How to Write Faster
A few simple tricks can cut minutes or hours off a project.
Here are four tips to help you write faster:
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Work in short bursts. Set a timer for 10 minutes or so—never more than 20—and bear down. During that brief period, think less, write more. After the timer goes off, give yourself a break of two or three minutes. Listen to music. Surf the Internet. (Do we still say that?) Whatever you do, don’t write. Then reset the timer and do it again. When we work “all day” on something, we drift in and out of paying attention, and in and out of getting things done. But in a focused ten minutes, you can produce what would otherwise get done in an unfocused hour.
Turn off the music. You may think you work better with music, but you don’t. Good writing, especially business and speechwriting with their explanations and persuasion, requires focused thought. That requires silence. This is more than just opinion; think about how the brain works. Every stimulus requires processing, and music is stimulation. Background music—especially anything with words or musical complexity or a hook—becomes an ongoing distraction from the task at hand. Listening to music while you’re writing may make you feel more productive, but that’s only because it’s giving you some relief from your single-minded concentration: feeling better does not mean writing better and it never means writing faster. You will still have to think things through, and putting that off for the sake of a song means more time.
Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You're going to refine it later, so just get anything that even sort-of fits down on paper. As I say to anyone beset with writer's block, I can fix junk but I can't fix a blank page. Also: most detail work at this stage is wasted effort. Why? Because you are going to revise later no matter what, and that means you'll have to change or even delete much of what you do, and that includes that filigree you're killing yourself on in the first pass. Keep writing and clean up things later.
Write down phrases or points that must appear in the piece and check them off as you go. If you don't write them down, you'll probably forget to put them in, or you'll remember them after the deadline. Plus keeping a list in your head as you write is a distraction. Make a checklist and mark them off as you go. You'll end up with a stronger piece, you'll be more confident when you have to decide if it's finished, and your client will be happier, too.
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