Saturday, March 24, 2018

Productivity, Happiness, and Authoring

by Cathy Fyock @CathyFyock

I read a great article recently in The Ladders about productivity and happiness and what we’ve learned from neuroscience, and started thinking about how this impacted authors working on their books. Here are four of the key ideas, along with some specific implications I’ve added for authors.

1. Progress motivates you more than anything else.
Look for small wins. As you work on your book, also think about writing blog posts, articles, and shorter pieces that keep your writing muscles exercised and your momentum building. Blog posts that you write for your business may be able to do double duty and become part of your book.

Check a “to do” off your list that is related to your book. I suggest that authors create a “punch list” of the items they need to complete before sending their manuscript off to their editorial boards. Refer to the list to find either the most important item on the list, or the easiest to accomplish. Get it done and check it off.

Reflect on your accomplishments this week/month/year. What have you been able to achieve in your work? After my vacation (where I did quite a bit of work) I compiled a list of what I’d accomplished to share with my Mastermind group; making this list made me feel very motivated as I reflected on my progress.

Re-read your manuscript to date. I don’t recommend doing this too often (especially if you get sucked into editing and rewriting), but to the extent you can reflect on your progress and feel a sense of accomplishment, do it!

Track your word count. How many words did you write today? This past week? This month? By tracking your progress, you’ll feel inspired to do more.

2. Heavy time pressure kills creativity. But zero pressure is lousy too. 
Do writing prompts with short time frames. This also helps create small wins (see above). I like to use visual images and relate the image to my book’s thesis. Set the clock for 10 minutes. No thinking. No editing. Just writing. Go.

Having no goal for book completion is not motivating. Wanting to get a book done “sometime” or “eventually” will kill your dream. Be intentional. Put a stake in the ground.

Be realistic about what you can and can’t accomplish. If you know that your work or home schedule will preclude you from spending the five hours each week on your book, acknowledge that.

Set intentions in advance of events like holidays or vacations so that you can either work or enjoy guilt-free. Some authors like to really get serious over holidays and vacations. Some need a total break from the grind to refresh and restore. Be clear about what your goal is, and then proceed without guilt.

Create your book deadline linked to another event (within realistic bounds). One of my coaching clients needed to impose a real deadline on her goal to complete her book, and was able to do that by vowing to complete the book so that she would be an author when she spoke at a major conference.

3. You’re more creative when it’s not about the money.
Celebrate small and big wins with friends, colleagues, writers’ circles. Part of achieving your writing goal and having a book is about celebrating with others. Plan your launch event. Make it a big deal. You deserve it.

Make a list of all the non-monetary rewards you’ll get from having a book. Will you achieve a broader reach? Have more impact? Benefit from greater visibility? Consider all the benefits.

Have fun with your work. Put on your favorite writing music. Be a little edgy in your writing. Cop an attitude.

Do offbeat writing prompts that get you thinking in a new direction. I love the quirky visuals used in Check it out. See where it leads you.

4. Want to be more creative? Get happy.
Keep a gratitude journal. We know that being grateful is a powerful aspect of happiness, to write about it in your journal.

Say thank you. Acknowledge the people who help you, inspire you, love you.

Plan to write during your “happy times” and at “happy places.” Know where and when your writing productivity is at its best. Do you love your neighborhood Starbucks? Do you get comfort in going to your cave? Are you at your best in the wee hours of the morning or in the night? Make your writing more pleasurable by enjoying your favorite cup of tea or nibbling on a chunk of dark chocolate as you write.

Surround yourself with people who support you and inspire you. Who makes you happy? Hang out with those people, and avoid joy-suckers like the plague.

If you want to be more productive, then be more creative by observing these principles.


Cathy Fyock is The Business Book Strategist, and works with professionals and thought leaders who want to write as a business development strategy. She is the author of eight books, including On Your Mark: From First Word to First Draft in Six Weeks. She has helped over 130 professionals become published authors since her business was founded in 2014. She also serves as Acquisitions Editor for Silver Tree Publishing. To learn more, email her at


  1. First, it's nice meeting another Cathy with a "C". :) Secondly, this post has been bookmarked for future reference -- so many great tips! I'm intrigued by the idea of being part of a mastermind group. I'm assuming this is different from a critique group? Thanks again, Cathy!

    1. Yes, a Mastermind group is there to support you in your business. I'm a part of 3 groups (one with fellow coaches, one with speakers, and one with members of NAWBO) and these groups give me ideas for growing my business, dealing with client issues, and much more!

  2. Lots of information packed into a few words. Thank you.

  3. Great ideas Ms. Cathy. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us. God's blessings ma'am...

  4. Needed to read this today. Thank you, Cathy.

  5. Cathy, wise words, and lessons I've finally learned. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Cathy, I'm late to the party...but I think this is one of the most encouraging and practical posts on productivity I've read in a while. You described me perfectly with "zero pressure is lousy." I need deadlines. I really love the idea of making a non-monetary list of rewards. Even though my publisher is pleased with my book sales, my royalty statements are depressing. LOL How many differnt ways can they slice that pie can leave me the smallest slice? But truly, I've reaped so many non-monetary rewards in the last year since publishing, and most of those have been relationships. So blessed!

  7. Terrific insights and tips that I can begin using immediately. Thanks for sharing, Cathy!