The Impulsive Writer’s Productivity Secret: 3 Reasons to Write What You Want

I’ve got a wager for you: Bet I’ll make more money this month because I’m writing this blog post right now.

How does that work?

Well, I feel like writing this post now.

I just got the idea for it, I love this topic, and I’m all fired up to write the details down before I forget them.

So I’ve dropped everything — including some other pressing deadline writing due to my freelance clients — to jot it down right away.

I’ll probably push the envelope on my other deadlines a little to get this post done right now. But it’ll be worth it.

Also, if you have ongoing relationships with editors and you’re not writing for a daily newspaper or something, deadlines usually have some wiggle room.

It’ll be worth skating the edge on that and coming back to those assignments a bit later.

Why?

There’s a simple fact of life as a writer:

You should write when you’re inspired.

You’re in the zone. In the mood. Whatever you like to call it.

You want to write when you’re in this state as much as you possibly can. Not just because it’s enjoyable, but because it’s good for your business.

Here are three benefits I get from jumping on a piece of writing when the mood strikes me that I believe lead directly to higher earnings:

  1. More efficient. We all know that we write faster when we’re seized with the urge to write something. If I just wrote this blog topic down now and came back to it another day, I’d no doubt labor over it longer. I’d struggle to recall what I found so exciting about it originally for a bit, then I’d look at my brief notes and try to flesh it out. It would be work, instead of an intuitive, enjoyable activity. Doing it now means less time spent, and that means I’ll end up with more billable work hours.
  2. Better writing. The number-one thing that helps writers earn more is the quality of our work. By writing when you’re in the mood, you’ll often get a better result. And that is what clients pay for — brilliance. It’s simply easier to produce that when you are writing something you want to write. Great writing leads to more and better-paying assignments — or on a blog, more subscribers who might want to buy your stuff in future.
  3. More fun. Ever have the experience of looking up from writing and being amazed that hours have flown by? They say that “flow” state is incredibly health-promoting and emotionally fulfilling for us. You want to spend as much of your life as you can in that state. It’s simply more enjoyable. And when you’re more full of joy, you’re going to attract more great assignments.

Sometimes, writers tell me they’ve carefully mapped out their schedule for the week of when they will be writing. I smile and nod. If that works for you great…but I never do that.

I have to-do lists and schedules, but I try to throw them over when the writing muse hits me.

Having a rigid schedule means more writing that feels like work and less inspired, impulsive, fun writing. I’ll take the latter.

Do you throw over your deadline schedule to write on impulse? Tell us how you handle it when the urge to write something other than your pressing assignment strikes.

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38 comments on “The Impulsive Writer’s Productivity Secret: 3 Reasons to Write What You Want
  1. I really draw reassurance from this post. I use to feel so much pressure to have a set schedule and a task list guide my work, but I just get overwhelmed. When I let my productivity be more free flowing, my work is usually better and I feel more relaxed.
    Alissa Johnson recently posted…Living Outside, Week #4: Adjusting to a New NormalMy Profile

  2. Sara says:

    It was great to read what I know intuitively – write when the mood is upon you. It also belongs to the ‘do what you like and love to do and that makes a difference to the world’. I find it impossible to jam a right brain activity like creativity into schedules and deadlines.
    Sara recently posted…You are brilliant and the Earth is hiringMy Profile

  3. Janey Goude says:

    This resonated with me, as it did with so many others! Especially the jotting down enough to jog my memory later, only to find an inspired idea turned laborious task. Thanks for reminding me the importance of following those instincts when they hit.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I wish that I could work like this. I often have awesome ideas that I’d rather pursue particularly when there is something I have to do but don’t want to do.

    But the truth is that I am naturally a little scattered, and if I don’t keep myself to a schedule and routine, my whole life disintegrates! I am afraid that if I were to ditch my lists and schedules to follow my inspirations it would take me a day or two to get back on track.
    Rebecca recently posted…Work Rituals to Make Freelancing EasierMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      That’s funny – I think of following my creative drive AS the schedule! Everything else needs to prioritize below it. Because brilliant writing is what people pay me for, so if I can do more of it, I’ll make more.

  5. In 1993 I published my first piece of writing (not counting poetry and newsletters) in Newsweek. I had been reading the magazine for about a month and noticed their My Turn section. I thought, “I could write one of those.” Then the day my new issue arrived, on the way home with my daughter after school she asked, “What did you do during the war Mommy?” After the ensuing conversation and while she was settled to do her homework I dashed off an essay. The next day I edited and fine tuned it, put it in an envelope and mailed it off.

    Thirty days later I received a phone call from the editor telling me they wanted to put it in their Christmas issue. Had I known I had less than a 1% chance of being accepted, I would have been too intimidated to even consider doing it. But I was on fire. That fire burned straight to the bank and an essay that still appears online at the Daily Beast almost 19 years later.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Great story, Judith! The notable part isn’t just writing because you were inspired, but sending in in the naivete that it might be accepted — so it was.

      Too many writers spend too much time thinking about the odds and getting paralyzed and feeling hopeless, instead of just sending it out there. You never know what might happen.

  6. I love that moment when you think, “I have to write this NOW!” and get a real flow going. Unfortunately, like many people, I get those moments after bedtime when everything’s gone quiet except my mind.

    My family doesn’t always appreciate me sitting up to complete my mission, but sometimes I do it anyway. My only schedule is that I do some paid work every day; I don’t decide exactly when or how many hours, so I can flex with the flow if I want to.

    Awen is a Welsh word, not entirely translatable but something between inspiration, muse and soul. That’s my favourite way to think of those energised writing stretches – my awen has come to spend some time with me, and it’s rude to turn it away.

    Thanks for another great post, Carol – may your awen descend whenever you need it!

  7. I agree with this completely. There are times when I write to meet a deadline and times when I write because I’m inspired. The latter always is easier to write and comes out better in less time. When I write something I want to write, it turns into the best work, and that’s great for showing off to clients. Thanks for reminding us to write more when inspiration strikes.

  8. casaundra says:

    Yes, I understand . Like now I am drawn to write about the compolsive ignorance of hormonal teens. Would comment more, need to get my thoughts down.

  9. Carolyn says:

    My husband hates it when I wake up at 2am and just have to write what’s going through my head. If I write when the inspiration is fresh, my writing is fresh too. It just seems to flow effortlessly onto the page (yes I still use old fashioned pen and paper).

    Being obliged to write to a deadline, especially if I’m not in the zone, can result in heavy labored work.

    Seize the moment I say.
    Carolyn recently posted…It’s life Jim, but not as we know it.My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Yeah…it’s the big argument for working ahead. The more free time is left to deadline, the more likely you can get in the mood for it before you simply HAVE to write it to get it done.

  10. Hunger is enough of a motivator for me to stick to deadlines, but I agree, going with an impulse to blog or write something of your own can really get you back on track. I have many days when I’m more productive after indulging myself in a personal blog post than when I force myself to put it on hold until I finish a requisite number of assignments. I have 3 blogs on very different subjects, so there’s something for every mood or inspiration.
    Rob Schneider recently posted…How to Get a Free Year in the Freelance Writers Den (if I don’t)My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Three different blogs! Well my hat’s off to you…I can barely manage this one on top of my other freelance and Den responsibilities, and I use several guest posts a month, too.

  11. Ken says:

    This is one of the best post I’ve read here and definitely one of the best advice. Everyone is right. (Great) ideas come in unexpected time and places. I usually experience this. I use the note app in my mobile phone to write down my ideas. Although it’s not a convenient way to construct sentences but outlines will do. I note down important ideas and construct paragraphs later.
    Ken recently posted…Are You Ready to Take the Red Pill?My Profile

  12. Daisy says:

    Carol, I sleep with a notepad beside my bed. Right after I had got up this morning and finished some impulse writing, I read your post. I couldn’t believe it.

    I agree with you totally that when the writing bug bites, one should seize the moment. In 20 or so minutes I had finished what would normally have taken me two hours. Words and ideas were just flowing and I captured them.

    Thanks for a great post that confirmed that I am not way out in left field.

    Cheers,

    Daisy

    PS: I am still not receiving the Marketing 101. What are some of the topic areas so I can search my Inbox and determine what is your regular newsletter and what could be Marketing 101? Thanks.
    Daisy recently posted…How to Write the Right Resume – Job Search NewsMy Profile

  13. Jacqui B. says:

    I’ve been thinking of inspiration like a puppy that needs to be trained recently. Much like a few other commenters inspiration likes to strike sometimes when it’s not feasible for me to jump on it. I do what I can to capture the a-ha moments but I’m wondering if that trains my brain into a pattern of inspiration can strike whenever, instead of giving it a set rhythm. For example I always write on public transportation (unless there it’s rush hour or there is a sporting event because we’re all squished in like sardines) with the idea being that my brain will get used to the idea that this setting is a good place to have an idea.
    Jacqui B. recently posted…Fiction Friday: Inspiration Is Lightning (But Not The Kind You Think)My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Definitely, writing discipline helps, but sometimes, I could sit all day TRYING to write the thing that’s due today…or I could write the thing I am burning to write in an hour. And I choose the latter. And I think both pieces end up better for it.

  14. That’s so remarkable that you push client deadlines to write blog posts for us. Thanks! I loved this post and often struggle with dealing with “muse” writing and “gotta get it done” writing. This has totally changed my attitude.
    Heather Georgoudiou recently posted…3 things SEO copywriters need to know…right now!My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Only if it’s the thing I’ve JUST…GOT…to write…right now!

      I try to be a good planner so that it isn’t really a problem much. But I also try to write for the sort of markets where a day’s delay isn’t important to them, which is key to making that work 😉

  15. Anabelle says:

    Impulse and inspiration is a great part of a writer’s life, even the professional non-fiction ones. I think that writers should leave space for this in their work habits. Does anyone have a specific time that they leave for this kind of impulse writing in their schedules?

    When the urge strikes, listen to it. Great article!
    Anabelle recently posted…Live to Write, Write to LiveMy Profile

  16. Barb Rees says:

    You’re so right about setting a schedule and then not being able to work it. Which for me makes it all worse, because then I lay a guilt trip on myself. In the last few days I was inspired by a location we heard of when we were on a fam tour in WA. Living up in BC we had almost given up on going this summer due to the high cost of getting there but then I was inspired by their FB page and from there it all evolved.
    Robert Schuller’s mantra that has taken us on so many low budget trips, “You don’t have a money problem. You have an idea problem” woke me up. I got all excited about getting an assignment to write about the area so I spent a couple days doing research, and sent off the query yesterday. If I hadn’t been inspired it wouldn’t have happened. Now I wait for a “yes” answer so I can take the next step to planning the trip. Writing from my passion feels so darned good especially when it also brings some income with it. Thanks for the article.

  17. Thomas says:

    I used to think a schedule would keep me on track. I was wrong.

    I write when inspired, and even when I’ve ‘written’ a piece 100 times in my head, the final product is nowhere near what was in my head right before I sat down.
    Thomas recently posted…Community Outreach: A new programMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      My pet peeve is I’m always mentally writing posts if I wake up during the night, when I can’t get up and seize the urge without waking people…and it’s never as perfect when I write it in the morning as it was in my head the night before. Still trying to figure out a way around THAT problem…but otherwise I do try to follow the impulse when I can.

  18. J. Delancy says:

    The impulse to write something other than what I’m supposed to be writing happens all the time. As Yoda said of Luke Skywalker, “His mind always somewhere else, never in the moment.” Sometimes I do follow the impulse, but it has been the cause of trouble more than once.

    When impulse, creativity and a quiet environment come together, I have produced some beautiful work.
    J. Delancy recently posted…The Last Taboo: The Truth About Senior Citizen SexMy Profile

  19. June says:

    I usually get the urge to write when I’m tucked up in bed. That’s when the ideas flow freely. Unfortunately I don’t have a laptop. Sometimes I write notes in my iPhone, but it’s not the same as actually writing freely. I think I need to invest in a laptop.

    Thanks for this article.
    June recently posted…5 Reasons Why You Must Never Give UpMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      How about just a notepad by the bed? That’s what I do. I’m sort of anti-technology…you have to really prove to me how the tech is better than the old-fashioned way, or I may just jot it on a notepad.

  20. Anita Cooper says:

    Brilliant! I agree with what Kathye said – inspiration hits me in the weirdest places and at the weirdest times too. I’ll keep this in mind the next time inspiration breezes through my overworked little brain! ;-D

  21. Mary Sutton says:

    Both. I have time during the day that is “writing time.” I usually have a general idea of what I plan to write during that time, but if The Muse strikes, I’ll throw over that plan in a heart beat. This goes for blog posts and my fiction. For example, my husband really wants me to write the follow up to a story I completed a few weeks ago, but lately my heart has been in a different area. He doesn’t really get the idea that if I force the story to come it’s not going to be as good.

  22. Yes, but why do all those great ideas and sentences happen when one is driving or in the shower, or otherwise unable to drop everything and write them down?

    • Jacqui B. says:

      Perhaps you could get a something that will record your voice? I have a Flip cam which I keep in my cupholder while driving. I turn on my camera and record whatever I’m thinking if I have an idea and it’s safe to do so. (Although whenever I watch the videos I’m always positive that I’m about to get sideswiped or T-boned or horribly injured…even though it’s a video of me and I know that didn’t happen.)

      I’ve also been playing around with how to record my ideas in the shower. I would use wet erase markers on the walls but when the shower gets all steamy the ink tends to run. I don’t wear lipstick but I bet that might be a good way to write on a shower wall since they’re mostly oil-based but should come off the wall with soap and water. However then I’d be worried about staining.
      Jacqui B. recently posted…Fiction Friday: Unconventional PaperMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      You gotta pull over, or stick your head out of the shower, when it happens! I actually know a woman who got the idea for the name of her company while she was driving, and she did — she pulled over to write it down.

  23. Valerie says:

    I could really relate to this post. It’s such a wonderful thing when the muse hits and I have the urge to just write and write effortlessly. I definitely have to go with it when it comes.
    Valerie recently posted…Writers and Self-DoubtMy Profile

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