Thank the writing gods that Sage Cohen “compensated for insecurity by being overprepared.” Her second guide for writers, The Productive Writer: Tips & Tools to Help You Write More, Stress Less & Create Success, is generous, comprehensive, pragmatic, and optimistic—and departs from its kin by saying things we haven’t already read or heard a gazillion times.
Think like a dog. Honor thy day job. Practice makes perfect possible. Avoid wardrobe malfunctions. Don’t be prissy, be prepared. Cohen’s fresh articulations come from a writer’s life lived honestly, unromantically. She knows that “we are training ourselves in the samurai sport of cosmic butterfly catching” at the same time that “writing is just another thing that we writers do.”
Two notions that will particularly hit home for undisciplined writers with no patience for their own bad writing are (1) the reward of finishing versus the reward of figuring and (2) lowering expectations as a productivity strategy. Both align with what Cohen posits may be our writer’s goal: “To feel friendly with the words that come and the words that have yet to come. To let them know they are welcome here.”
The Productive Writer serves business and creative writers alike, with nuts-and-bolts chapters on platform, time management, information organization, presentation, and promotion. Cohen proposes that we discard the long-glorified archetype of the Suffering Writer or the Starving Artist, and embrace a new paradigm: “The Productive Writer who cultivates his being such that he becomes hospitable to a sustainable life and writing practice that is attuned to possibility and hard-wired for prosperity.”
I’ll write to that. In fact, I wanted to raise my pen to Cohen on nearly every page. Because she knows what she’s talking about, she doesn’t set us up for failure with “sounds good” abstractions and platitudes. You only need to see what’s in front of you. Find new ways to pay yourself first. Build wasted time into your schedule. Get buy-in from your family. Woo your computer.
Cohen is so committed to our practical success that she gives away seemingly everything she’s learned in her twenty years of producing both poetry and marketing copy. To facilitate the here-now applicability of its many tools and tips, The Productive Writer provides worksheets, checklists, and examples either within its pages [20+] or as links to downloads . This book is so satisfying, so affirming in its scope, because it addresses writing as the whole-person, mind/body/spirit endeavor we know it to be—especially from the trenches of the empty chair and the blank page.
Send a thank-you note to everyone who purchased something from you. This may be my favorite tip in the entire book. Cohen reminds us throughout The Productive Writer that the writing life is also about gratitude and relationships—with others, with yourself, and with the writing itself—and that “when we let love lead, our lives and our work become far less confusing.”