23 Great Rules for Being a Productive Creative

Or how I’ve been able to write 12 books in a decade

Ryan Holiday
Published in
6 min readAug 26, 2021


Photo: Steven Heap/EyeEm/Getty Images

This week, I announced on Instagram that my newest book, Courage is Calling: Fortune Favors The Brave, is available for preorder. It will be my 12th book in 10 years, and so there were a bunch of comments from people who wondered how I was able to get another one done so quickly.

How do you write books faster than I read them?

What’s your secret to writing so many books?

The answer is that I have a system, a process that helps me be productive. It’s not mysystem exactly, as I’ve taken many strategies from the greatest writers to ever do it. Although I talk about the creative process at length in my book Perennial Seller, I thought I would detail some of my rules that I follow as a writer. I think they can help anyone be more productive.

Read. Read. Read.

A book is made of books. “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading; a man will turn over half a library to make one book,” Samuel Johnson said. As I was putting together the bibliography for Courage, I counted something like 300 books I was directly sourcing from.

Always be researching

The bulk of the work is researching — collecting stories, anecdotes, and data to marshal your argument. The writing is stringing those pieces together. I’ve found stuff I’ve used in in-flight magazines, discovered snippets on social media, even heard things mentioned on TV. As Shelby Foote put it in an interview with The Paris Review: “I can’t begin to tell you the things I discovered while I was looking for something else.”

Put good advice where you work

Print and put a couple of important quotes up on the wall to help guide you (either generally, or for a specific project). When I was working on Ego is the Enemy, I had this quote from Machiavelli on the wall to inspire its style and ethos: “I have not adorned this work with fine phrases, with swelling, pompous words, or with any of those blandishments or external ornaments with which many set forth and decorate their matter. For I have chosen either that nothing at all should bring it honor…



Ryan Holiday
Writer for

Bestselling author of ‘Conspiracy,’ ‘Ego is the Enemy’ & ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’ http://amzn.to/24qKRWR