To know how to write faster is something that almost everyone needs. Who hasn’t had to compose a report for the boss in record time? Gotten frustrated with the amount of time that it took to pound out a simple blog post? Realized that their hourly rate for a project is plummeting with every minute spent dithering over the structure of an article or sentence?
Unfortunately, knowing how to write faster does not come naturally to most of us. We spend too much time worrying about the quality of our writing, struggling with organizational problems, or thinking about how our audience will perceive our copy to get the job done quickly. The good news is that writing fast is a skill that can be developed with a little practice. Here’s how.
How to Write Faster
Make notes first.
When you’re in a time crunch, it’s tempting to dive right into a writing project without thinking out what you’re going to say. But your writing will almost always flow faster if you carve out some time to jot down notes about the points you want and need to include in your text. Writing notes, particularly in longhand, removes the pressure to form your ideas as beautifully worded prose from the start.
Gather your research in advance.
Researching and writing simultaneously slows down the writing process. Before you start writing, complete your research as much as possible. If you find you need more information while writing, insert bold bracketed information in your text noting the information you need (e.g., [need more stats here]) and come back to it later. Breaking your writing flow to research just increases the risk of you getting sidetracked.
Eliminate all distractions.
To write quickly, you have to get “into the zone.” Shut down all extraneous browser screens, turn off your cell phone, forget you ever heard of email. If you work in an office, send the message to colleagues that you aren’t available to chat by closing your door or posting a polite sign outside of your cubicle noting that you are working to meet a deadline and can only respond to the most urgent matters. Also, take some time to organize your workspace before you begin to write. A cluttered desk can provide numerous distractions – not to mention bring out the procrastinating neat-freak in you who suddenly must stop writing to clean everything up.
All the preliminaries done? Good. Now, in the eloquent words of author and blogger Alyssa Bowman, “throw up on the screen.” Let all your words flow out without worrying about how it sounds, the structure, or who is going to read the finished product later. Above all, don’t go back and change a word of what you’ve written until you’re finished writing. Editing is for later. When you’ve designated it time for writing, just write.
Set a time limit.
If the idea of vomiting up your words without self-editing or stalling for an unspecified length of time intimidates you, set a time limit for each writing session. Set a timer for 15 minutes and write non-stop until the bell rings. When those 15 minutes are up, reset the timer and start again. Work this way until the words begin to flow so naturally that you stop looking at the clock.
Walk away from it.
If you’re truly stuck or blocked, don’t be afraid to stop writing. Taking a break and doing something unrelated to your task can clear your mind and stop you from succumbing to the panic and fear that often accompanies writer’s block. If you have time to let the piece sit overnight, even better. Being able to look at your writing with fresh eyes will vastly improve your flow.
Don’t be hard on yourself.
When the writing isn’t going as quickly as you’d hoped, a common time-killer is to spend time cursing yourself and your slow brain for not producing faster. But, as I’m sure you know, self-loathing does not produce speedier results. If you find yourself freaking out, remember that writing really is cognitively difficult work and that even seasoned pros sometimes don’t produce as fast as they’d like. Then set your timer for 15 minutes, and keep on writing.
What tips do you have for writing faster? Please share your comments with us below!
Photo by erichhh.
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