Productive? Prolific? Sign Me Up!

I am so happy to bring my first book review to the Waterworld Mermaids’ lagoon immediately after posting on the problem of Fear.  Being a writer who spends way too much time worrying about not writing, I am always hoping to find words of wisdom that might help me embrace my craft.

       The Productive Writer, by Sage Cohen, is one book in my arsenal.  Ms Cohen writes as both a business professional and a poet.  She believes, as she states early in her introduction, that productivity is a lifestyle choice.  I used this book extensively last winter, carrying it in my satchel and dipping into it for reading on my train rides to and from the Bronx each weekday morning.  I could dip into a chapter (“Transforming Your Realtionship with Time,” or “Writing in the Margins of a Full-Time Life”, among others) and meditate on ten or so pages.  Even if I only scanned the headings of part of a chapter, I felt comforted and reinvigorated, ready to face the task ahead.  Productive Writer remains at my elbow here at home most days.  After Thursday’s post and responses, I think it needs to go back in my satchel.

Last Saturday, I was the lucky winner of Hillary Rettig’s The 7 Secrets of the Prolific.  I’d just been treated to a presentation from this speaker at a CTRWA monthly meeting, and was thrilled to know that I would be taking her wisdom home with me.  Ms. Rettig writes that, yes, writers procrastinate for many reasons.  She takes time to examine perfectionism, resource constraints, time constraints, bias, internalized oppression and exploitation, just to scratch the surface.  In discussing these, she seeks to help us change our inner dialogue and unsnarl the spaghetti that keeps us blocked from fully embracing our mission to be productive. 

I know that these two books, alone, won’t make me the writer I dream of becoming.  They are tools.  But the wisdom and insight contained in each helps provide a re-dedication to my talent and goals.  Suddenly, I’m looking forward to all those train rides this winter…


The Productive Writer is available in print and as an ebook at both and

The 7 Secrets of the Prolific is available as an ebook at Print copies can be purchased at

About Susan Jeffery

I am loving the challenge (sometimes) of re-entering the contemporary romance market after a lifetime of raising two fantastic children (it never ends, btw). Just when I thought I was done with kids, I accepted a position as librarian to 900 boys in a Bronx private school. I'm a vintage published author, Harlequin American #206 Fair Game (1987). Winner of the Golden Heart, 1986. Currently exploring the possibility of indie publishing under my new pseudonym (see fresh name, above).

17 thoughts on “Productive? Prolific? Sign Me Up!

  1. I do think that being productive is a habit rather than a skill. And productive (to me, anyway) simply means cranking stuff out. I can fix the stuff later, but the only way to write a book is to write and write and write, and I can dance around that and do research all I want, but that won’t get me a book. The other day, I wrote 23 pages. I imagine I’ll cut about half of them and completely rewrite the others. But still…23 pages!

    1. Kristan, that is so brave of you. I’ve always freeze when I realize I’m writing glop. What if I can’t rescue it and make it into something passably good? Oh, crud, it’s the perfectionist surge! Thanks for that, I will try to be more voluminous in my writing.

  2. Hi Susan! I’ll have to read more about what Ms. Rettig says regarding perfectionism feeding into procrastination. I’m finding that through doing Editpalooza right now, I question how perfect we need to get our stories before handing them over for submission. Obviously as good as we can get them but the proposition of it needing to be perfect is very daunting. Great Post! Again!

    1. Carlene-Mermaid, you have to tell us more about this Editpalooza!!! When’s your next post? 😉

      1. Susan and Kerri, what a fabulous idea! I’ll use my February post day for a wrap up of this awesome event. ;&

  3. Okay, you know, after we talked, how my perfectionism was leading into procrastination. And I know I told you I would send it that day regardless if I was finished or not…BUT…I just wasn’t happy with it. 🙂 So for me the perfectionism is my problem for not getting it done.

    But I will say, I sent it last night, and I feel content. There are still a few ideas that popped in my head this morning, but I told myself, “Self, stop. It’s gone. It’s done. Take the day off.”

    I’m sure mt editor will send it back if changes need to be made.

    Both these books look like must-haves. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    1. I knew that you would send it out when you were satisfied, and I applaud you for taking care to make sure you sent your best work. If our conversation helped you make peace and work with confidence, then it wasn’t in vain.

      I’m especially happy that you were able to embrace the “finish, rest, bless” of our discussion. See you next month and look forward to hearing good news!

  4. Another great post, Susan-Mermaid! I am in the middle of some pretty massive revisions on my ms. I’m proud of myself for getting back into it since I almost (seriously, I was THIS close) gave up on it completely.

    1. I know you were discouraged, Kerri. It’s to your credit that you found your way out of that snarl. Keep writing!

  5. Great post Susan! I’m plotting my next book and I had been procrastinating left and right. Yesterday, I just snapped out of it. Thank goodness!!

  6. Thanks Susan for bringing these titles to my attention.

    I, sadly, am a huge offender of using perfectionism as a procrastination tool. But being aware of the problem is the first step in solving it. I agree that productivity is a habit. The better our exercise and eating habits are the healthier we will be. The better our time management and writing habits are the more productive we will be. And so on.

    And congratulations Kristan, 23 pages wow! So happy for you. I love those days when the words are flowing.

    Kerri, I’m glad you aren’t giving up on your ms. I have one of those and know when a ms needs major revisions it can feel like too daunting a task, but I know in the end you’ll be happy you stuck with it.

    1. Enjoy, Yvonne. I especially find the Sage Cohen title to be a very calming text. Rettig’s book is especially helpful to help me analyze my own broken thinking and reframing the inner dialogue.

      1. Susan, I started with the Rettig book and I’m still reading it — but that hasn’t stopped me from recommending it to every writer I know! You’re right about it helping with the inner dialogue and broken thinking. Only time will tell if it improves my output, but reading it makes me feel more hopeful, so thank you, thank you, thank you!

  7. Susan,
    I love to hate the tools. LOL. I like reading recommendations from other writers. I love Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, but then I have a hard time putting it down to actually write. So, I put away the tools, and I just have to hope that instinct alone will take over. I have to remind myself that writers of the old classics didn’t have all the self-help books to become a better writer. They just wrote. And then I second guess myself because I wonder if all the other writers today will have an edge because they are using the tools. It’s a nasty cycle….:-).
    It comes down to one thing…JUST WRITE. Write from the heart. Write the words that speak to you and not the ones you think will speak to an editor or an agent or a contest judge. What speaks to one person doesn’t necessarily speak to another, so in the end it’s only you that you have to satisfy.
    Now, if I could only take my own advice…

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