Derrick Story

The Productive Writer: an Interview with Derrick Story

Derrick Story is an author and professional photographer who writes for a number of sites related to the craft of photography:

  • The Nimble Photographer, his delightful weblog about “traveling light and exploring the world one frame at a time.”
  • Rocky Nook, the weblog for a publisher of books on photography, imaging techniques, and workflow.
  • c’t Digital Photography, a quarterly photography magazine dedicated to long-form in-depth articles to educate photographers through tutorials, equipment reviews, and more.
  • The Digital Story, Story’s popular site featuring digital photography news, photo tips and techniques, equipment reviews, photo assignments for readers, and a weekly podcast.

A prolific writer, Story has to cope with a veritable firehose of information and data about photography-related technology and digital publishing, as well as the stream of content he creates himself. He is constantly honing his workflows and shares his best tips with his fans. He’s made a career out of doing what he loves…and it shows! We loved having the chance to ask him about some of the habits that supports him in staying on top of it all.

What’s your own daily routine like? What habits do you cultivate and what benefits do you find in them?

Routine is important to me. It’s akin to discipline, which I think is important for those who work alone. I don’t want to burn my brain cells figuring out my day. I’d rather use that energy for turning a clever phrase.

I start early in the morning, usually around 6:30 am and take care of the first round of publishing for my sites and those of my clients. I’ll take a break around 9 am for breakfast, and I try to have my ToDo list under control by midday. In the winter, I’ll go for a walk, have a bite to eat, then tackle my personal projects in the afternoon.

Play time fuels my ideas and creativity. If I only worked for others, my overall output would suffer. Raw material is valuable. I need iron to make steel.

On average, I write 1,000 to 1,500 words a day, and publish at least one photograph. I try to wrap up the day by 6:30 pm.

The most common advice we hear about writing habits is simply to write every day. But what’s your best advice for overcoming procrastination and getting quality work out of your time spent writing?

Writing is much easier when you’re passionate about the subject. My feeling is, immerse yourself in what you love. I’ve had jobs where I needed to write about things for which I did not care. My attitude was that I would use those opportunities to fine-tune my craft… and take my skills elsewhere as soon as practical.

My goal has always been to write about photography, technology, and the human experience. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. And I’m seldom at a loss for words.

By the way, the worst career advice I’ve heard is to do what will provide you with a comfortable income. That has led to more misery than the common cold.

Are there any habits you’re trying to develop now? What motivated you to work on them?

It’s very important to stay physically fit. I’m not from the school that believes self-abuse leads to great artistry.

As I get older, I have to work harder to maintain my weight and fitness. By doing so, I’m agile at the keyboard and my mind processes thoughts efficiently.

When I have an idea for a piece, I’ll often take a walk to let it percolate. Typically, by the time I return to the studio, I’m ready to write.

My biggest challenge is not to eat when I’m wrestling with an idea. In the old days, I’d smoke a cigarette, or two, or three, or four. But I gave that up years ago. Too bad it’s such a disgusting habit. Now I want to make a turkey sandwich. Baby carrots only take me so far.

Who or what inspires you? Whose habits would you like to know more about and why?

I like Shakespeare’s wit, Hemingway’s dialog, Robert Louis Stevenson’s sense of adventure, and Steinbeck’s compassion. If I could incorporate those skills into my writing, I would be the happiest author on earth.

Coach.me provides everything you need to improve performance in diet, fitness, productivity, and life. Join others who are improving their writings skills by adding these habits to your dashboard:

  • #500WED: a community challenge to fall in love with writing again. Can you write 500 Words Every Day for a month? Or try for 1000 or 2000 words a day.
  • Write for 30 minutes: get your new writing habit started by committing to a half-hour per day.
  • Walk: stretch your legs and get outside to refresh your mind and body.
  • Set Priorities for Your Day: Make sure you get things done that will make you feel good about your day.