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Write Now with Scrivener, Episode no. 36: Todd Henry, Productivity and Creativity Author

Todd Henry writes books helping people improve their productivity, creativity, and teamwork. He calls himself "an arms dealer for the creative revolution."

Show notes:

Learn more about Scrivener, and check out the ebook Take Control of Scrivener.

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Todd Henry teaches people to be more creative and to solve problems. He writes books for what he calls “on-demand professionals.” These are people who “go to work, solve problems, write things, design things, come up with ideas, provide solutions on demand.” His ideas aren’t limited to creativity in business; many of them apply to all creatives, including writers.

Todd points out that “creativity doesn’t like to show up whenever we beckon it. Creativity has to be lured, it has to be cultivated.” This is an important point for creative writers. On his website, in The Thing You Do Every Day, he says that “If you’re a writer, your (everyday) habit of writing things you don’t always care for is what enables you to write the (once-in-a-while) 60,000-word book manuscript.” He explains that “for anyone who wants to write well, and write brilliantly, write uniquely, that starts with having an everyday practice of writing. Some days, you get to the end of your writing session and say, ‘It’s awful, or it sounds derivative,’ but it doesn’t matter because you’re building those muscles, you’re developing the stamina to be able to sit down and write on demand. And the only way you ever get to the point where you do something unique is by persistent repetition and developing your voice over time.”

I pointed out that writers need to read a lot to learn about good writing, and Todd said, “One of the mistakes I think a lot of people make is that they only read, or study, or delve deeply into a specific area of interest that is uniquely attached to their own profession or their area of interest.” Extending this to creative writing means that while you may write in one genre, and read extensively in that genre, it can be helpful to read other types of fiction as well. “You have to be an expert in what you’re writing about if you’re writing nonfiction, especially. But my encouragement would be to listen, and seek inspiration outside of the confines of your specific area of focus, because most of the non-intuitive leaps, the brilliant connections that you’re going to make, are going to come from taking something from over here, something from over there, and finding a connection that nobody else has discovered to this point.”

In another article, Alone with Your Thoughts, Todd discusses a technique he discovered 15 years ago, which involves “plopping down in a chair first thing in the morning with a notebook and staring at the wall” to generate ideas. Most people can’t sit and do nothing. “Most of us are not even aware of what’s on our mind because we don’t pause long enough to discover what our mind is trying to tell us. We expect ideas to happen in the cracks and crevices of our incredibly frenetic life. That’s not the way that creativity works. It’s slow-emergent; it has to be merged over time very slowly, often.”

Todd opened our interview by saying that Scrivener is “one of my favorite tools in the world,” and he uses it to write all of his books. “I can’t imagine now writing a book in anything other than Scrivener because it so perfectly matches the way that I want to work.”

He didn’t use it for his first book, but quickly realized that his process needed improvement, because, “I don’t think in a linear way, nor do I like to write in a linear way.” He did some research and discovered Scrivener, and says, “The thing that I love about Scrivener is that I can write books from the inside out. I tend to write books in sections. What section do I feel like writing about today? It might be in chapter five today, and tomorrow it might be in chapter two. Next week, it might be chapter seven, or maybe I’ll write three or four sections in chapter two today. Because it’s all text files that can be moved around wherever I want, it’s easy to track when I’m writing, and it’s easy to organize when I’m writing in a very streamlined way.”

Todd also loves Composition Mode, which provides a distraction-free environment for writing. “One of the things I love about Scrivener, is I always operate in full-screen mode, I’m always writing with a black screen with white text. There’s none of this, none of the complexity of the distractions, the tools; when I’m writing, I want to be writing, that’s what I want to be doing.”

Kirk McElhearn is a writer, podcaster, and photographer. He is the author of Take Control of Scrivener, and host of the podcast Write Now with Scrivener.

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