Georges Simenon wrote nearly 200 books and is the creator of Jules Maigret, the world’s second most famous pipe-smoking detective. Each of Simenon’s books are not only critical successes, but they remain popular and in print.
But how did Simenon do it? Follows are Simeon’s productivity strategies that we can all learn from.
1. Build Momentum
“On the eve of the first day I know what will happen in the first chapter. Then, day after day, chapter after chapter, I find what comes later,” says Simenon. “After I have started a novel I write a chapter each day, without ever missing a day. Because it is a strain, I have to keep pace with the novel. If, for example, I am ill for forty-eight hours, I have to throw away the previous chapters. And I never return to that novel.” If the momentum is lost the energy and creativity of an idea may be drained. Build momentum for projects; don’t start and stop them.
2. Work in Bursts
Simenon cannot maintain his work rate for weeks at a time. “It’s almost unbearable after five or six days [of writing],” Simenon says. “That is one of the reasons my novels are so short; after eleven days I can’t—it’s impossible…it’s physical. I am too tired.”
After six to eleven days of writing Simenon would spend “three days to a week” editing and cutting down.
He elaborates, “Five or six times a year, at the very most, I retire into my own shell for eight days and, at the end of that time, a novel emerges.”
3. Eliminate Distractions
When asked about his impressive output, Simenon says, “My literary colleagues: they live in Paris, they lead quite worldly lives, and they pursue the manifold activities of men of letters. They give lectures, they write articles, they give innumerable interviews…. But I don’t do any of those things. I live tucked away with my family.” By eliminating all other distraction Simenon can focus on one thing.
4. Don’t Listen to Critics
“All the critics for twenty years have said the same thing: ‘It is time for Simenon to give us a big novel, a novel with twenty or thirty characters.’ They do not understand. I will never write a big novel.” Simeon didn’t let the opinion of critics change is writing style or creative output. He continued to do what he did best.
Simenon, of course, was able to produce so much as a result of pure passion. In one interview he says, “I need to write. If someone gave me the biggest fortune in the world tomorrow, it would make me miserable and physically sick if it served to prevent me from writing.”
Simeon wrote not as a hobby, but as a physical compulsion.
6. Use a Simple Outline
“I know nothing about the events when I begin the novel,” says Simenon. Instead, Simenon simply decides on an atmosphere and, “On [a] envelope I put only the names of the characters, their ages, their families. I know nothing whatever about the events that will occur later. Otherwise it would not be interesting to me.”
Explore problems without working toward a set goal. Let creativity and playfulness yield results.
If you want to increase your productivity, it takes some planning and hard work–and a focus on things that are important to you. Even if your goal isn’t to write detective novels, you can still take a page from Georges Simenon.