#productivewriter wrap-up – writing into the dream


Writing into the Dream – a six-week experiment in becoming a more productive writer

Previous weeks:

Week 1:  Write every day. Write something. Every day.

Week 2:  Encourage your writing self.

Week 3: Schedule your writing.

Week 4:  Write a letter to your writing.

Week 5:  Write early in the day.

Week 6:  Write like a child plays.


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What I learned this week

I’m a great goal-setter.  I’m a list-maker.  My analytical brain likes to break a larger goal into smaller tasks, and then tackling each task until I’ve got the whole thing done.

It is harder for me is to play.  It feels uncomfortable to consider writing that “doesn’t go anywhere.”  Is it part of my novel?  Is it a new short story?  Is it something I can put on my blog?  Maybe … and maybe not.

But, some of my most inventive – and satisfying – work has come either during, or immediately after, doing a writing exercise.  So, I sigh, sit down at my desk – or take myself out somewhere – and write about the trivial, the poetic, the odd or unusual. I start with a line of poetry, I try to imitate a poet, I put myself in a writer’s mind and write a sliver about their life.  I take random words and make them into a story.  I sketch and then write about what I sketched.

The big thing I’m proud of this week was setting aside about 20-30 minutes (of my ninety-minute writing time) for experimental writing.  I sometimes think of Google “20% Rule,” a concept where team members are encourage to spend one-fifth of their time, or one day a week, working on something not related to an existing project assignment (Gmail was reported to have come out of “20%” time).  David Kelley, an award-winning designer and founder of Stanford’s d.school, says you need to get out of your own field of practice for instance, go to a junk yard or a flea market – to come up with really good design ideas.  I think that giving myself time to experiment with something new has been a good move.  I’m excited.

Am I a more productive writer now?

Yes.  Absolutely!  In this six-week experiment I have started writing more consistently, for longer periods, than when I started.  Yay!


  • Most days I write for about ninety minutes now, sometimes longer, Monday through Friday – a bit shorter times on the weekends, when I spend time with family.  I try to write in the morning, before noon.  That way, I usually avoid getting bogged down in email or other quotidian tasks.
  • Most days I spent about 20-30 minutes on “creative play” writing – sketch-and-write, write from a line of poetry, from an illustration, etc.  Or, I write something for the blog.
  • If something wonderful happens, if I write something brilliant – I take a moment and compliment my creative-writer self.  Good job!  That was great!  You ARE an imaginer and a writer!  If I’m disappointed in the writing, I try not to blame myself.  Oh, well, that didn’t work out, at least I tried it.

(To demonstrate how this experiment has helped me achieve my writing goals, I’ll probably publish a short blog post in the next few days describing my current projects.)

Closing thoughts

Thank you for sharing this experiment with me!  I have learned so much from readers’ comments and readers’ suggestions.

As a send-off, I want to share writer Neil Gaiman’s terrific speech, “Make Good Art.”  Maybe you’ve seen it – it’s only about 4 minutes long on YouTube – take a look!  (Go ahead, I’ll wait! . . . oh, you’re back?  Great.)  You’ll be inspired, I guarantee it!  Here is one thing from Neil’s speech that I truly believe:

If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something.  And the mistakes in themselves can be useful. . .

And remember that whatever discipline you are in, whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a designer, whatever you do, you have one thing that’s unique.  You have the ability to make art.  And for me, and for so many of the people I have known, that’s been a lifesaver.  The ultimate lifesaver.  It gets you through good times and it gets you through the other ones. . . .

Make good art.  I’m serious. (Neil Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art’ speech.)

Share your thoughts!

How has your writing changed?  What are you doing differently now, if anything?

I may come back to this #productivewriter experiment in a few weeks, because I have even more strategies to try out.  For now, as always, I wish you the gift of finding your own voice, and of enjoying your own creative expression.  Thank you, to everyone who has commented during this project.  I have enjoyed being on this journey with you!

Photo by Theresa Barker.

#productivewriter 1 | #productivewriter 2 | #productivewriter 3 | #productivewriter 4 | #productivewriter5 | #productivewriter6


33 thoughts on “#productivewriter wrap-up – writing into the dream

  1. These few weeks sound like quite an experience for you, Theresa. Good to hear that you are now writing more consistently and you got a rhythm going – and know what works for you. When it comes to writing for me, like you my brain likes to break it all down into smaller tasks and doing each one one by one. When I break it down, I like to make sure each smaller tasks fits in with the bigger picture. For instance, when I was drafting my first book, I split it out into chapters and made sure each chapter had a purpose and message that fit with the whole theme of the book.

    The Google 20% rule is certainly beneficial. The difference we know will often makes us approach our art differently, and helps us conveys more persuasively what we stand for. It’s probably a reason why I am so dedicated to my day job (which has nothing to do with writing) and also recreational activities such as hiking and photography. A lot of what I see and hear outside of writing inspires my writing. One time I went out to take photos and happened to stop by for some food at a Chinese restaurant. I overheard a conversation there that will inspire one of my upcoming blog posts.

    Writing every day is not something I do. A couple of years ago, I set myself the goal of writing 500 words a day for a year. I accomplished this task but it wasn’t easy. Some days it took me over an hour to write 500 words, other days in 5 minutes. At times it felt forced…I supposed I really do not like being tied down to routine at all. These days I write when I feel inspired, no pressure at all and I find this way, I have more clarity (not necessarily control) over my work and words.

    p/s – Your comment on my blog ended up in both Spam and Trash – they were hungry folders today! I have saved your comment and hope to respond shortly 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Mabel, I like that you are using your analytical skills to progress through your writing project. It’s so great that you are integrating the logical/analytical with the creative. I’m also interested to hear that writing every day doesn’t work for you. Kudos for finding a rhythm that does! “it felt forced” . . . good instincts to break away from that particular “rule” and find what works for you! And, I love that you go out and find things around you that inspire you for writing. I am often struck by the pleasantly unexpected sight, or person – or conversation – that I run into that help me make good art. Sometimes I take a writing pad along and write a short (100-200 word) scene or reflection in the space I find myself in. Thank you for the long and thoughtful comment! 🙂 – and for rescuing my comment from the trash. I can see you gently lifting it (ha) out of the pile of spam comments…!


      1. Writing every day really doesn’t work out for me. I suppose each writer and each person really is different. Agree on you that a random person or conversation can inspire so much. When inspiration hits you, it will hit you. I hope you get more inspirational days soon 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the longer – the 19 min – speech where he also says that when you have to do something difficult and you’re not sure you can, you should pretend to be someone who can do it. It really works 😉 I enjoyed this experiment: I’ve found that I should listen to my inner child a lot more and do the hardest thing first every day (rewriting the novel).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ronel, I’ll have to find Neil’s longer speech. Thanks for letting me know about it! I’m excited that you had a couple of new insights in this experiment. You’re already so productive, I feel honored that you discovered a couple of new things to “tweak” your writing productivity. Rewriting the novel? Uh, that sounds difficult. Good idea to go at it first thing. I may try that as well! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll post Neil’s longer speech on my blog the first Wednesday of July as part of my Insecure Writer’s Support Group post 🙂 When I’m done rewriting one novel, there’s still two left in the trilogy… Maybe it’ll turn into a series? One sentence at a time!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations! Well done my friend. And do play with your writing more. I have so many “unknowns” and “scribbles” but as I go back to them, they start to look like “something” and some can even go together.
    I write more now for sure. I need to work on my discipline. 😂 Anxiety and lethargy don’t help. It is also apparent that I may be suffering (yet again) from depression, albeit mild, and I don’t know why. I’m even embarrassed because I don’t think I have a reason to be sad. My cousin thinks I should stop writing first as it could be making me more depressed but I don’t think so. It’s that restless spirit getting impatient with uncertainties… I think. Or my spoiled brat self playing that “unica hija” character who’s supposed to have everything and throwing tantrums. Sounds like a good character… 😂


  4. What a fantastic journey this has been!! Congratulations Theresa not just on your own insights and creative gains but on all of the people this exercise inspired and motivated!! I was able to apply many of the principles to my creative endeavors too. Well done! I’m already excited for the next Experiment you lead!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been quiet on this front…mostly because I’ve put so much into writing and into freelancing. One thing I did during my challenge this month was to bounce off of other works and other ideas – to look at them, put them away, and then go write my stuff which had absolutely nothing to do with the art and music I listened to. But it did have an interesting consequence – I was thinking outside my box – as a writer I think it’s essential to stretch who we are and what we do so that we’re always improving ourselves and our craft. I reached and was happy with the result. What I need help with next is focusing. There are so many projects clamoring for attention – it’s difficult to know which to deal with first and what can wait. It all wants to happen now. If I had twenty of me, it would, but I am just one person and ten fingers and when they are tired, an old recorder.

    Thank you for inspiring me this month, Theresa. And thanks for including me in this awesome journey.


      1. Hmmm, that’s an interesting question, what kind of play? I’ve heard from some of my other artist readers that they don’t really embrace the word “play” and they may feel guilty about that. Recently, I have been setting aside about 1/3-1/4 of my “scheduled” writing time (like 30 minutes of a 90-minute writing session) to do non-project things. Like sketch, write from a poem line, write from an illustration, or sometimes I write a pseudo-remembrance from a particular poet’s mind (like Gary Snyder), or lately I’ve been writing after-death dialogs between celebrities in a bar. Like Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve, who were friends in life. Strange! Does anything like that appeal to you, Darlene? – and thank you for your observations!


      2. For some reason it won’t let me comment on your comment. I’ve always found time for little play things, but I’m wondering what other writers are trying to do to stretch themselves…that always intrigues me. I’ve always looked at art to gain energy and level up my thinking…like one time I went to Chihuly’s exhibit at the Tacoma Glass Museum. Every time I get lost in the glass, I come up with another cool idea. http://www.chihuly.com/. For some reason, when I need to recharge, that works. And yeah, I’ve done after-death dialogues…one time I got really bored and wrote my own obit. That was informative.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes I am! I have 13 things out there in the universe…and I’m reworking several pieces – I have a total oeuvre of over eight thousand. I completed stage 2 in my writer plan last week and am shifting it to the next stage – stage 3 is the writing and selling bit. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yay! Me, too, good to be in a similar phase. Do you know about – are you using – The Submission Grinder as a source for SF/F markets? I’ve found it very helpful for professional markets, as you can sort based on rate of pay, etc. I also look at the list of “qualifying markets” for SFWA to see if I’ve missed any.

        Are you marketing your longer work? I’m have three small flash-fiction collections of only about 10k-20K words that someone suggested I try to market as chapbooks … but still in the early stages for those. Not as much of a body of work as you!


      5. I haven’t heard of that one. I use a spreadsheet for tracking and Writer’s Market. Before I market, I need to edit. The last seven years I’ve created…and now I’m editing and marketing. I started off back as a freshman in 2010 – and told myself if I graduated and had a decent amount of work, I’d sell it. So here we are. Oh, today on my blog, I’m covering how I made my first $1000 as a writer. 🙂 It was 30% fiction and 60% freelance work. Awesome memories. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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