Habits are like financial capital – forming one today is an investment that will automatically give out returns for years to come.
Shawn Achor – Educator, Author, and Speaker
In his book the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey’s seventh habit that he describes is called “sharpening the saw”. In this habit, he likens personal maintenance as “sharpening the saw”. His analogy showed that by sharpening the saw a woodcutter was far more productive than if he simply kept cutting. Covey described four areas where we need to “sharpen our saws”. These areas include physical, mental, spiritual, and social. In this post, I am demonstrating how, as productive writers, we need to apply this strategy of “sharpening our saws”.
Physical Maintenance of a Productive Writer
To be more productive as a writer, we must keep the human machine in good condition. As I am writing this, I am thinking about my 1997 truck that I drive. Even though it has around 200 thousand miles on it, its engine does not burn or leak any oil. The reason the oil doesn’t leak isn’t luck, it is because it was given proper maintenance. As a writer, I am able to write better if I feel well and to feel well, like my truck, I need to give myself proper maintenance.
Like my truck, I need to be fed properly. I need to eat foods that are good for me. The term garbage in, garbage out, applies here. It needs the proper lubrication and needs fluids changed on a regular basis.
My truck had apparently been sitting in a garage for a while before I bought it because it ran rough at first. However after several months of driving, the performance improved. My truck just needed exercise, and so do I. I have a confession to make, I haven’t been exercising like I should. The reason for my failure to exercise is that back when I was doing it every day, I did it in the morning. The problem with that was that it was cutting into my writing time because my best hours are first thing in the morning. I am working however on a system where I don’t have to take a lot of time out of my best hours for writing. Instead, I have started exercising during my break times between writing stents. From what I have been reading, a couple minutes (yes, two)of exercise several times per day is actually better than an hour of exercise first thing in the morning. In addition to better cardio and strength training, this practice also has the potential of increasing my writing productivity which is an added plus! A healthier body and better writing output, who could beat that?
The Mental Agility of a Productive Writer
Another area that we need to exercise is in our brains This adds more to our ability to communicate as writers because it gives us something to communicate . Learning new things whether they are part of our business or just something that we want to learn for our own enjoyment improves our ability to think and to learn more. The cliché “use it or lose it” is definitely true when it comes to our ability to learn. According to a recent statistic, about one third of all Americans don’t read any books after graduation from high school. Part of the problem I think comes from the way the school systems are structured. Schools are structured so that all the fun is taken out of education. I however stubbornly maintained the idea that learning should be fun. I love to read books on numerous subjects and do a lot of research (part of the perks of writing historical fiction). In addition, I am learning French on the internet on a program called Duolingo. I should have the course finished by the middle of September. I am also continuing to review a Spanish course that I took last year. I was going to do Russian but I do not want to have to download the Russian keyboard onto my laptop so I have decided to start studying Swedish next instead. It doesn’t take very long, I do the lessons for as little as ten minutes per day (or up to an hour a day if I am in the mood). To discover Duolingo for yourself (a free program) and learn one of 27 languages, go to https://www.duolingo.com/
The Spiritually Productive Writer
Taking time to improve our connection with our spiritual selves is also important for productive writers. Praying and reading the Bible are two ways that people in our western culture think of when they think of spiritual connection, but there are other ways that we can do this as well. Many ancient cultures found spirituality in nature. In the Holy Bible in the book of Romans it says that all of creation demonstrates the existence of the creator. I know that my own creativity is connected to my relationship with nature. Often if I find my creativity stunted, spending time in nature unblocks the flow of that creativity.
The Socially in Tune Productive Writer
In order to be a productive writer, it helps to have family members on board with our writing efforts. When family members are not on board, the writing process can become difficult. For family members to accept the time we spend at the keyboard, it is important that we recognize that they may be sacrificing time with us as well. Setting boundaries between our writing time and family time can help improve social relationships as well as taking some of the related friction out of the equation.
Improving our social network, building on our relationships is highly important for us as individuals as well as for our writing careers. As an author, I need to know how to produce good conversations in my fiction books. In addition, I also need to communicate to those people who are part of my network when dealing with the marketing aspects of the writing process. Again a cliché comes to mind. “People don’t care what you know until they know you care”. I will be sharing more about this in Thursday’s blog post.
Donna Brown is pastor at Faith in God Church 1 1/2 miles south of Brandsville, Missouri on Hwy 63. Sunday services are at 10 am and Wednesday night Bible Study at 6:30 pm. As Author Cygnet Brown, she has published a nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener
She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga. The next book Book IV of the Locket Saga: Sailing Under the Black Flag will be out in the near future.