“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler
Perhaps this is a sentiment that all writers can share to some extent. However, writing doesn’t have to be a tortuous experience akin to banging your head against a wall. Frustration rarely helps our writing; good writing is perfectly compatible with efficient and reasonably quick writing. If you would like to become a fast and efficient writer, the following are 10 suggestions that have the potential to dramatically increase your productivity.
Writing is a creative exercise which benefits from having a clear mind. If your mind is cluttered with distracting thoughts you will struggle to write effectively and fluently. When writing you need to concentrate on nothing else other than the subject of your writing. This requires a combination of one-pointedness and concentration; only if we can absorb ourselves into writing will we be most productive. How can we write anything meaningful if 50% of our thoughts are worrying about miscellaneous events in our lives? To cultivate a clear mind, it is helpful to set aside certain times just for writing – then, during this time, be disciplined about keeping your mind free of distracting thoughts.
Often when we write the first sentence can prove to be the most challenging. It is also by far the most important because it will determine whether people keep reading or not. For this reason it is common for a writer to become overly concerned about getting the ‘perfect’ start to an article. The problem is that aiming for perfection becomes a block to writing anything. If you are struggling to begin, start anywhere – even in the middle. Once you have written several paragraphs it may become more obvious how you can best start the article.
As you go about your day, try to accumulate ideas for articles in your mind. You can use this time to consider various titles for your articles and to recall relevant anecdotes. Keep a notebook for ideas. I find that an article becomes quite easy to write if I have:
- A good title
- 7 key points / paragraphs.
- I know the subject relatively well.
- Write from Experience / Knowledge
Having written on many different topics, I know how difficult it can be to write on a topic you know little about. Also, if you are writing on new topics, it can be hard to be original and offer something unique. Stick to what you know and are able to write knowledgeably about. If you need to research articles, wait until you have developed a good background in the subject before starting to write.
Practise the Art of Writing
There is no secret formula for writing effectively. Like any activity, practise will enable you to get better. It is important to be able to get into a flow of writing; for example, many suggest it is advisable to write quickly but then be willing to throw out the bad. Ernest Hemingway was a great believer in writing and then being willing to toss out 90% of what he wrote. This might not sound very productive, but it can help because you are free to write without worrying about perfection.
Write in Unlikely Situations
Travelling on a train or even at a airport can give us several spare hours. These can often be very productive times for writing – because we have little else better to do. Don’t imagine that writing has to involve retreating to a Himalayan cave. If you wait for the perfect environment you will wait in vain.
Related to a clear mind is the importance of maintaining a positive attitude. Here, a positive attitude really involves avoiding negativity. Sometimes as writers we can easily become discouraged and feel our writing is not good enough. When we have a fear of failure or feeling of unworthiness, it is hard to do anything worthwhile. Our worries act like a subconscious break on the flow of our writing. We don’t need to have an excessively positive attitude, it is sufficient just to abandon negative sentiments.
A Working Environment
It is important to find an environment suitable for writing. Avoid noisy and cluttered places. The less distractions you have the better chance you will have of being able to concentrate. If you write from home, try to create a space where you will not be continually interrupted. A simple “Do Not Disturb” sign can do wonders for your productivity.
Music / Silence
To gain fresh inspiration, it is good to write in different surroundings. Finding a good cafe can make a welcome change; the only drawback of writing in public places is the background noise which can be distracting. Using an MP3 player can drown out the background sound; however, you have to be careful you don’t let the music distract you. I went through a period of going to cafes with my laptop and listening to my favourite playlists; I was really enjoying the music, but I hardly managed to write anything. If you do listen to music, make sure you choose something fairly ‘neutral’. If music doesn’t work you can always try noise cancelling headphones.
To write well you need to be fully committed to your writing. It doesn’t work to write tentatively, worrying about whether it will be good enough. Be bold and committed. When you write, concentrate on writing and don’t do anything else. By giving writing your 100% attention you are guaranteed to boost your productivity. For example, if you are a blogger, try writing away from the internet and the temptations of mindless surfing.
Tejvan writes for several blogs including Net Writing, a site which features tips for writers and bloggers. Netwriting has a variety of articles focused on productivity, suggestions for improving writing and also general blogging tips.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.