Everyone wants to have written a book, but no one wants to write a book. Everyone wants to have awards, achievements and accolades without expending the toil and exertion they take to secure. It’s human. There’s no shame in wanting to take the easy road, there is shame in letting it cost your potential.
The musician with hundreds of songs, the writer with dozens of novels, the entrepreneur with countless podcast episodes and the comedian with an endless supply of original jokes. Each is an example of someone who has mastered the art of producing. They weren’t measuring results or pivoting their attention, they were creating a process and sticking to it.
Prolific producing requires intentional commitment to output and it starts with five simple steps.
As fictional detective Sherlock Holmes once remarked, “You see, but you do not observe.” There is a difference. Seeing means glancing. Fleetingly sighting. Observing means mindfully watching. Perceiving, detecting. Using all senses available to grasp what’s going on and what it means for our work. Great content comes from great observations. Novels, website copy, poems, sketches, television shows and films; all observe what exists to imagine what could be.
Your job is to observe your audience and take notes. What they say, what they don’t say, how they act, what makes them happy. Get so familiar with who they are that you can walk in their shoes and speak in their language. Messaging that resonates starts with understanding the crowd you exist to serve. Observing intently leads to ideas. Ideas lead to the hooks that grab attention, the unforgettable paragraphs and the one-liners that tickle the soul. Standing ovations are created from solid observations.
Carry a notebook
Ever had a brilliant idea that you thought you’d committed to memory, only to be unable to recall it later? “The faintest pencil is better than the sharpest memory,” goes the Chinese proverb. Never rely on your mind to remember your strokes of genius. Always carry a notebook. In your pocket, next to your bed, in your bag. Don’t be found without one because whenever inspiration strikes you need to be able to make a note.
Prolific producers are prolific note takers. They don’t rely on their minds to remember; they doodle and jot to their heart’s content. Their phones are filled with voice notes and clippings, their bags are littered with scribbled napkins and torn-off magazine corners. Most likely to say, “let me just write that down,” least likely to say, “I’ll remember that for later.” Genius ideas should be treated as such. Taking them seriously means making a copy.
Train your ideas muscle
If I asked you to list ten options for tonight’s meal, you’d give me five with no trouble. The sixth and seventh would take a little more thought, then eight, nine and ten would require creativity. Those final few hold the magic. Your brain has been racked more deeply and stretched further than it’s used to. You’ve worked your ideas muscle beyond what is obvious and come up with something novel. It’s not just teatime choices; dreaming up ideas for everyday decisions works the ideas muscle repeatedly until it strengthens with practice.
Prolific producers work their ideas muscle daily. Ideas are their currency and they delight in coming up with them. If stuck for ideas they will battle through. Once hitting an ideas wall, amateurs will admit defeat. They’ll give up. They’ll pick up their phone and look for distractions. They won’t sit with the discomfort that strenuous creativity takes. It misses the point. The more you power on, the more readily inspiration arrives next time. Becoming a master of ideas means never being short of artistic concepts and it’s an underrated step on the journey to prolific producing.
Batch your admin
The left side of your brain is far more analytical and orderly than the right, which is creative, free-thinking and visionary. The best producing happens when the right side of the brain is engaged but that means switching off its logical counterpart. Most production practices benefit from batching. Dividing tasks into chunks can minimise admin, leaving more room for inspiration. It’s a myth that creativity happens within chaos. For prolific producers, it happens within structure, parameters and frameworks. The existence of rules, paradoxically, brings about freedom.
Once a month I run a headline bank session in which I list twenty headlines for future articles. I jot down ideas and play around with them. I experiment with tools and concepts and revisit my notebook for recent theories encountered. Batching takes care of the setup and creates space for the prose, and the rest of the time is spent putting words down on the page. The deliberate chunking of actions takes care of the logistics, creates a framework, and sets up a solid plan.
Practice makes prolific
Prolific producers have one thing in common: a system. When they turn up at the page, the camera, the stage or the canvas, they are ready to produce. They aren’t waiting to be in the right mood, waiting for inspiration, waiting to feel like it. They turn up and deliver and over time it becomes effortless. The daily habit turns into a month of content which turns into a portfolio of work that seems superhuman.
Writing or creating content is a practice, most effective when it’s a non-negotiable part of your day. Maybe it’s documented on a wallchart and you tick boxes when complete. Maybe it’s the first thing you do each morning or the last thing before bed. It doesn’t matter what your practice is, it matters that you have one.
Become a prolific producer by observing with intention, never being found without a notebook, working your ideas muscle, batching any left brain tasks and firmly establishing a practice. Five steps to prolific producing that compound over time and lead to mastery and masterpieces.