Harlan Coben is a thriller writer who has published 33 books, with the latest published this week. He has an estimated 75 million books in print, and a 14-project deal with Netflix.
His stated goal is to produce a book a year.
In full disclosure, I’ve never read any of his books; I’d never heard of him before I read an article about him in The New York Times.
As a person who is always on the lookout for productivity tips, especially from prolific creatives, I was curious about his process.
Most productivity advice tells us to sit at a desk for hours and have a consistent routine.
What is Coben’s routine? In his words:
My routine is to not have a routine.
Coben was a stay-at-home dad even before the pandemic. He drove his kids to school and then he found a place to write.
While one of his sons was in high school, he spent 6 months writing at the deli counter at the local Stop & Shop. For another book, he spent three weeks taking Ubers everywhere he went because he found he was writing well in the back seat.
As he told the NY Times:
I like to ride a horse until the horse collapses, and then I look for another horse.
Personally, I’d get car sick writing in the back seat of a car. But I’ve found great productivity on trains, in waiting rooms, hotel lobbies, and sitting on the floor.
Coben’s technique of working in a place until it no longer works is a strategy I’ve employed repeatedly with success.
Does that mean it works for everyone? Of course not. There’s no one way.
The only way to know what will work for you is to experiment. Here’s the metric Coben uses:
If it produces pages: good. If it doesn’t produce pages: bad.
Sounds simple enough to me.
What’s your best method of creating?