see it, there is no greater blessing than knowing what you were put on earth to do – and then making the space in your life to do it. Productivity can help you become better and better at honoring the call to write.

Remember: Your job is not to be perfect. Your job is to find your way. As you try new approaches to writing and publishing, keep a log of what worked, what didn’t, and what you intend to try next, and you’ll always be moving toward where you want to go.

16 comments:

Cold As Heaven said...

Right now I'm in the phase of writing badly, but not giving up >:)

Cold As Heaven

Sage Cohen said...

That's the most important choice any writer can make: not giving up! Glad to hear it!

And thank you, Sheila, for having me here today!

Sheila Deeth said...

Thank you Sage. I really enjoyed your book and your post. And I'm starting the new year with a commitment to implement some of your suggestions.

Anonymous said...

Your new "rainbow" blog is beautiful, Sheila. And chock full of interesting writing temptations, not the least the Guest Post by Sage Cohen. I hope to win the book.
Jean Harkin (you know my e-mail)

Horrible Sanity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Horrible Sanity said...

Sage & Sheila,

I love the new newsletter, 'path of possibility' - chuck full of great insights and advice.

Thanks for this guest post, it's humbling to know it's never too late to pitch a book idea.

PenPoint Editorial Services

http://www.PenPointEditorial.com

abitosunshine said...

OK, I really need this jumpstart to finding my way and staying with it! Great guest post!

Sheila, I'm adding this to my giveaway list and twitter tweeting it!

abitosunshine said...

Sage, your website is fulled with great advice. I started the new year off insisting this is my year for Peace, Positive, and Productive. Now, to stick to those three P's!

Sheila Deeth said...

Thanks Ruthi

Book Bird Dog said...

Would love to win a copy of Sage Cohen's book! Hope I'm not too late to enter.

harvee44 at yahoo dot com

Book Bird Dog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol Kilgore said...

Never give up. Good advice. Persistence pays.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I was eager to learn more about Sage since I just ordered a copy of The Productive Writer. The bonus is learning about the blog, so I'm off to subscribe.

Thanks for hosting this most interesting guest, Sheila.

Angela Ackerman said...

Great post. Really, well said! Never give up, and always try as hard as you can.

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Sage said...

Thanks for your kind and enthusiastic feedback, folks! So glad you've joined me over at pathofpossibility.com. I hope to serve you very well there in the year to come. Happy writing! May 2011 be your best year yet.

maryrussel said...

Very useful and inspirational suggestions. Thank you, both.