The Unproductive Writer’s Guide to Success

Martyn Chamberlin is a copywriter and web designer from Two Hour Blogger. Following him on Twitter may be the easiest thing you do today. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

There is something about the word productivity that makes every blogger blush deeply.

You turn on your computer, check your email and Facebook, and forget why you logged on. Forty minutes later you walk away feeling guilty and unproductive. It happens to you every single day.

A Writer's Desk - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/MiquelMunill, Image #4792809

The Internet is inherently unproductive. Every aspect tries to consume your attention. Your friends want you to read their updates. Apple wants you to check out their latest gadget. Google wants you to click on as many search results as you can.

But there is good news. Believe it or not, productivity is overrated. It is not the secret sauce that leads to success. You do not have to get a lot done in a short amount of time.

When I email Seth Godin, he invariably writes back within minutes. Despite what others tell you, that giant checks his email early and often. Nothing wrong with that.

But if you do not have to be productive to build a successful online community and business, what do you need? You need to provide content that is worth people’s attention.

Attention is difficult to get. For example, let us suppose you have an audience of five hundred readers. If you publish articles twice per week, your audience grows accustomed to this.

If you start posting every twelve hours, you are suddenly demanding extra attention. Eventually you wear them out and they unsubscribe. There is a limit to the amount of attention your audience is willing to give you.

You must learn to use it wisely.

You must learn to be efficient in the amount of content you make visible.

Every word you write is asking to be read; every picture you tweet or Facebook is asking to be seen. The more you scatter across the web, the less attention your followers are able to give each item. In other words, each item becomes decreasingly effective.

Every time you disappoint your readers, you decrease the likelihood they will open your next email. If you want your stuff to spread, you must learn to censor what you publish.

This is a painful business. Very few writers can do it. When you see someone who achieves success every single article, you may rest assured he is editing like mad. Creating a wildfire every time you post is a difficult feat.

If your archives are lousy, you lose potential subscribers. You may have an awesome article today but the meager post you wrote two months ago is hurting you.

This applies to every aspect of your online presence. For example, it is often tempting to tweet snippets of your life’s happenings, but the result of these outbursts is an undermining of your relevance; followers grow less likely to pay attention to your next tweet, which might be great content.

These things are all connected, you see.

The less noise you make and the more effort you put into each point of contact, the more attention you build. As you develop a reputation for only putting the best of yourself online, readers will notice. They will reward you with a healthy dose of their attention.

Attention is a difficult thing to get, and an easy thing to lose.

You must play your cards wisely.

It has nothing to do with productivity, and it has everything to do with efficiency.

How does this affect you? Instead of spending five hours writing ten blog posts, spend five hours writing one good post. This means the amount of attention you are asking is less, and the prose you are offering is superior.

If it takes me all day to write an email that makes me a lot of money, that is better than spending five minutes to write an email that fizzles on impact. Yes, the email must do its work efficiently, but I do not have to be productive in its construction.

Individuals are the building blocks of an audience; treat them as such. Give them stuff worthy of their attention. But do not bother with being productive in the process; it is okay.

Instead of shouting and splashing, slow down and be unproductive. Focus on just one thing and do it right. You will be spinning circles around your competition.

Or better yet, love your enemies and tweet this out. They need some help.

Question: Have you focused on productivity at the expense of quality? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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