Advice from a Pro: Laziness Is the Secret to Writing Success

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writers can be lazy

Lazy? That could help your writing.

by Grant McDuling

After years of writing for a living, I have found that the secret to writing success is laziness.

That’s right, laziness produces results far in excess and out of all proportion to the amount of effort I would normally need to exert in the first place. You see, when I sat back recently and analyzed my experiences as a full time writer, I discovered that I had been spending much time chasing my tail and running around in circles, getting nowhere. I found that not much time in my working day was actually spent writing.

So let’s examine this for a moment.

As a full time self-employed writer, before I could begin to write, I’d need something to write about. That usually means I’d need a paid commission from a magazine or newspaper because the bottom line (for me at least) revolves around bringing in enough money each month to pay the bills.

To have a commissioned writing project requires:

  • networking
  • prospecting
  • making regular follow-up phone calls
  • looking for topical subjects to write about and matching up likely outlets who may be interested in buying the articles
  • organizing my weekly/monthly working schedule
  • bookkeeping and record keeping
  • administration
  • reading magazines and looking for trends or ideas
  • listening to the news or current affairs talk shows for ideas
  • mixing with fellow writers

Once I have an idea for an article (that is either pre-sold or to be offered on spec to an outlet), the job of writing can begin. This in itself requires more than simply sitting down in front of the computer screen and beginning to type. A typical writing project includes the following activities:

  • A mind dump of ideas (thinking broadly and wildly)
  • Deciding on who the intended reader is
  • Thinking about what their initial interest in the story is and what they will expect to get from reading it
  • Thinking about an interesting or unusual angle to grab attention
  • Brainstorming ideas that will lead to a structure for the article
  • Coming up with a catchy or intriguing heading
  • Writing down a tentative list of sub-headings to conform to the general outline or structure of the story
  • Gathering relevant information and research material to base the article on
  • Setting up interviews (if applicable)
  • Conducting interviews (by phone, email or in person)
  • Sourcing photos, illustrations or pictures, with relevant permissions (if applicable)

Only then does the actual task of writing begin.

As you can see, this is a very time-consuming process. But there is a better way.

What would a lazy person do, I wondered? The answer was simple. Systemize the routine and spend time only on the exception.

This means creating a daily schedule. And embracing the principle of leverage.

The first thing to do is to construct a daily diary. I call this my default diary. It basically involves setting up regular blocks of time in which routine tasks are done. Things like checking emails, reading the daily newspaper, doing research, rewriting articles, editing, banking, shopping, going to the gym, that sort of thing. You see, by making time for these important activities you ensure they will get done. So, for instance, you could set aside time in the afternoons to write. You could set aside Fridays to work on your business. This would then be the day when you do your prospecting, make cold calls, do marketing, complete admin tasks, write your blog, and whatever else may crop up.

By taking the lazy approach to writing I actually achieve far more than I used to when running around in circles trying to do everything all at once. I am now more organized and have a much better, and healthier, lifestyle. And so, too, can you.

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10 Responses to “Advice from a Pro: Laziness Is the Secret to Writing Success”

  1. Boy have you been a fly on the wall in my home or what? i am constantly running around in circles. I thought it was because of ADD but I realize that I am much more inclined to be relaxed and focused on my writing when I am not taking my meds and instead adhere to my goal list on my day planner. Thank you so much for your article! It was excellent!

  2. Thanks for stopping by and we’re pleased we could help!

  3. I wonder how many writers have systemized their writing routine? Or their work, for that matter. Some writers I have enjoyed reading do seem to write to a formula; writers like Wilbur Smith, for instance. It obviously has worked for them.

  4. Laurel A. Kashinn March 4, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Excellent advice. I already feel more relaxed and I’ve only done this all in my mind. 🙂

  5. Always happy to help, Laurel 🙂

  6. Great advice. I think if you block in your times for various tasks you take whatever you have to do more seriously. I know I used to stare a blank screen if I have to sit down and write. Now that I give myself blocks of time or ‘time limits’ I’m a lot more productive than I used to.

  7. Thanks for reading us, Sarah. I totally agree.

  8. You know, Sarah, whether you put your mind to writing or not, the time will still pass by. It’s how you spend it that counts. And once you’ve spent your time, you can never get it back. This isn’t the case with money, of course. Once you’ve spent money, you can always earn more. Interesting, isn’t it?

  9. Hi there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which
    blog platform are you using for this website? I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues
    with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform.
    I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  10. Hi Jesse…thanks for visiting. I use WordPress.com (self-hosted) and have for many years. I am not a fan of blogging sites that host the blog for you, since you have less control.

    If you keep the software up-to-date and secure your data, hackers should not be a big issue. We all have a responsibility to be diligent.

    I’ve tried Blogger, in fact I tried it this week to set up an author-client’s blog. The editor is so clunky I ran scremaing form the page and went back to WordPress. You can try Joomla, a content management system. It’s a bit less user-friendly than Wrodpress, and is meant for web development, but if you sit through the learning curve, it could be worth your time.

    –mkp