I was pleased to get the opportunity to review a pre-release copy of Sage Cohen’s latest book, The Productive Writer: Tips and Tools to Help You Write More, Stress Less & Create Success. Having read her two previous books (Like the Heart, the World and Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry), I was expecting to receive both practical advice, as well as inspiration for improving productivity as a writer, and I was not disappointed. More than simply a collection of time management tips, Sage’s book covers everything from defining one’s own ideal writing life, to practical considerations such as deciding where to submit one’s work, how to track submissions, and suggestions for preparing for a successful workshop presentation or reading event.
Sage’s writing style is extremely readable, and the book is well organized into 20 chapters. One of my favorite chapters was Chapter 1: “Harnessing Potential”, in which the reader is invited to describe their vision of the ideal writing life, and then to make it concrete by constructing a pie chart to quantitatively describe how much time the reader chooses to allocate to various writing (and non-writing) activities, such as sleep, family time, job responsibilities, writing, and personal time. The moment I created my own personal pie chart, I could immediately see what the difficulty with my aspirations were—my “ideal day” added up to far more than 24 hours worth of activities! This exercise forced me to prioritize my goals, and set more realistic expectations.
As a poet, a non-fiction author, and one who has a day job as a copywriter, Sage has a wealth of real-life experience from which her knowledge was gleaned, and I found that when she used examples from her own life to illustrate various points, it gave a high level of authenticity to the work—a decided feel that she practiced what she preached, and that these were indeed time-tested principles that worked for her. Sage is quick to point out that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to a writing life. There are many points in the book in which the reader is asked to personalize the lessons presented, and set writing goals, define what “productivity” means to them, and create their own strategies for success.
By not simply just reading this book, but by taking the time to answer the questions posed thoughtfully, and by completing the exercises, all writers, from novices to seasoned veterans can tailor the strategies presented to their own needs. The Productive Writer is a wonderful book for any writer to have in their arsenal of writing resources, whether they write poetry, fiction, or non-fiction. In fact, I found that many of the time management and goal setting techniques presented carry over into other endeavors in life, as well as writing.
The Productive Writer will be available from Writer’s Digest in December 2010.