Sometimes we are on the hunt for the right tool, book, or person with insight and resources to help us approach a particular situation. Transformation, organization, clarification, prioritization is needed. And if that doesn’t work, a lobotomy would be okay.
I had the good fortune to read The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen a couple weeks ago. It is the exact book I need right now as I mine through 8 years of writing and 2 writing degrees and what feels like an acre of landfill of un-homed, yet, productive work. It was time to get organized, energized and get my faith restored in a big way. To turn pages of landfill into a reduce, reuse, recycle system; maybe even recover a bit of gold; polish it and send it out. This book helped me transform my writers den into a beautiful writers studio that I can’t wait to enter daily.
Sage Cohen has a gift for balancing compassionate support and insight while thoroughly answering every question a writer may have about creating a productive, continually inspired, successful life. From capturing ideas to how to organize your research for target agents and publications to facing your fears. She demonstrates her own process and systems while sharing sweet anecdotes of her own life. As a reader, you are left with an arsenal of powerful thoughts and techniques in uncovering and managing resistance. Especially powerful is her gentle suggestion to let the pleasure, desire and heart touching affect of your ideas and writing into your life. This alone is no match for resistance and other unproductive tricks we writers cope with daily.
For me, after reading her book, I got busy in my office. It was the same office set up I’d used for a decade. I demolished it, took it down and asked how I would restructure it around my writing goals this year. I’m working on an illustrated children’s book, editing 2 film scripts I wrote in LA last year, and creating a new book of illustrated essays from this blog. I plan to circulate all of the above to potential agents, publishers, producers this year. I realized that I had a lot more resources than I thought i did, and a lot more that I didn’t need. I ended up recycling 4 bags of paper, boxing 3 boxes of books to go to the used book store or give away. I organized my bookshelf to be all about the children’s book I’m working on. See photo: Note my favorite children’s book Sam Bangs & Moonshine — this little book inspires me daily.
The black books on the left are just the stories I intend to edit and send out, everything else is archived on my hard drive, and I got rid of the abundance of paper. I have just the books that I’m referencing now to help me get the children’s book circulating. Also I wanted a bit of warmth around my computer (for balance of electronics and textures). Beauty for me inspires words from that other place in the late hours of the night, so I made my actual desk a bit more aesthetic:
Sage’s ideas for how to utilize 3×5 cards are nothing short of brilliant. I now have blank cards planted in strategic places in my home, car, purse. From a snippet of conversation about a particular agent or publisher, to ideas that she calls ‘acorns’ and for me they have always been shimmers. It took me a long time to trust those little shimmers. I thought they were the beginning of a migraine. They turned out to be the ideas with the longest life span — the ones that work on a writer until they’ve had their way with you.
I don’t know that I can do Sage Cohen’s book justice in this short blog post. I only know that after using her book to help me design a writers studio, it’s helped with much more. I’m not overwhelmed. I’m just working. I’m still working out the kinks of ‘flow’. But guess what? I now have a new way of organizing that balances inspiration and practicality in a really cool way. So, productive writer for me, is productive life!
I’m grateful for people and books like this in the world. A powerful little book packed with real life necessities from an author we can trust. It’s clear that what she teaches she is doing now in her own career and life. So thank you Sage Cohen! Sage also has two published books of poetry that are quite wonderful. Here are the links:
The Path of Possibility (Sage Cohen Classes, Events, All Books)
A dear friend of mine told me once, as I complained about being completely overwhelmed – he said, “it’s all about tools”. He is a successful artist who spends 25% of his week on systems that enhance flow and productivity. I value this book The Productive Writer for that reason. It’s a tool and a friend at the same time — a steady pressure that helps you turn your life around if you let it. It’s a special author who inspires such energy.
Oh, I almost forgot the most important part of my writing studio.
Thank you, Niya C Sisk