If you’re anything like me, time is of the essence with writing. We all have a lot of things to do, and we’re all trying to snag every moment we can to get some words on a page.
Whether it’s work, kids, church, or just general life stuff, many things are competing for our attention and time.
That’s why writing fast is a skill worth mastering.
Honestly, I don’t have much time to write a blog post today. I’ve got editing to do, a ton of meetings, work to do on my own writing, and it’s a beautiful day, so I want to get a bike ride in.
I wasn’t even planning on doing a blog this week, but then I realized I had the time, and I decided that I didn’t want to shortchange you in the content department.
So, here we are. Let me walk you through how I’m writing this very blog post you’re reading right now and give you some tips on how to write faster so you can maximize your time and create more amidst your busy day.
What Do I Mean By “Writing Faster?
First, let’s get straight on what I mean about this whole “writing fast” business. Writing fast does not mean rushing, producing substandard work, or writing without a plan. At the same time, the goal isn’t to bang out something that doesn’t require revision.
The idea is to generate as much useable material as possible so that when you have time to sit down and do more focused revision, all the pieces are already there. You just need to assemble them.
The word “fast” has a bad connotation with any work, implying that someone does it quickly and without attention to detail. That might be true with writing in some respects, but the more you do it, the more streamlined your thinking becomes. This ironically makes writing fast equal to writing efficiently.
It’s also important to add that writing fast does not mean being a “pantser,” or “writing by the seat of your pants.” The whole plotter/pantser thing (a dichotomy between writing with extensive planning versus writing without any) is a process preference, not a particular skill.
If you’re a “plotter” (I actually dislike these terms, but that’s a post for another time), you can still write fast and write well.
With that being said . . . let’s talk about some things I do that help me write faster.
Let Go of Your Standard of Excellence
I am a recovering perfectionist who still deals with that “what will people think” fear from time to time. I can honestly say that the turning point for me as a writer was when I realized that it’s okay to write without fear of “being perfect” or “getting it wrong.”
I used to sit down to write, look at the clock, and think, “Well, I have to be somewhere in an hour, and that’s hardly enough time to write anything good, so I’ll just do this later.”
That’s procrastination aimed at self-judgment, and it accomplishes absolutely nothing.
What finally, finally taught me that it’s okay to just write something, anything, was working in marketing. When you are serving multiple clients who all need different content with different messages and goals, you have no choice but to write fast. Sometimes, all you have time for is a quick clean-up before it goes to the client.
I sucked at this at first, but as I said, writing fast is a skill. The more I did it, the more I could smash out some serious words. Maybe they weren’t top-notch words, but they got the job done.
Sometimes, getting the job done is sufficient. Once you realize this, all kinds of doors will open up for you to become more efficient with your work.
Leave Your Phone in Another Room
A lot of articles about productivity talk about turning off your phone or using “focus mode” on your iPhone. I am going to take this a step further: don’t even have your phone in your workspace.
Every morning, I plug in my phone to charge it, put it on focus mode, and go upstairs to my office.
Without the phone in the room, there is no temptation to play games or check Instagram. The only thing in front of me is the computer, and the only thing I have to do is work.
Yeah, there’s the Pomodoro technique and writing sprints and all these apps you can get to maximize your focus, but don’t make this more complicated than it has to be. Identify your source of distraction and then kick it out of the room.
Listen to Music
I imagine I’ll get some pushback on this one. I am personally a big music listener while writing, but I get that this might go against your typical process. But I also find that listening to music diverts an avenue of my brain energy away from my writing and toward something else.
When I worked in marketing, my typical strategy was to listen to up-tempo music, particularly metal or punk rock. The high-energy music pushed my thoughts forward instead of letting me stall on any particular point.
I’m listening to Rockpile right now (a band that’s a totally rad mix of 1950s rock and roll and punk) and things are going pretty well. I’m even a lot more awake than when I sat down forty minutes ago with my coffee.
Write with Bullet Points
So far, I’ve talked mainly about the wisdom I gained from working in marketing and having to churn out content quickly. But now I’m about to make this even easier for you.
You don’t have to write in complete sentences.
Nope. Phrases are fine. Even just words. No sentences, paragraphs, or lengthy pages required.
If you’re working on an article, write down the three or four main points you want to address. If you’re writing fiction, write down what you want to accomplish in a particular scene and quickly sketch out the dialogue or action.
The best part about writing with bullet points is that you can do it anywhere. You can do it on your Notes app while waiting in line at Starbucks, at a doctor’s visit, or getting your oil changed.
It might not feel like much, but that’s some brainstorming or planning you won’t have to do when you’re back at your computer.
Want More Tips About How to Write More Efficiently?
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NOTE: Creativity Matters will be on break next week! We will return with more cool writing tips the first week in June.