• Kathleen Lees

Productivity vs. Creativity in Writing

Updated: Jun 16


One of my favorite authors is Stephen King. In his book "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft," King notes that he sets a daily writing goal of 2,000 words. How he does that, (and remains one of the best-selling authors of all time,) I'm still figuring out.


You're probably thinking it's consistency. I completely understand that, but how do you force yourself to be creative? (*Clears throat*) Let me rephrase that. How do you force yourself to write everyday and write well? How does anyone do it? What if you're just beginning or what if you've just experienced rejection?


I've discovered a few things throughout my career I'd like to share.


You Can't Measure Creativity

If you read my previous blog post, you know that I've had my fair share of corporate jobs. Managers would measure my performance in fancy reports and spreadsheets. Productivity could be easily measured.


In writing, this would translate to finishing a sentence or writing a chapter. Those are essential steps to publishing. They're important. They're mandatory. And they require a lot of consistent effort if you want to see your name in print.


But how you get an idea for a story, like the character development, the writing style, the theme. It can't be measured. You can't always determine when the creative mood will strike you, and what might be considered visionary to someone might be considered dull and uninteresting to someone else.


You can't please everyone. I'm not saying that. However, at least for myself, I've realized that sometimes it's OK to spend more time on the creativity of your craft than just the production, alone. Work has to get out there, but it has to be good (to whomever is publishing it and to you. Let's face it, you know when your work is up to par and when it's not.)


Revision Work: Creativity and Productivity

I think revising work goes both ways: it's creative and productive. It's absolutely essential in balancing the entire process. I can't count how many times I wrote something I thought was magnificent that a second pair of eyes thought was mediocre. (And they were right!)


Maybe there were some spelling errors. Maybe there were some issues with the structure of a sentence or two. However, oftentimes there was an issue with the story or a character, and unfortunately, those kinds of problems take more time and thinking to resolve.


King states that you should re-write a story two to three times. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story," said King from a 2013 interview in The Atlantic. "When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story."


It's a simply stated quote, but also very complex. Taking out material in your story that doesn't belong can be quite taxing. It's hard to part with content (sometimes that you don't want to, especially depending on the agent you're working with.)


You Can Have It All, If You Love It

Writing shouldn't be hard. I take that back. It might be hard at times (Even if you love it). (Probably for the aforementioned stated above, like revising your story, keeping a regular writing routine when you don't always feel like it, etc.)


But if you are writing for the real reasons--that it's exciting to put your feelings and ideas into words, that it's not about money or becoming famous (though those are certainly nice, too)--then productivity and creativity can weave together. How you create your own balance is up to you.


"The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better." -Stephen King




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