How Danielle Steel Wrote 179 Novels
Today Glamour magazine published a profile on Danielle Steel (not an affiliate link), the world’s most prolific author. How prolific you ask? Steel has published 179 books to date (!) and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having books on the New York Times’s best-seller list for more consecutive weeks than any other writer in history.
So, how does she do it? The profile reveals the writer to have an enviable work ethic, for sure — she works as much as 20 to 22 hours a day! That’s not manageable for most of us, especially those of us who have day jobs and write on the side. But there are definitely strategies she uses that most of us can adopt to fit our own lives. Such as:
She Keeps to Her Routine
Everyday, no matter what, Steel is at her desk by 8am:
“Dead or alive, rain or shine, I get to my desk and I do my work.”
Over the years this routine has become a habit that has sustained her work load. She keeps to this routine even if she’s close to finishing a book. “Sometimes I’ll finish a book in the morning, and by the end of the day, I’ve started another project,” she says.
She Pushes Through Writer’s Block
Steel doesn’t let “writer’s block” actually block her writing:
“I keep working. The more you shy away from the material, the worse it gets. You’re better off pushing through and ending up with 30 dead pages you can correct later than just sitting there with nothing.”
Steel is absolutely right. Working through a block is some of the best advice I was ever given, and I pass it on whenever I can. But how to keep working if you’re stuck? Steele doesn’t offer additional details in the profile, but when I’m stuck, I actually type out the words “I am stuck” over and over just to keep the momentum going. Without fail, more comes to mind in minutes — sometimes in seconds. The trick is to just keep writing.
She Let’s the Work Guide Her — Not a Paycheck
“I never had success as a goal,” says Steel. She continues:
“I had this drive to to write the stories that came to me — and to conquer them. It came from the gut, not from the cash register.”
That’s a noble goal, one that many of us can’t afford to share wholeheartedly. But here’s what we can learn from it: As long as the work still feels fun and worthwhile, as long as it still holds value for us in addition to (but not necessarily instead of) money, than we’re much likelier to be successful writers. Because money can be made elsewhere — and often a lot easier — than at the desk, writing away. Like Steel, we should see writing as inherently valuable.
She Sees Writing as Her Life’s Purpose
Steel never takes it for granted that she’s published 179 books, or that she could retire today if she wanted to. And she doesn’t let a bad day throw her off her schedule. That’s because, for Steel, writing isn’t a hobby or even a career — it’s her very reason to be on Earth:
“My work has always been sort of a saving grace. It’s where I take refuge. Even when bad things have happened in my personal life, it’s a constant. It’s something solid I can escape into.”
By viewing writing so passionately, she can’t not do it. 179 books later, writing is still her reason to be alive.