5 Writing Productivity "Force Multipliers"
No. 150 | By Christine Carron
One way to increase your writing productivity is to increase the number of writing productivity force multipliers you utilize. A writing productivity force multiplier is any tool, process, strategy, or tactic that helps you get your writing done with greater ease, confidence, and/or efficiency.
One of the tricky bits about force multipliers is that they are not universal. Using a word processor for many writers, for example, is a force multiplier. However, some writers’ productivity will be served by handwriting their first draft. Neil Gaiman, for example, writes his first drafts by hand. He is absolutely a prolific creator, so arguably handwriting his first drafts is a force multiplier for his creative process.
In addition, implementing many writing productivity force multipliers requires you to, temporarily, stop writing. Your logical brain, therefore—fueled by the commonly held notion that the only legit writing work is writing—might try to convince you to forego embracing force multipliers. We’ll come back to that internal resistance later in the this post.
For now, let’s explore five powerful (non-writing) writing productivity force multipliers.
Getting (and Keeping) Your Writing Projects Organized
Some of the writers I work with have had a writing project where the creation process has spanned years. They have files and research all over the place—in different online documents, in different computers, and in different notebooks. All those book bits and bobs lying about weigh on the writers, and they carry some level of guilt about “the mess.”
On top of all that, the writers have often over-embraced the idea that spending too much time on organizing or decluttering is a sign of writerly procrastination, i.e., the dread resistance. The "too much" part has gotten lost in translation, and their inner critics become convinced that any amount of time spent on organization is suspect.
As a result, the "not organizing" has built up into a very real drag on their productivity and mindset.
What is the force multiplier in this situation? To take charge of your process and your mindset by getting organized. Once you are organized, from here on out, allocate some of your writing time to staying organized.
When writers in my program do this, there is usually a period of time where they continue to worry that they “should” be writing. That maybe their organization efforts means they’re in resistance, and as a result they have this deep internal struggle.
No matter that thanks to getting organized, they are finding previously drafted gems of ideas and smart thinking. No matter that it is boosting their confidence to sift through what they’ve already created. No matter that some of that sifting is leading them to appreciate and acknowledge their progress. No matter that they are “finding” pages and pages of good first draft material.
Eventually, however, the motivation and momentum boost (i.e., the force multiplying impact) of organizing is too obvious to deny. Once that happens, integrating getting and staying organized (to whatever level suits their creative process) becomes a valued force multiplier tool in their writing productivity toolkit.
Metacognition is thinking about thinking. There are three core practices in metacognition: planning, monitoring, and assessing. Your writing process is likely more steeped in metacognition than you might have realized.
Have you ever planned your writing projects? Metacognition, planning. Have you ever tracked your word count, page count, or chapter lengths? Metacognition, monitoring. Have you ever abandoned one creative strategy to move your book forward because it wasn't working for you and tried another? Metacognition, assessment.
I now invite you to lean even more (and with more awareness) into metacognitive practices. Goodjelly tools do so with abandon. Why? Because the benefits of metacognition are increased empathy, self-awareness, and problem-solving skills. All useful qualities in a creative endeavor like writing.
I will add that while empathy by definition is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, what I have found—in both myself and with the writers I work with—is that metacognition increases our inner-empathy as well. Meaning our empathy for, compassion toward, and appreciation of our inner creative selves.
That one benefit alone makes metacognition not only a writing productivity force multiplier, but also a writing adventure “positive vibes” multiplier—shifting writers into a more satisfying, compassionate, generous, and delight-filled writing adventure.
Another fabulously delicious and paradoxical writing productivity force multiplier is when you step away from the computer, or put your pen down, and take a nap. In her MIT News article, That moment when you’re nodding off is a sweet spot for creativity, Anne Trafton writes about the results of a study by MIT and Harvard Medical School researchers:
"During the phase when you’re drifting between sleep and waking, a state known as sleep onset, the creative mind is particularly fertile, the researchers showed. They also demonstrated, for the first time, that when people are prompted to dream about a particular topic during that sleep phase, they perform much more creatively when later asked to perform three creativity tasks around that topic.
'When you are prompted to dream about a topic during sleep onset, you can have dream experiences that you can later use for these creative tasks,' says Kathleen Esfahany, an MIT senior and one of the lead authors of the study.
People who received this prompting, known as 'targeted dream incubation,' generated more creative stories than people who napped without a specific prompt or people who stayed awake."
Movin’ and Groovin’
Before you partake of some target dream incubation, you could slip in a little extra force multiplying action by busting a move.
In a New York Times article, Can Exercise Make You More Creative?, Gretchen Reynolds writes:
"If you often exercise, there’s a good chance you also tend to be more creative, according to an interesting new study of the links between physical activity and imagination. It finds that active people come up with more and better ideas during tests of their inventiveness than people who are relatively sedentary, and suggests that if we wish to be more innovative, we might also want to be movers and shakers."
So . . . hello, dance break!
Creative Renewal (Play)
The fifth and final force multiplier in today’s list—that, like the others, requires you to step away from the writing itself—is what I call creative renewal. Creative renewal is partaking in a Julia Cameron style Artist’s Date or what Brené Brown defines as “goofing off.”
In his Newsweek article, Do You Play Enough? Science Says It's Critical to Your Health and Well-Being, Adam Piore opens with:
"Neuroscientists, educators and psychologists . . . know that play is as an essential ingredient in the lives of adults as well as children. A weighty and growing body of evidence—spanning evolutionary biology, neuroscience and developmental psychology—has in recent years confirmed the centrality of play to human life. Not only is it a crucial part of childhood development and learning but it is also . . . a potent way of supercharging creativity and engagement."
Go out and play. Renew your creative energy. Come back to the page super-charged to write and create. Nice!
Play becomes an even more powerful force multiplier when our writing process itself merges with play. In his beautiful book Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, Stephen Nachmanovitch writes:
"Full-blown artistic creativity takes place when a trained and skilled grown-up is able to tap the source of clear, unbroken play-consciousness of the small child within. This consciousness has a particular feel and flow we instinctively recognize. It is 'like tossing a ball on a swift-flowing water: moment-to-moment non-stop flow.'" (p. 48)
I’ll take me some moment-to-moment non-stop flow. How about you?
Force Multipliers and Patience
I mentioned earlier that we might resist taking advantage of force multipliers due to ingrained notions of what productivity should look like. For many writers, productivity means churning out as many pages as possible as fast as possible at all times and anything that comes in the way of that—like organizing, reveling in metacognition, catching some Zs, moving your bod, or slipping into some creatively renewing play—is viewed with suspicion.
As a result, it will likely take patience to fully integrate these types of force multipliers. Using them will require faith in your own creative process. Trust in the unfolding of your own writing adventure.
To use them also means embracing the perspective that speed is not the only, nor always, the best measure of true writing productivity.
Case in point, let's return to Neil Gaiman's handwritten first drafts. In a tweet in December 2021, he shared that he drafted Coraline at an ever so blistering pace of 50 words per night.
Coraline is 30,826 words long. (I looked it up.) So at that rate, Gaiman got the first draft done in just under two years total time. But according to Wikipedia, he started writing the book in 1990. It was published in 2002. So twelve years elapsed time from starting the draft to published.
Not exactly speedy, yet that book went on to win the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker Awards and was ranked #82 by The Guardian in its list of 100 Best Books of the entire twenty-first century.
Not too shabby. And is anyone really going to argue that Gaiman's process wasn't productive?
So, I invite you to be courageous and allow yourself on a regular basis to step away from your writing and benefit from these non-writing writing productivity force multipliers. To claim whatever time and spaciousness your creative process requires. And, perhaps most importantly, to trust in yourself.
When you do your creative power, your writing productivity, as well as your delight on the writing adventure will be multiplied beyond measure.