9 Tips on Becoming a More Creative and Productive Writer

9 Tips on Becoming a More Creative and Productive Writer

Reader Comments (110)

  1. Over the years I have come to accept one truth—every great idea I have I forget…unless I write it down. No matter how brilliant it is right now give it a few hours and you’ll be grasping at straws.

    • I agree with that, for the most part, but then I can also relate to Stephen King’s claim that he doesn’t keep a notebook because if an idea was good enough, it would stay with him.

      • That, I know for sure, would be the ruin of me. I’d obsess about so many ideas I had but couldn’t remember the exact thought.

        That happens more often with public speaking. I’m always saying “the first time I said it was the best time why didn’t I record that?”

      • For me, the worst thing is when you have a half formulated idea in your head that just keeps bugging you. I can never put my finger on it and just get a fuzzy kind of outline – the general idea of a story.

        I always get worried that I’ve wasted a great opportunity, but just end up forgetting the idea after a week of clutching at straws.

    • I keep notebook in my back pocket, note cards or papers n my front pocket, boxes and drawers full of everything from a sentence to a concept, jotted down. And spiral notebooks–3 of them–in my tote bag, with some of these ideas and concepts actually fleshed out.
      Latch on to those ideas, put them down, somewhere where they’ll stimulate you later…

  2. This post really spoke to me. Freewriting especially is a method that is too often overlooked. Really allowing yourself to let loose and write anything – that’s the key there – can get you some of your most creative ideas.

  3. I hate that quote by Dorothy Parker. It’s like a baseball player saying “I hate playing ball. I love having played.” Or a chess player saying, “I hate playing chess. I love having played.” Really? You don’t like to write? Get another job, then.

    Sure, writing is hard, but there is a pleasure in the fight with the written word. Connecting the dots. The act itself is a reward, as is the end product. So I love writing, AND to have written.

    Otherwise, good article Richard. πŸ˜€

    • Demian, Dorthy’s quote fits her personality, wit (or humor). But it does speak to so many that find writing a struggle, or like you said hard (which really captures why I started with the quote).

      Thanks for getting into the ring…;-)

    • Demian,

      I couldn’t agree with you more dude. Why is it posh to be standoffish about what you do?

      I’m also sick of writers bitching about writing…

      …I sell insurance, what would you rather do?

      To add to the list, I’ve found listening to Gangster Rap from the 1990s to be a great method of nudging creativity. There were a lot of seriously talented poets with boatloads of aggression creating amazing art in those days.


      • I don’t think it’s necessarily standoff-ish, because I feel this way at times in recreational activities I do. I ran a 1/2 Marathon two weeks ago where it was brutally warm out. I can tell you with certainty that I hated running during it, but was definitely enjoying it after I finished. πŸ˜‰

        • I can relate. My last race was in 80 degree weather and at mile 8 all I wanted was a 2 liter of Coke and a pizza. Yet, you have to admit, for the most part, you enjoy the run. πŸ˜‰

  4. Play with your dog!

    That’s classic and it’s the one thing I do when writing that we both love πŸ™‚

    Hunter actually knows the look on my face when I’m in lala land and a good roll on the floor is coming…

    And it works.

    Thanks Richard. Good post.

    • You’re welcome Charles…there is something to be said for hanging out with “man’s best friend” – You can clear your mind quickly. Had a German Shepherd…Still missing her.

  5. I agree with Demian Farnworth.
    I like free writing and it’s the best way to become creative writing πŸ™‚
    Otherwise, this is good article.

  6. Hi Richard,

    Great article. One of my daily rituals for creative inspiration is taking a walk. I try not to think about anything in particular, instead, I thoroughly take in the scenery. I find this helps to unleash a lot of my subconscious thoughts-which I can then use in my conscious state.

    I also draw inspiration from the shower-this seems to be common for a lot of writers. There’s a way to jot down your ideas without soaking your bathroom floor from hoping in and out of the tub to grab a notebook and pen.

    Aquanotes are waterproof notepads that you can stick to your shower wall-so you’ll never be at a loss for your great ideas.

    • Walks, hikes and runs work for me. The shower I reserve for solitude. Interesting idea about the waterproof notes. That would be an interesting picture to see the outcome after a good note taking session.

  7. Ha! I was in the middle of writing a post and just lost the flow. Then voila! Your article appeared in my mailbox (procratination was setting in as I checked my mail). I love the point of “play”. Sometimes I just have to back away from it all and recharge my creative juices. I return feeling inspired and ready to begin again. Great ideas!

    • See procrastination works in our favor;-) All kidding aside, as my first post on Copyblogger, wasn’t sure I wanted to go this deep. Glad you liked the article Stephanie….

  8. Great tips.

    I definitely agree with taking notes. Often times I think of ideas for a post in the most random places at the most random times, so it helps to have something to capture those ideas to be put into play later.

    Sitting down and trying to think of post ideas never works for me. Like you said, go play with your pet or something that gets your mind off of whatever you’re working on, and an idea will most likely pop into your head when you least expect it.


    • Thanks Jake, just goes to show you that some of your best ideas come when you are not trying. I tend to use my smartphone to make a quick note so I don’t lose the idea…

  9. Exercise gets my brain working. I have taken to having a notebook beside my stationary bike. Goes back to the idea of taking notes. I have forgotten so many great epics. Now I work hard to have a pen and paper always around.

  10. I love the simplicity of this. Sometimes the best way to be productive at writing is to NOT write. Feeling obligated or mandated to create something valuable and incredible this instant is often the roadblock to creating something spectacular. I find that getting outdoors for a bike ride or a hike allows me to return to the work space with new creative ideas and a spike in productivity. Great tips here!

  11. Taking calculated risk is a good approach for any extraordinary success in life. That also applies to writing of course. It is probably one of the hardest things to do because you never know the exact outcome.

    • Jutta, as long as those risks that you are taking are the “real you”, the outcome is irrelevant. I’d rather be the real me, then always trying to figure out what works…

  12. Thanks for the reminder about mind-mapping. One of my homework items from my business coach was to create a mind map.

    I carry my BlackBerry and pens and pads of paper with me so I can write down my ideas.

    Another technique I use is to pay attention to the conversations around me. Yep, I’m an eavesdropper. πŸ˜‰ You would be surprised how many article, eBook, book, and blog post ideas you can find if you just listen.

    I do need to play more. In fact, I think I’ll start right now.

    Have a great weekend!

  13. Note taking and free writing are the biggest ones for me. In Evernote I have notebooks for Blog Starters and one for Sermon Starters. Any brief thought that something is a sermon or blog idea goes in of my starter files. I resist the urge to ask, “Is this really a good idea?”

    Then when writing I can pull an idea for my starter file. If I am not sure what direction to take, I will spend time free writing about the topic. After awhile clarity usually falls into place.

  14. Love Evernote! Love brain-dumping, not afraid to be risky. Somedays I can write 20 headlines others I am dry. If we write about what we are passionate about it usually flows. Nice post Rich.

  15. I talk to people about my niche and then pull blog post ideas from those conversations. Since I started doing that , I have yet to run out of ideas. In fact, sometimes it feels like I have too many. πŸ˜‰

    • What a great place to be in Malinda! Your spot on too; other people are a great source for new ideas. Especially the ones that currently follow you.

      I’ll send an email out once in a while to someone who comments asking them what they would like to see on my blog…besides blowing them away that I just did that, they give some of the most unique ideas I’ve not thought of.

  16. Recommend reading John McPhee’s April 29 New Yorker column, “Draft No. 4.” He brings to life the terrors and insecurities that come with creating a first draft of anything — and how it starts getting easier as you move through subsequent drafts. But you’ve got to persevere and get through that first draft — even if it’s not great. “You can’t make a fix unless you know what is broken.”

      • I must not be as experienced as most because Mind Mapping is new to me.
        In describing and writing concepts and ideas down are they meant to be in reference to a current idea or is mapping meant to put all of your ideas and concepts on one page?

        • Generally speaking you take an idea, and write, draw, color or whatever else comes to mind around the idea while connecting with lines or diagrams what links together (thoughts that are similar).

          When done, you should have what you need for a well thought out post that stays on topic…

  17. This post would have been very helpful yesterday…I had a great idea for my next blog post late last night. Didn’t write it down and found myself at the gas pump today remembering I had a great idea but not remembering what it was. Time to put my iphone to use. I’ll start with step 1. Thanks, Rich.

  18. Great tidbits one and all! I am a big fan of “play” as inspiration for writing. My personal best play habit is to do a quick ride on the mountain bike. Nothing to do but steer, pedal and think.

    Thanks for the post.


  19. Great article Richard! I want to incorporate #6 into my office TODAY. I could be so much more creative and productive if I could write on my walls! Do you think my landlord will mind? Oh, and I definitely need to do more of #8.

    • I used some of that paint, but not for me, for the kids. It’s really a blast. You can get a chalk board, white board and even paint that is magnetic!

      I’ll work with you on #8….

      Best of success to you sweet lady…Rich

  20. I’m a math guy who always had problems getting started writing. I always appreciated the talents of authors and the written word. I think these tips will help next time I need to write.



  21. I often get the best ideas in the middle of my work day. I tend to jot down the half-formed sentence on my paper to-do list. Now, it’s just a matter of training myself at the end of the week to transfer those thoughts into a Word doc!

    I’ve never tried the “write whatever comes to mind” technique, but I can certainly see how it would be helpful. πŸ™‚

  22. “A great idea pops into your head while in the shower”

    Check out AquaNotes (waterproof notepad for the shower). I’ve been using them for awhile now, and it’s an idea lifesaver!

  23. Here’s a freewriting trick that has worked for me more than once. If I just can’t think what to say about Subject A, I start by typing, without pausing to think, “I can’t write about Subject A. Nope, impossible to write about Subject A . . .” After doing that for a while, I switch to “I can’t write about Subject A” and then I add “because . . .” Often times, I find myself perfectly able to write about WHY I can’t write about Subject A, which then tends to free up solutions in my brain.

  24. My best ideas come from unexpected sources. Just be ever vigilant; learn from where you are and what you see. It’s out there–inspiration is everywhere. But–as others have said–make a way to write it down or record it! Many thanks, Richard.

  25. What works for me is reading. Non-stop reading about my niche or just random blogs will make me want to write and makes the process really interesting. I can write best when I have read enough to be able to find words that will flow. One of my bad habits is trying to edit in the middle of writing. I struggle with that. But great notes from copyblogger that I will keep in mind. Thanks for that insight.

  26. There are a some great ideas in here, but this article is going to mislead people about what creativity is. Random creative insight happens, but you said…

    “Creativity and innovation cannot be planned.”

    That is factually false information. Yes they can. It’s like saying, “becoming a good guitar player cannot be planned.” As skills, creative thinking and innovation can and should be planned. Read Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko. It’s a great introduction to what creativity is and how it works.

    “Children are the most creative beings on the planet.”

    Do you really believe this? In a competition between children and adults on some sort of creative challenge, the adults would lose?

    Many children are more imaginative than some adults because they haven’t been conditioned by society, and imagination plays a key role in creativity, but creative adults are much much more creative than children because their brains are more fully developed.

    I’m surprised to see this on Copyblogger.

    • So much to say about your comment, but I’ll leave it at this – tomorrow at 3pm I want you to sit down and be creative without any forethought or work. Don’t start early, start on time and come up with a masterpiece.

      Have you ever seen a grownup build a castle out of a packing crate?

      Children are more creative because they are less inhibited. They do not have preconceived ideas about how things β€œshouldβ€? be that get in the way

      Learning to play the guitar is a mechanical skill, so of course it can be learned. Creativity is not a mechanical skill. You can train your mind to allow more creativity to happen, but I don’t think you can sit down at your desk with your calendar on Monday morning and say, β€œOK, from 2-3 o’clock this afternoon I’m going to be creative.β€?

      • You’ve got to be kidding.

        “sit down and be creative without any forethought or work.”

        Why would anyone fail to come up with creative ideas if they tried to do so at 3 PM? What mystical force would stop them?

        “Have you ever seen a grownup build a castle out of a packing crate?”

        No. Have you ever seen Dubai or a Tim Burton movie? Anecdotes don’t help much.

        “Learning to play the guitar is a mechanical skill, so of course it can be learned. Creativity is not a mechanical skill.”

        Creativity is a skill of the mind that can be learned. It is not a magical, elusive force you can’t look in the eye. Anyone can plan to sit down at 3 PM and generate dozens of creative ideas towards solving a problem or creating something new.

        The book Thinkertoys lists about 15 creative thinking techniques to help people do just that. It’s very good.

        You contradict yourself too. Freewriting and brainstorming sessions can’t be planned? They wouldn’t generate any creative ideas at 3 PM? They must be done spontaneously?

        Oh, and take it easy with the condescending “So much to say about your comment…”because you’re arguing against a lot of research you don’t seem to be familiar with, not just me.

  27. Hello Richard

    Thanks for the great post. I read paragraph three and thought “Yep, that’s me”.

    I am forever sitting down to start typing an article, and next thing you know I browsing Youtube or Facebook.

    I find it hard to get started when writing. But, once I have written the first paragraph it gets easier.

    Sometimes it helps me to start an article somewhere in the middle and go back to the first paragraph later.

  28. I love the mention of play! Such an underutilized tool for creating in our culture. Ideas can be so much fun until you’re forced to express them coherently πŸ™‚

  29. Oh man content is such a killer for me at the moment. I can spend the whole day researching how to imporove copy that I’ve found spending the same amount of time working on copy is way better. Still… Richard a very good article!

  30. Thank you for the post. I also use free writing to ignite creativity. I also walk along green streets, take deep breath or dance freely with my favorite music. It’s good ways to be comfortable and then more creative.

  31. As for me, before I go writing on anything that I want to share, I visualize everything that goes into my mind and from that on I go into writing and try to pick up the pieces to assemble a picture that my reader would understood….

    Great post

  32. That opening quote from Dorothy Parker threw me for a loop. Is this a common sentiment among writers? I’m hesitant to call myself a writer. I have a degree in Applied Mathematics but I did take a few writing classes along the way. I’m fully onboard with Dorothy Parker. However, I do aspire to be a good writer, and maybe even some day call myself “a writer”. But I always thought that since I find the writing process so painful that it’s probably not something I should pursue. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

    • I always smile at Dorothy Parker quotes because . . . well, because I find her funny/witty/clever. I enjoy most parts of the writing process (research is fun for me and interviewing is, too). Perhaps the most painful part for me is getting down the first draft and then I like moving the pieces around to see what version of an article works the best and flows most smoothly.

    • This is just my personal opinion Jerry, but here are my thoughts to your question — people that hate to write, tend to write about things they don’t love or are not passionate about. Write about what you love (who you are) and forget about what you “should” (should should be a 4-letter word – yep pun intended). Write for you, not your audience (I’ve checked out your blog; sprinkle your personal life into what you write. it will become more interesting to you, maybe even therapeutic). For others, they will be able to relate…that’s just me thinking out loud.

  33. <<< Jig dancing that I found this article! I am brand spanking new to this content writing job and I really needed this pep talk! In the past, just writing for my own pleasure, there was zippity-doo-da pressure. Now I have deadlines and have to write about things such as dentures. It is stretching my brain beyond comprehension to write a 500 word article on tooth extraction which captures the audience, remains accurate and somehow isn’t as painful as the topic itself!

  34. All work and no play – make Jack a dull boy..
    I really liked your point about – “Play with your dog”. Whether it is writing or doing any of your other job all the time can make you really stressed. We should all take a break from work and do some other activity to feel relaxed. It really helps and increase the productivity..

  35. I am a professional writer who knows how to pen down great ideas and philosophies, however this post has encouraged me to become more and more creative in my work each day.

  36. Really enjoyed reading this post: sounds like the story of my life.

    I have always been a dreamer and a rather absent minded fellow: I fall into trance-like states, the source of new ideas and inspiration. That’s why I keep a note-pad and a pen ready at hand.

    You never know when the muse will strike or run away from you, so best to be prepared.

    Creativity can also be a product of serendipity.

    William Wordsworth, a beloved, nature’s poet wrote his most famous poem on “Daffodils” when he was out and about for a walk in the great Lake District of old England.

    William saw daffodils dancing in the breeze and the rest, as they say, is history. Only goes to show that fortune favors the bold and it is best to be prepared for any eventuality.

    Thanks for your contribution here and please keep on writing and look forward to reading your work in the future.

  37. I really like the point you made about giving thanks. Not a lot of people take the time to reflect on the sheer fact that they can write and that they have enough creativity to write. The act of reflection is vital.

  38. A change of scenery helps – the walking-the-dog and Wordsworth examples testifies to this. Just getting out of the office into the local coffee shop, or even moving away from your desk into a quiet meeting room, can help.

    I guess it’s about a ‘different environment that helps’.

    My best blog posts are written on aeroplanes for some reason. I keep a list of ideas in OneNote, and then produce all the blog posts in mid-air!

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