In case there were any doubts, we live in the age of instant gratification. Everyone wants everything right now. There are hundreds of blogs out there on time management with tips on being more productive, on squeezing more out of your day. So, it’s only natural that certain things notorious for taking a long time, such as writing, can be sped up, too.
This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, learning to become a faster writer means learning tricks to overcome writer’s block (oh, that pesky thing) and expressing yourself more efficiently. Whether you write blog posts for a living, or write novels or are working on your master’s thesis, learning to be a faster writer is a great skill to hone.
Here are some tips on how to write faster:
Do Your Research First
One of the things that will hamper your writing speed is trying to write while researching. Jumping between your text document and your research will lead to a lot of stops and starts in the writing process. It will make you to go off track and lose your momentum. Your writing will not only be slower, but will likely reflect this disjointed method. Instead, do your research first. While researching, you’re already beginning to assimilate your main points in your head. You can take a few notes while you’re researching, if necessary. If it’s a longer piece, notes will be helpful for sure. If you’re writing an article, you can write down the subheading ideas. By the time you’re done with your research, you should have a good idea of what you want to say and you can start writing.
Freewriting is when you write without stopping for a determined period of time. You can write whatever comes to mind, just don’t stop. This form of writing, especially if your research is fresh in your brain, can lead to fast and productive writing process. During freewriting, you don’t edit, pause, use the backspace or spell-check. Just get the ideas down. Afterwards, you can go back and clean up your ideas, use the spell-check and do your editing. But the important thing is to give yourself the chance to get the words out without being hampered by constant self-editing.
Stay Away from the Internet
Since you’re probably writing on a computer, it can be so tempting to start clicking around on dangerous sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Gmail. Don’t do it. A few innocent minutes of scrolling can turn into an hour or more of procrastination. Don’t cheat by using your phone or iPad to check either (I speak from experience). Think of it this way: if a runner is training to run a faster 400m race, he won’t get faster if he strolls off the track and starts chatting with his friends around the water fountain. Stick to the track and train. That’s the only way to get faster.
Set a Timer
Maybe you’re the type of person who responds to pressure. If so, give yourself a challenge by setting a timer and seeing if you can finish your article or chapter before it goes off. As the timer starts to run out, you may feel a rush of adrenaline kick in and suddenly the ideas start to click and your fingers start to fly. Even if you don’t finish in the time you set aside, you managed to get some words down and that’s better than you were doing before the exercise.
Setting a timer can also be a great way to focus on writing. Make a rule that while the timer is running, the only thing you can do is write. Even if you’re staring at a blank document for a good portion of the time, your mind is focused on the topic you’re writing about. It may not seem like it, but a lot of writing is actually just that – allowing the space to stare at a blank page and wait for the ideas to form. Without that space, the ideas will get lost in the distractions. The timer is a good boundary-setter for those who have problems setting limits on their own.
Use a Different Word Processor
For some writers, the standard MS Word doesn’t provide the flexibility they need to be efficient. With all the new thought organizers and word processing programs out there designed to give you the power to restructure your documents at will, why not try one? A little bit of reorganization may be what you need in order to become more efficient. Try Scrivener or Evernote. These programs can be especially helpful to novelists and those working on a master’s thesis or PhD.
Don’t Be a Perfectionist
If you want to write faster, you may need to loosen up a little. What I mean by that is that you may need to learn to let go of your idea of the perfect essay (or novel or thesis) and just write the essay you’re able to write with the skills you have right now. Some writers hem themselves in with perfectionism. Giving yourself the freedom to be imperfect will give you the courage to express yourself more freely and completely. And this means you’ll also write faster.
Want to be a faster writer? Stop writing on a computer and start handwriting. First, there’s no internet in your journal, so you won’t be tempted by that distraction. Second, there’s no backspace or spell-check, so you won’t spend your time erasing your thoughts or correcting your spelling. Most writers who handwrite find that they write more deliberately and thoughtfully. There are no typos. And hand-writing rarely leads to crossing out entire sentences or paragraphs the way that typing does. You may find that not only will your speed increase, but the quality of your writing will too. Give it a try.
Hope these tips get you writing faster. Happy writing!