Do you enjoy telling lies?
Do you have a little something on the side?
Are you cheating?
If want to become a more productive writer, you should.
Let me explain:
New writers sometimes feel paralysed because they are not an expert in their chosen topic or because they can’t think of a good or original idea.
After browsing Amazon or the shelves in a local bookstore, it feels like everything has been said, the best books are already published, and there are no good ideas left.
There are, but you’ve got to fake it until you find one.
Writers sometimes say they want to publish their work more frequently, but they feel hamstrung by deadlines and professional commitments.
If you’re having these types of creative problems, you’ve got to tell yourself a white lie.
You’ve got to cheat.
You’ve got to have a little something in the side.
Why Telling a White Lie Is the Gentle Shove You Need to Become More Productive
When I first started researching A Handbook for the Productive Writer, I lied to myself.
Even though there are lots of great productivity books, I told myself I could find something original to say. I told myself I could offer up a fresh insight into the world of productivity.
The sad reality was that when I started this book, I didn’t have any good ideas or fresh insights, but then a funny thing happened.
This white lie gave me enough momentum to start writing my book.
When I started writing my book, I began to apply what I discovered about productivity to the art of writing. Through doing this, I discovered a different perspective on both topics. Telling a lie to myself or faking it helped me finish writing my book.
Here’s the good news:
There’s a scientific merit to telling yourself white lies.
According to Dr. Paul Seager, a British psychology lecturer, it’s healthy to tell white lies:
“To keep society running smoothly, we need to tell white lies. If your partner comes home with their latest piece of artwork and says, ‘What do you think of this?’, it shows they want support. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to say it’s nice.”
Why not support your ideas and your work?
Tell yourself you have something original to say even if you don’t. Later on, you’ll find out that you do have something original to say after all.
If you’re worried you’ve deluded yourself, you can always sense-check your ideas with the help of your editor, your writing group and anyone who reads early versions of your work.
How Telling a White Lie Can Freshen Up Your Writing
You can use a white lie to freshen up the way you write about an old topic.
For example, various social media experts claim Facebook is the perfect social media network for business people who want to talk to customers or in our case writers who want to talk to their readers.
They cite Facebook’s 500 million plus users, its ease of use, and its vast data points.
Let’s assume these experts are wrong.
Let’s tell a white lie to ourselves and say Facebook is the worst social media network for writers who want to talk to customers or readers.
Using this little lie, you write an article that calls on all forwarding-thinking writers to abandon Facebook. Tell them to try Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest and explain how they can get started.
You can do this by writing about what happened when you took this approach. Or you could argue that writers should forget about social media and concentrate on building their email list instead.
Then you could give your article a headline like:
Forget Facebook: Your Email List is King
What Facebook Isn’t Tell You and What Smart Writers Do About It
I’m not suggesting you willfully mislead your reader. Instead, the productive writer sometimes turns a fact on its head and attacks their project from a new and exciting angle.
They look for a hook their peers haven’t thought of.
Don’t believe me?
How often have you clicked on articles with great headlines like:
- Everything you know about X is wrong. Here’s why
- The Shocking Truth about X
- The Great X Hoax
- 15 Things Your Favourite X Will Never Tell You
- What X Isn’t Telling You about Y
These headline writers are using the power of white lies to grab the attention of their readers. They are suggesting some deception because they know this will arouse curiosity within their readers.
They know their readers will want to find out the truth.
Have a Little Something on the Side
If you’re bored with your current writing project, cheat. Walk out on what you’re doing, and start writing something that fires you up.
Having a writing project on the side can keep you motivated when your book, story or article is losing its lustre. This side-project will give you a new chance to turn up in front of the blank page when you want to do anything but.
Many successful writers cheat. They use pseudonyms they use for their creative side projects.
Stephen King wrote several horror novels under the pen name Richard Bachman as he wanted to publish more than one novel per year.
Between 1977 and 2007, King published seven novels using this pen name including The Running Man and Thinner.
King said he took on this side-project because he didn’t want to over-saturate his brand. He’s not the only high-profile author to take on a side-project or use a pen name.
In 2005, the Irish literary author John Banville won the prestigious Man Booker prize for his novel The Sea. Then in 2006, Banville published the first of his popular series of crime novels under the pen name Benjamin Black.
Several years ago, I attended a talk by John in Kerry where he explained why he took on a pen name.
He told a room of over 100 people he wanted to write something that wasn’t so serious and that he could write and publish faster. He wanted a side-project he could turn to when he needed a break from writing literary fiction.
J.K. Rowling is another example of a writer with a side-project. She has published three crime fiction novels under the pen name Robert Galbraith.
“I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer, because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name,” said Rowling about her pseudonym.
Having a side-project gives writers opportunities to explore new writing styles and conventions that they typically wouldn’t face in their day job.
This form of writing practice will help become a better writer. It will help you avoid the exhaustion and burnout that comes with focusing solely on a single niche or topic.
How Productive Writers Take On Side-Projects
If your day job involves writing reports, articles or copy for a website, you could write fiction in your free time.
If spend most of your time writing blog posts, consider expanding one of these posts into a book or even a personal essay. And if you’ve just written a novel, try your hand at a short-story in a different genre.
Before you cheat, remembers it’s more important to finish one writing project than it is to attempt two at once.
Now, if you’re confident you have the time and motivation to write and finish two projects, have a little something on the side.
I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.