Why You Shouldn’t Be a Prolific Writer

//Why You Shouldn’t Be a Prolific Writer

Why You Shouldn’t Be a Prolific Writer

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Did you know you don’t have to write multiple books a year to be a successful writer?

There are a lot of people out there with advice on how to write faster. How to increase your hourly word count. The Internet is full of tricks to help you churn out book after book. Tips on how to write a book in 90 days. How to publish three to four books a year. And it sounds too good to be true. Wouldn’t it be amazing to publish a few books a year? Write 3x faster. Think of how successful you would be. But don’t forget to ask yourself what it costs to be a prolific writer. It may be a higher price than you want to pay.

And that’s OKAY!

We live in a digital age, where we often get caught up in the speed and intensity of things. We’ve got to give it our all or we might as well quit. It’s easy to fall into the trap that if you aren’t a prolific writer, you will never be successful.

But that’s only true if that is what you want. Nowhere is it written that you have to be prolific in order to be successful. In fact, nobody can tell you what makes you successful or not. You get to decide what success looks like for you. If your dream is to publish a book every few months, then you do want to be a prolific writer. And that’s great. Absorb the posts that are crazing about how to write quicker. All this information about how to be a prolific writer is probably useful if it’s something you actually want.

But what if you don’t want to be a prolific writer?

What if you want to write a few books, maybe land one best seller, but you have other interests too? Maybe you like to bake bread or knit scarves. Maybe you have a full-time job or a family. Don’t be a full-time writer because you think you have to be. Be a full time-writer because that’s what you want. If that’s not what you want, it will only stress you out and make you unmotivated to write. And you don’t want that.

So, let’s talk about why you maybe shouldn’t be a prolific writer.

Why You Shouldn’t Be a Prolific Writer

Prolific Writer

Being a Prolific Writer Takes Time

I’ve read articles that suggest writing as much as possible. In a notebook when you don’t have access to your computer. Every waking moment you have to spend should be writing. To me, that sounds exhausting. If that’s what it takes to be a prolific writer, I’ll pass. Ideally, I would love to write a few hours a day. I can write for a good chunk of time. But I can’t and don’t want to write all day. I want to spend time with my family. I want to exercise and prepare delicious foods. I like to sew and work on other creative projects.

I also once read about using speech to text as a way to be more prolific. There is software that will turn what you say into words and you can also record yourself and send it to a transcription service. We typically talk faster than we speak so this can be a great way to churn out more words. At first, I was really excited to try this concept. I would use voice recognition on my phone to send myself an email. Then I would speak my story. While it did help increase my word count throughout the day, this method failed for several reasons.

First, I had a hard time thinking what to say. For whatever reason, I think clearer when my fingers are hitting a keyboard. Talking to my phone made me flustered and I kept pausing to think of what to say. Second, I felt like I was absent from my own life. I would use this method while absentmindedly feeding my son or watching him play. I wasn’t really present in my own life and I felt like I was missing special moments with my boy. I tried to do it while I was on a walk but still felt like I was oblivious to the beautiful trees and the sun in my hair, etc. The things, as a writer, I try to pay attention to. Maybe it would work while folding laundry or washing dishes, but that is when I like to listen to podcasts about writing.

If you aren’t willing to sacrifice the time or the ability to be present and focused on the beautiful things happening in your day to day life, being a prolific writer probably isn’t what you want. Ask yourself how much time you are willing to dedicate to your writing, and let that be what makes you a successful writer. If you decide you only have the time to write for five minutes a day, and you only publish a novel or two, that is still a success! That’s a lot farther than most aspiring authors make it.

Being a Prolific Writer Can Cause Discouragement

With a lot of planning and organization, you can be a prolific writer. But if you miss a day or don’t write as much as you had planned it can be hard to get back on schedule. If you get off track to publish several novels in a year, there is a good chance you will end up feeling discouraged. I’m not going to say it becomes impossible to reach a goal, but when we fall behind our brain often tells us it would be easier to quit and we feel discouraged for failing. The last thing you want to do is jump into something that will cause you to feel discouraged. I think a prolific writer has to be very committed and determined in order to write fast enough or frequently enough to be prolific.

If you have other time commitments or interests other than writing, you may not really be committed to being a prolific writer. And I’ll say it again: that’s okay. But trying to achieve something you’re not ready to commit to will only be discouraging. If you struggle to write regularly, trying to be a prolific writer will be overwhelming and stressful. Every writer has their own journey and their own process.

If you are constantly discouraged because you expect more of yourself than you are currently capable of committing to, you won’t feel very successful. Success is not being a discouraged writer. So don’t be afraid to give yourself permission to be less than prolific. Find a vision of success that works for you. A writing plan that doesn’t discourage you.

Is Being a Prolific Writer Right for You?

Think about it. If it is too much time or stress, don’t be a prolific writer. Once you realize that you can still be successful without being a prolific writer, ask yourself if it is something you want? At least for now. Maybe you aren’t ready to be a prolific writer just yet, but someday you will be. That’s an option too!

For me, the answer is no. Writing is important to me, but it isn’t my whole life. I am also a wife and a mother. I’m a reader, a cook, a photographer. I like to spend time exercising and going on walks with my little man. I have other creative hobbies and interests. I’m not willing to give those things up in order to be a prolific writer. I have my own vision of success, and it doesn’t include me publishing several books a year. I might publish a book every several years. I’m starting small. Right now, I’m not in a place to be a prolific writer. I hope to stay sharp and write my entire life. Maybe I’ll be a prolific writer once my kid(s) are all grown and out of the house. But right now it’s not something I can manage. And so I know trying to be a prolific writer will only discourage me and keep me from being the writer that I can be.

As long as you are okay with how much you write and how often you plan on publishing, it doesn’t have to be prolific. You get to define what success looks like for you. Once you embrace a realistic vision of success that works for your lifestyle, you may or may not feel the need to be a prolific writer. But you will be more likely to stay motivated and keep writing at a pace that is comfortable and feels doable.

If you realize you don’t actually like the idea of being a prolific writer, figure out what you do want. Create your own version of success and write however much or little it takes to reach what success means to you.

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2020-01-30T14:55:29-08:00By |Writing Lifestyle|10 Comments

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  1. laurendefelicewriting April 26, 2018 at 4:15 am - Reply

    This was something I really needed to hear. I love writing, but I’m not sure if it’s my career. I’d rather take breaks in between stories to get my best content possible and work with my other hobbies like art, music, and animation. Thanks!

    • Shelby April 26, 2018 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      I am so glad this helped you! Sometimes the pressure to write a lot in order to be successful is intense! But I hope you can be a successful writer, artist, musician, and animator! Who says we can’t do it all. We can, we just have to decide how fully to invest in each interest. Good luck with all of your wonderful hobbies!

  2. Melissa May 1, 2018 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    I don’t necessarily think “prolific” equals “good”. I write 5 to 6 days a week and some days if I get one good sentence or scene, I’m happy. It often takes me months to finish a short story. For me, I need time to stare into space as I write.

    Writing is what I want to do with my life (always has been), but this doesn’t equate to 50,000 words a month, every month.

    As a writer, I need other things in my life, other creative outlets to “refill the well” as Julia Cameron says in her book The Artist’s Way.

    • Shelby May 1, 2018 at 3:30 pm - Reply

      Melissa, I absolutely agree. Writers that are not prolific can still be extremely talented. It’s all about embracing the kind of writer you want to be. It seems like you know what works for you and you are happy with your writing life. That’s all that matters, really!

  3. Sarah J May 7, 2018 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the encouragement. I had gotten very weary of all the push to write massive amounts all the time. It’s refreshing to hear what my heart hopes for, to be a good writer, but also enjoy other things.

    • Shelby May 7, 2018 at 8:33 pm - Reply


      I’m so glad this was helpful to you. You do NOT need to feel pressure to write massive amounts. It’s great to have other interest and hobbies!

  4. Jeanne Felfe December 6, 2018 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Thank you for your insightful post. I write full-time, but like you, I have other interests. Plus, after multiple decades working in a soul-sucking corporate job, I don’t want my writing life to become that. I retired from corporate life 6 years ago. I love writing and I don’t want to burn out.

    And you are so right about becoming discouraged when I set a goal and don’t meet it. That alone sucks the life out of my writing.

    • Shelby December 6, 2018 at 11:43 am - Reply

      Jeanne, I am so glad to hear you enjoyed this post. It can be hard setting goals we don’t achieve. And you don’t want to do anything that will suck the life out of writing! Best of luck with your writing journey.

  5. JazzFeathers December 28, 2018 at 12:05 am - Reply

    Well, my answer is not. Not only because I don’t want to spend every waking moment writing, but also because I don’t have the qualities to be a fast writer. I discovered this a long time ago.
    I’ll admit that in a way this discourages me. I know that to be even moderately successful (this means, having readers actually discovring and reading my books) I need to be more prolific than I am, but that would require me to renouce a part of the writing process and I know my stories would become poorer. I don’t want this. Plus, it looks like the number of books you have out there to be consider a writer with enough books is increasing every year. I dont’ ahve the energy to run after that goal.
    So, I suppose this is a choice we all must do.

    • Shelby January 3, 2019 at 2:08 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the comment! It is hard to balance writing and life. One of the most helpful things we can do though, is to alter our expectations. Who gets to decide how many books you need to publish to have success? I think we find the most satisfaction with our writing when we create a realistic plan and tell ourselves that reaching those goals is just as successful as anything else. Best of luck to you!

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