3 Ways Practicing Detachment Can Promote Writing Productivity

3 Ways Practicing Detachment Can Promote Writing Productivity

Attachment is a common plight of many writers.

We insert pieces of ourselves into our writing, drawing us closer to our work than with many other professions. However, becoming overly attached can lead to decreased productivity, weighing down creativity like a backpack full of bricks.

Admittedly, I’ve struggled greatly with over-attachment throughout my career – my desire to write an award-winning perfect first draft often leading to complete writer’s block (and a lot of incomplete Word docs).

So when the idea of non-attachment serendipitously fell into my lap during a yoga class, I was eager to explore its practical applications in regards to my perfectionist writing dilemma. This slight shift in mindset has worked wonders for my productivity and creative well-being.

Here are three ways practicing non-attachment can improve your productivity and writerly well-being.

1. Releasing self-imposed expectations

The philosophy of non-attachment is characterized by overcoming attachment to desire, leading to a heightened perspective.

When applied to writing, non-attachment has the ability to relieve negative emotions often associated with self-imposed expectations – that is, your predispositions toward desired outcomes.

After all, we don’t have control over how others will respond to our work once we hit send, submit or publish. It’s out of our hands and letting go will ease outcome anxieties while waiting to hear back from the reader – whether it be an editor, publisher, client or friend.

For example, I recently submitted a piece of short fiction to a literary journal. After spending weeks molding my blank page into what I thought was a near-perfect story, I’d grown rather attached. I expected to hear back from the editor with acceptance and accolades. Needless to say, my expectations let me down when reality handed me a one-sentence rejection email.

In this instance, my premature speculation cost me energy that could have been used more productively. And when it comes to creative professions, like writing, energy is time and time is money.

Alternatively, I could have avoided the frustration associated with this scenario by making a conscious effort to not expect a specific outcome beyond my control. Imposing incalculable expectations on the future is about as tangible as the wishes we make when blowing out birthday candles.

The takeaway: Maintaining a non-attached mindset will save time and energy, which you can put back into producing new ideas and creating more content.

2. Letting go, literally and figuratively

Boiled down, non-attachment is simply the practice of letting go of desires and feelings that do not serve you.

In a literal sense, letting go has helped me double my submission output month-over-month. I once struggled to submit anything short of perfection. Since shifting my perspective, I’ve managed to increase output by literally letting my work go out into the world.

Prior to incorporating a non-attached frame of mind, I often found myself unnecessarily spending hours rewriting and proofing, only to convince myself the piece was unworthy of publication. Now, two rounds of drafting and a final proof are sufficient.

Which leads me to my next point: letting go emotionally.

From a less literal standpoint, there comes a time when you’ll have to let go of ideas you’ve held safely in your own mind. If you’re a writer, you will have to open those safe spaces. You’ll have to pair your ideas with words and share them with the world. This requires vulnerability – and practicing non-attachment eases that vulnerability.

Letting go emotionally will also help you overcome pesky emotions associated with rejection, unconstructive feedback and negative reviews. Effectively, this will leave more energetic space for you to focus on the present tasks at hand.

The takeaway: Letting go allows you to increase your output and maintain a clear focus, rather than agonizing over miniscule (and often unnecessary) details.  

3. Accepting “what is” – not wishing “what if”

Not to be confused with indifference or apathy, non-attachment is an objective state of mind that allows you to maintain an honest perspective of what actually is – not what you wish or expect it to be.

It allows us to accept and appreciate what we have without desire for more or less.

Writing, in its own right, is subjective. A writing style that resonates with you isn’t guaranteed to resonate with others. The way you express an idea with words might not align with the way someone else imagines it. That’s okay.

By building a non-attached relationship with your writing, you can more efficiently process feedback, criticism and rejection for what it is. Don’t overthink it.

Contrarily, you could brood over all the what ifs. What if I’d written the intro differently? What if my protagonist was less of a jerk? What if I’d taken a different angle on that pitch? Albeit, this approach is guaranteed to hinder your productivity.

The takeaway: There’s far more power (and productivity) in embracing the present, as compared to wallowing in the past or fretting over feedback the future may hold.

By combining a non-attached mindset with straightforward techniques to improve your writing, you, too, can write more freely and increase your productivity.

What other techniques do you employ to improve your productivity?

Filed Under: Craft
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  • Marilyn Carvin says:

    Somehow “non-attachment” to s/g I’m attached to confuses me, gives me a sense of loss. But I’m sure I understand the concept. It’s “only words”, but I think of it as expanding a viewpoint that accepts, embraces whatever the outcome is. If it is different from what I had hoped, then there is something I can gain or learn from it. It is an expanding awareness or “attachment”, a reaching out for whatever the experience is going to be. Thanks for sending my thoughts in that direction. It’s s/g I forget sometimes.

  • Miranda says:

    Thanks for the wise words! I’ll try to keep this in mind as I’m writing my first book. I think most of my challenges to writing right now are centered around my perfectionist attitude. I can’t wait to put these tactics into practice because I’m going through a writing slump at the moment

    • I can definitely relate to the perfectionist dilemma, Miranda. I hope these tactics help you, too. Sometimes, when I’m stuck in a really bad writing slump, I take a walk outside or meditate in a park – it almost always helps me to refocus. Happy book writing!

  • Judith Haran says:

    Good piece. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn! I put a lot of myself into my writing (autobiographically speaking) so rejection has a double sting. But I find that when I’ve really moved on to the next piece of work, I can handle rejections for the earlier ones. It is difficult when one feels like the entity one has submitted to is rejecting “one’s very existence”, though. The best way to deal with this is to maintain a constant awareness of the issue, I find, and to let the pain of rejection just “be there” until it passes.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Judith! I can only imagine how challenging this could be from an autobiographical standpoint. I think maintaining awareness is a great way to handle all kinds of feedback. By giving ourselves permission to process feedback and acknowledge how we feel, we can grow and progress 🙂

    • PJ says:

      Thank you for sharing helpful insights. I sometimes find myself attached to a phrase, sentence or paragraph that really doesn’t help the story. A writer friend calls them “little darlings.” She says, cut them out but save them for a future writing prompt or other use.

      • My pleasure, PJ! I’m glad you found these insights useful. I was recently chatting with a web developer friend about non-attachment and he also referenced having to “kill his darlings” when writing code. Non-attachment can help in so many different scenarios and professions.

  • Matt Barton says:

    Nice article, wise words. For me, as much of a millennial as I am, turning off the wi-fi is the biggest productivity boost available to me. I’m pretty good at self-discipline with most things, but sometimes having social media at my fingertips is just too much of a distraction (especially if my phone’s blowing up). Sure, the router’s only in the next room; but that physical distance alone is enough to remind me where my attention should be focused.

    • Thank you, Matt, for the kind words. I can definitely relate to these distractions! I often keep my phone on airplane mode during working hours—even the smallest reminder that I’m about to distract myself (such as turning off airplane mode) helps me to be more mindful and present.

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