Monday, February 7, 2011

The Productive Writer, Part 1: A Word

Just before Christmas, I received a bonus gift--an advanced copy of Sage Cohen's The Productive Writer.  I took Sage's Poetry for the People class two years ago, and despite it being a gloomy March, I managed to produce a lot of poems, two of which were subsequently published on vox poetica, and I've had her Writing the Life Poetic book on my shelf, patiently waiting for me to take it down and use it for about a year now, so I was very excited to be selected to receive her new book and, you know, become more productive.

My end of the bargain?  Promote the book on my blog.  The only problem was, it got shuffled aside into the "to deal with after the holidays" pile.  Ever since then, I've been carrying it around in my bag, staining it with egg yolk and soup leaking from my lunch, and mostly not having time to even crack the cover, let alone be productive.  

BUT, last month, I led my writing group through a series of goal-setting and big-dreaming exercises, mostly lifted from the first chapter of the book, as well as ideas from other sources.  And, I have come up with a word "that encapsulates my [writing] intentions," as recommended in Chapter 1:  Free.

My big picture goal for the year is to free-up time to write.  To free myself to take chances, make mistakes (to quote Miss Frizzle).  To free myself from the inner critic, fear and self-doubt.  To free my writing from structure, convention, stale old blah-ness.

So that's my word, my goal.  How has it worked out so far?  Not so much.  But maybe stating my intentions here will make them more real and make me more accountable.  I did take a few minutes to flip forward through the book, and I'm very exciting about some of the stuff in upcoming chapters, particularly the one entitled "Writing in the Margins of a Full-Time Life."

I plan on posting more here about what I glean from the book and how I put it to work for me, so stay tuned for my Productive Writing Life.  In the meantime, I think "productive" needs to mean getting going on a book review I promised to have drafted by mid-February and that zine I think I said would be done by the end of January.


  1. I need some goal setting exercises, for sure. One of my (many) issues is getting distracted by everything else on my computer. I need deadlines, otherwise, nothing gets done on my own time line.
    I love the idea of letting yourself be free to write and make mistakes and not worry about the final product. That's a big one, too. Fear of messing up, of creating something terrible.

  2. Have you read "Becoming a Writer" by Dorothea Brande? It's a thin book, bent on building habits. It's working for me, so I wanted to share.


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