The two habits of highly fast writers

I am a fast writer. Fingers flying, I can dash through a post or other assignment.

While I’ve always suspected that some of my speed at writing, talking and much more may come from a genetic neurological blip, I know that much of it comes from some habits that have evolved from pressures at work to crank out quality content quickly.

Let me call them the two habits of highly fast writers, sort of like the famous seven habits of highly effective people.

1. Before you start writing, think about who you’re writing for, what you want to say and whether you’re to write it in tips, a story or other approach. You will more than make up the time spent on this quick thinking from the faster writing it makes possible

Thinking doesn’t have to take much time, though people writing long treatises about complex subjects may wish to prepare an outline. Most of the time, I simply spend a minute or two thinking, sometimes jotting down a few notes.

If I don’t think things through, I can still write quickly. But the results are not pretty. I spend so much time rewriting that I waste scads of time, which defeats the whole purpose of writing quickly.

Writing without thinking first is like going on a road trip without first studying a map. You will miss out on the most scenic route and the sites worth stopping for. You will have no clue about short cuts. You will get lost.

What’s more, because you remember the route from reading the map, you will be free to concentrate on the road ahead, which brings me to my second habit.

2. Focus on what your brain is telling your fingers to type.

Do not be distracted by checking back with your research. Often I paste the research notes I know I’m going to need in the document before I begin. Other times, I work from memory, where the most important ideas are stored, and check back when I revise.

Do not answer the telephone, check emails, listen to music, tweet or do anything else during this enthralling time.

If you work in an office, put a “Do not disturb” sign on your door. Better still, work from home if you can when you have something important to write.

Some people have the steely discipline that allows them to concentrate in the midst of chaos. But most of us need to exit that scene.

Like pushing away intrusive thoughts when you’re trying to meditate, you will have to actively resist inner distractions. Silence any inner critics who try to tell you to write properly, whether it’s your high school English teacher and some vaguely remembered rules or the jargon that everyone at work seems to speak.

The more you focus, the easier it is. Thoughts of your mean boss, that nagging pain, the chocolate bar in your drawer, the dry cleaning, space and time will also fade.

The only drawback to writing quickly is the greater need to revise. You have to revise anyways. It probably won’t add significantly to your revising time to ferret out the typos and word fog that may sneak in. Fixing these mistakes is a small price to pay for the gain in speed, quality and fun.

Yes, I said fun. Once you’ve thought through your main ideas, you can switch off the logical side of your brain and turn on the fun creative side. It’s exhilarating.

That’s my two cents, think and focus. Do you have any more habits that help you write quality content quickly? Please share.

4 Responses

  1. Barb, great suggestions!

    My approach is to prepare in advance so that when heads down writing happens I can get into “the zone”. Being the in the zone entails the laser sharp focus you refer to. And results in fast output.

    Part of my planning also includes compiling all the puzzle pieces – source material, brief, audience, key messages, conclusions, proof points etc…so that when I sit down to write my efforts focus on putting the puzzle together.

    I love writing, too !!!

  2. I love your puzzle analogy. That’s a great way to explain it.

  3. This was a great article. When it comes time to write my POV for our newsletter I often read our writer’s main article and factoids, then stew on it for a couple days. That’s a little longer than you’re recommending, but for a non-writer… now that I know that’s the right thing to do, I’ll make sure I give myself time to do it. Thanks for the tips.

  4. Whatever time works for you is the time you need. If a fast thinker like you needs to stew, we know you’re cooking up something hot.

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