The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism and Writer's Block
"The best book I've read yet on productivity and procrastination — a must-have for any writer or entrepreneur's library."
— Writer and Consultant, Melrose, MA
"Two college creative writing classes, several writing workshops, months of therapy, and years of daydreaming —none of this helped or healed me more than 7 Secrets of the Prolific."
— Writer/Teacher, Dallas, TX
"I found in this book the strategies I need to stop procrastinating on my graduate thesis!"
— Graduate Student, Helsinki, Finland
"An easy read, but very powerful ... If you find yourself mysteriously never completing your personal work, never starting that project, never finishing things you are passionate about, and can't figure out why, I would recommend you read this short book."."
— Filmmaker, Los Angeles, CA
"I printed the first 3 chapters of the book, sat there with my highlighter, highlighting anything that resembled me! I soon realized that Hillary Rettig is a mind reader and that she wrote the book especially for me!""
— Non-profit Director, London, UK
Procrastination, perfectionism and writer's block are not moral flaws; nor are they caused by laziness, lack of discipline or lack of commitment. They are habits rooted in fear and scarcity - and the great news is that once we start alleviating our fears and resourcing ourselves abundantly, our procrastination and related problems are often remarkably easily solved.
The 7 Secrets of the Prolific tells you how! In it, I characterize, in great detail and depth, the major categories of constraining forces that cause underproductivity, including perfectionism; resource constraints; time constraints; ineffective writing processes; bias, ambivalence and internalized oppression; toxic rejection; and exploitative career paths.
Then, I tell you how to overcome each. Those solutions are:
1. Identify and Overcome Perfectionism
2. Abundantly Resource Yourself
3. Manage Your Time
4. Optimize Your Writing Process
5. Understand and “Own” Your Identity as a Writer
6. Cultivate Resilience in the Face of Rejection and Harsh Criticism; and
7. Create a Liberated Career
The 7 Secrets of the Prolific is for all writers, including those who do fiction, nonfiction, memoir, screenplays, and business and nonprofit writing. There's a chapter on the difficulties of writing on the Internet, and a section devoted to the needs of graduate students and faculty.
Here are some excerpts:
The Introduction - "Remove the constraints separating you from your productivity – or, more precisely, liberate yourself from them – and your energy, commitment, willpower, discipline, time, etc., will “magically” reappear, and you'll be able to write. A lot."
Perfectionism is Rooted in Grandiosity. The idea that grandiosity fuels perfectionism always shocks perfectionists, who think their problem is low self-esteem. But it’s grandiosity that causes the shame and low-self esteem by constantly setting goals and conditions the writer can’t possibly live up to.
Writer's Block: More of a Spaghetti Snarl - "One of the worst impediments to overcoming writer’s block is the word “block.” Many of us, hearing it, envision a giant monolith a la 2001: A Space Odyssey – and how the heck are you going to get around that? Fortunately, your block isn’t a monolith; it’s a giant spaghetti snarl with at least a dozen “strands,” each representing a particular obstacle....The fact that your block is really a snarl is great news because a snarl can be untangled far more easily than a monolith scaled or chiseled...Another wonderful difference between snarls and monoliths is that...the more you untangle, the easier and faster subsequent untangling gets."
Use the 'Writercopter' to Speed Your Writing - "Perfectionists tend to see their projects as long strings of words – and there’s a natural tendency, when you have that viewpoint, to want to start at the beginning of a piece and write straight through till, “The End.” It’s much more productive to view your work as a landscape that you’re viewing from above, and whose topographic features include: hard parts, easy parts, exposition parts, dialog parts, visual description parts, parts involving Character A, parts involving Subplot B, etc. Viewed like this, your project resembles an illustrated map, or maybe one of those miniature landscapes you see in museums, and it’s now accessible to you in its totality. You are now, in other words, no longer looking at it from the meager and terrifying prospect of a point at the end of an endless string of words. And now you can use a visualization tool I call the “writercopter,” a mental helicopter that can transport you to any place in your piece. The moment you feel you feel you’ve taken a particular section of writing as far as you can, hop onto your copter and take it to another section that looks enticing. Work there until you run dry, and then reboard and hop to another part."
Coping with Silly / Annoying / Challenging Comments and Questions - "You’d think that having people ask questions about what you do wouldn’t be such a big deal. But in a world where most people are suspicious of, and/or outright afraid of, the nonconventional; believe in big wins, overnight successes and other perfectionist tropes; have no idea how hard writing is, or how long it takes to complete works, or the time and effort it takes to create and sustain a writing career; conflate your value as a human being with how much money you earn; believe the canards listed in Chapter 6.1, and deprecations listed in Chapter 6.7; and are happy to pronounce judgments on people or paths they know little about, a writer is always going to be on the defensive."
A Symposium on Academic Oppression - "Consider the below, said to graduate student by her thesis advisor: “Graduate school is not about babysitting, and I’m not going to be your mother hen. If you want that, go to a community college.” It is: 1) Gratuitously insulting and demeaning; 2) Snobbish (and ignorant), with the dig at community colleges; 3) Possibly sexist, directed as it was to a female student (by a female advisor, by the way). I doubt the professor would have used the term “mother hen” to a male student, although she might have. And, above all, 4) Controlling and intimidating. “Don’t bother me,” is what this advisor is really saying. “Just do great work, get it published, and let me share in the glory and collect the grants. But if you run into any problems, solve them yourself.” Of course, the advisor never bothered to delineate which requests for help she considered reasonable and which she didn’t: vagueness is a tool of oppressive systems."
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