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The Surprising Secret for Writing Productivity

August 22, 2017



Note From Rochelle


Dear Readers,

Today’s tip is the third in a series to help you create your book. I’ve talked about how to choose and design a project. Today’s tip will teach you the surprising secret to writing more: connecting with other writers. (Who’d have guessed?)

And speaking of support, I’m last summer’s critique group was such a success, I’m offering a second critique group for new members. We start Wednesday, September 27th and have room for just four members, so sign up soon: Fall Critique Group




Photo Credit: Henning Westerkamp


The Surprising Secret to Writing Productivity

by Rochelle Melander


The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny; whose attitude is: “Tell me more.” —Brenda Ueland


As a spokesperson for Weight Watchers, Oprah Winfrey talks about one of the cornerstone secrets for successful weight loss: connecting. She said, “The journey is even better when you take it together.”


Neuroscientist Moran Cerf said that we can reduce stress, increase happiness and make better choices by connecting with the right people. Cerf based this theory on three research-supported concepts. First, we make hundreds of decisions a day, from when to get up to what to eat to how we’ll spend our time, and the act of choosing drains our energy. Second, when we make choices, we’re not always rational. Our biases, emotions, and social connections cloud our judgment. In other words, when it comes to choosing whether or not to have dessert, we might be swayed by our belief that hard work needs to be rewarded, feelings of accomplishment, and friend’s encouragement to indulge. Finally, we often make decisions based on what the people around us do.


We make better choices when we surround ourselves with people who make good choices. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said it this way: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”


Choosing healthy companions can affect our writing life as well as what we eat or how much we exercise. Psychology professor Robert Boice examined the habits of productive and unproductive faculty writers. He found that writers who belonged to peer writing groups received the following benefits:

+Maintained momentum to complete a project

+Produced more work

+Developed more creative ideas

+Improved the quality of their writing

+Identified sources for publication




Today’s quest will provide you with multiple options for connecting with others. Try out a few of them and measure which has the most impact on your writing life.


The Quest

Connect with writers using one or more of the following models. Reflect on what type of connecting works best for you.


A coach will help you vision, set goals, create a plan, overcome blocks, and stay accountable. You might hire a coach for help with a single challenge or to be an accountability partner for the whole process.


Accountability partner

An accountability partner can help you maintain momentum in achieving your goals. In this sort of relationship, it’s helpful if both people are working toward achieving a goal and need accountability.

Pro Tip: When you’re both working on a writing project, it can help to make a deadline pack. Promise that by a certain date you will each write a set number of words, finish a project, or complete a portion of a manuscript. To make it more fun and easier to succeed, make a bet. Perhaps the loser can treat the winner to dinner!


Coaching group

For years, I’ve met with small networking groups for accountability. When I wanted to quit, these connections have helped me to leap forward. During these meetings, we ask questions like:

+What are you writing?

+What’s working?

+What do you need help with?


Critique group

Professional writers study great writing—and know what works and what doesn’t work. When we invite other writers to read and critique our writing, we expand our understanding of good writing. And, we learn about our blind spots. From complex comments on structure and voice to technical lessons on commas and run-on sentences, a good critique can strengthen our writing. Plus, having a critique group often provides us with the deadline we need to finish a draft of our work.


Writing Class

When we cannot make progress even with the help of a coach or coaching group, we might consider taking a class. With the help of an instructor and colleagues, we’ll receive assignments, due dates, feedback and accountability. In addition, paying a fee can sometimes help us work harder.


Game Play Tips

+You may need to try a few coaches, accountability partners or groups before you find one that suits you.

+Give each connecting tool time to work. One coaching session or one critique group session can be helpful, but several can be transformational. It takes time to develop trust, and transformational relationships are built on a foundation of trust.



In her book Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer, Nancy Mairs offers this encouragement for writers about connecting with each other:

“This is what we can all do to nourish and strengthen one another: listen to one another very hard, ask hard questions, too, send one another away to work again, and laugh in all the right places.” (p. 25)





2 Responses

  1. This says it all, Rochelle. I wrote, and read, and investigated, and revised for years while working full time. I even sought critique partners during those years, but I had no luck “breaking in” to an existing group and equally poor results when seeking others interested in writing the type of content, for similar audiences, that I was writing. It wasn’t until I retired that I dove head first into joining professional organizations, working with like-minded critique partners, attending conferences, and using online resources.That’s why I urge ANYONE interested in really writing and publishing successfully, including self-publishing, to follow the advice in this post. Really. Start today!

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