Do you want to write faster?
I do. As a marketer, many of my day-to-day tasks involve writing. I blog. I tweet. I email. All of these things involve writing.
All other things equal, being an efficient writer means being a more efficient marketer.
So, how do you write faster? That’s the question I recently addressed in my latest LinkedIn post. To answer this question, I asked my Twitter community for tips. I also researched what other writers are doing.
Here are 5 tips for writing productively.
1. Create an outline.
Before writing paragraphs after paragraphs of text, outline your main points and the subpoints that support your main ideas. This is like a map for your piece: it gives you a clear direction of where you’d want to go.
Neil Patel, who writes 8 blog posts per week while running 2 companies, has this tip about creating the body of your outline:
“For the body, you don’t have to do much other than make a few bullet points, describing the ideas you want to discuss. Your thoughts don’t even have to be complete sentences – you can worry about that in the next step. All you have to do in this step is list three or four main points you want to cover within your blog post.”
This is a tip that Roxanne St-Pierre, a Senior Communications Manager from Vancouver, agrees with. She tweets that writing more efficiently starts by “deciding the number of paragraphs I need and what the main idea of each paragraph will be before starting to write.” Taking a few minutes to do an outline could save you hours and hours of work later on.
@kcclaveria for me it's deciding the number of paragraphs I need and what the main idea of each paragraph will be before starting to write.
— Roxanne St-Pierre (@roxannestp) August 12, 2014
2. Skip your intro.
It might seem logical to start with your intro, but this is a common writing mistake.Evan LePage from Hootsuite explains:
“Fast writers often skip their introduction. This allows them to write the piece without trying to fit it into the constraints of a lead they laboured over in advance.
The blank page is your worst enemy. It doesn’t matter if you delete a paragraph as soon as you’ve written it; you have to prime the pump before the ideas start flowing. Skipping the lead also gives you more time to soak in the rest of your content and mull it over. You’ll get familiar with the content that stand out, which will likely form the basis of your introduction.”
If you worry too much about your intro, you may never get past that section. Try working on the meat of your piece and then go back to the intro later on. By the time you come back, you’ll usually already have an idea of what to talk about.
3. Avoid editing your first draft.
When writing your first draft, just write. Don’t worry about using the best words. Don’t sweat getting the right word arrangement. And don’t even bother correcting awkward sentences. You can fix all of this in your next drafts.
As writing coach Daphne Gray-Grant tells PRDaily, you should “separate the writing task from the editing task.” To do this, Gray-Grant recommends turning your monitor off or hanging a dishtowel over it—and then writing without seeing what you’ve produced. That sounds like an extreme thing to do, but the point is: don’t worry about editing just yet. If you self-edit while writing your draft, you may not finish your draft at all!
Renowned speaker and author Mitch Joel says writing your first draft quickly is an important business-writing tip to follow:
Write it all down. Write it down as fast at it comes. You must always set aside some time later to tweak, edit, chop, improve and fix the nuances. If you bring to your writing a sense of urgency, you will have fewer issues getting stuck or – even worse – not being able to begin. Even if you’re heading down the wrong path, please keep writing fast and let the words flow, you may well be surprised at how quickly your fingers and brain will course-correct.
4. Find your flow.
I’ve written in the past that I prefer to blog early in the morning (especially if it’s for my personal blog), but night owls will probably disagree with me. That’s fine. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to writing efficiency. Do a little bit of self-reflection and determine the time of the day when and where you feel most inspired and most creative.
“I find silence is key,” tweets Alicia Girard, a Communications and Change Management Coordinator. “When I’m serious about getting a piece done I work from home.”
@kcclaveria being a bit of an introvert myself, I find silence is key. When I'm serious about getting a piece done I work from home.
— Alicia Girard (@AliGirard) August 12, 2014
Just like Alicia, many people find that silence unlocks productivity, but others like a bit of white noise. Think about the writing environment where you feel your creative juices flowing. Is it at a coffee shop on a lazy Sunday afternoon? Is it at home late at night while listening to heavy metal?
Personally, I like to listen to classical music when I’m writing at work. This gives me something to listen to without being distracted by lyrics. Classical music has been shown to increase productivity in general (a phenomenon called the Mozart effect), so I definitely recommend trying it out.
5. Give it time.
Ok, this one might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes you just need to take a break. Take that break because it will make you more efficient. For instance, writer/editor Sheryl Gray says she stops writing to “leave the distraction of the keyboard for some ‘thinking time’ to better focus on main points and find the lead.”
@kcclaveria I STOP writing, leave the distraction of the keyboard for some "thinking time" to better focus on main points and find the lead.
— Sheryl Gray (@shrlgray) August 12, 2014
Don’t feel guilty about leaving your desk for a few minutes. Science suggests a relaxed state of mind is important for creative insight. A quick break, in other words, is what you may need when your work is going nowhere. So when you feel that you’ve hit a wall, take a quick walk and chat with a colleague. Stretch. Grab a snack. You’d want to get back to writing eventually, of course, but if you’re dealing with writer’s block, a quick break might help.
As you can see, writing faster is more about your process and less about having the talent for it.
Now over to you: How do you write faster? Leave your comments below or tweet me your tips at @kcclaveria.