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How to Write Smart, Not Fast

write smart

Do you write smart?

We all have our own styles of working, and they can be quite varied.

Some of us are fast, while some of us are slower… but some things are the same for all writers and other creative types.

There are times when things go swimmingly, and you feel like an unstoppable creative genius, whipping through your work and coming up with new ideas easily, effortlessly.

Those times are, sadly, all too rare, and more often we struggle to get our thoughts arranged in the right way. When that happens, whole days can pass where you feel like nothing was accomplished – even though you sat and worked diligently for hours and hours!

When those times hit, when you can’t even remember what it was like to be a fast, capable writer, it’s easy to get discouraged. Why do these moods always strike at the busiest times: when an article needed to be done yesterday, or a manuscript is overdue?

You can avoid being discouraged if you can head off the un-productivity at the pass.

You do this by remembering that it’s always better to write smart than try to write fast.

For that, you need a system…

A System for Writing?

It sounds kind of awful, doesn’t it?

As if creative writing can be reduced to a system into which you plug variables for an expected outcome – but it doesn’t have to be like that.

We use systems all the time. What you need to do to get out of the house in the morning. Dividing the housework fairly and effectively. Keeping track of your budget or your social engagements.

Creating systems to make our lives easier is a brilliant aspect of human ingenuity.

So, of course you should be applying this to your writing!

How will this make my writing better?

Well, a system for how you do your writing won’t look exactly like the system you use to organize your closet. But the principles are the same: result-oriented efficiency.

We’re not trying to standardize the creative process here, we’re trying to enhance it – give it the freedom to flourish without getting bogged down in details like when you’ll get it done, whether it’s good enough, whether it sends the right message, or how to stop the damn distractions.

Our brains are amazing at multi-tasking, but doing so doesn’t always lead to the best results. Multi-tasking can make us sloppy and forgetful – not at all what we want in our writing.

If you apply the same principles of result-oriented efficiency to your writing as you do to the rest of your life, your brain will be free from wondering “how” and get right into, well, doing it.

There’s No One-Size Fits All

Everyone’s writing style is, as I mentioned earlier, different, and different topics and forms require special attention.

But the most important thing is to spend time thinking about what you are good and bad at writing.

Make the things you’re good at as automatic as possible so more of your energy can go to overcoming the things you’re bad at.

Let’s look at Joan, and how she identifies her strengths and weaknesses to give her the tools she needs to build an effective system:

Joan is good at:

  • Writing dialogue and character descriptions
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Prioritizing paid projects
  • Coming up with ideas

Joan is less good at:

  • Avoiding distractions
  • Introductions and conclusions
  • Sharing her work and promoting herself
  • Picking character names

Those are just for starters. Try and hammer out your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Be tough on yourself, because the next step is all about how to make the process flow more easily.

How to Create Your Own System

Now that you have a list of your strengths and weaknesses, block off a few hours one day and do the following exercises:

Write down, in as much detail as possible, your typical writing day. Include everything that touches on it; when you start, when you stop, and why, what flows easily, what doesn’t, and how much time everything takes.

Now break your list down into categories like: actual writing, preparing to write, editing, and procrastinating.

Look at your list. What is getting more time than it deserves?

Do you have so many distractions because when you jump onto the internet when you get stuck?

Do you write your favorite (the easiest) sections first, or save them for last?

Think about this, and make notes as they occur to you.

And here’s the fun part – experimenting.

If you tend to start reading online comments when you have a break in concentration, block the internet from your computer.

If your family disrupts you during high-productivity time, lock yourself into a  room, or go to a café or motel.

If you spend ages coming up with ideas, but dialogue flows easily from your fingers, just start your day with ten minutes of free dialogue writing.

Try absolutely any combination you can think of that uses the things you do, or alters them, so they go more smoothly. Don’t worry about doing something strange or kooky. If you find out that you write best when you wear a certain hat (that lets your housemates know you’re not to be disturbed, perhaps) then bring on the hat!

This Is My System…

For me, the issue I needed to fix was how long it took me to write blog posts. Because I write a lot of blog posts all over the internet. I simply couldn’t afford to let the rest of my business languish while I agonized over headings and links and research.

So I created a system that works for me. It allows me to go from idea to research to outline to finished draft in, usually, under 90 minutes.

Write Like Freddy worked so well for me (and my friends and associates) that I made it available to everyone – and the results have been astounding. If blog posts are something that come up in your life once in a while, why don’t you come take a look?

 

About the author:

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is the co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”, and the co-author (with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark, and many others) of Engagement from Scratch! (available on Amazon, or as a free download). The latest and greatest thing you can get from him (for free, of course) is his Naked Marketing Manifesto, about marketing that really works!

Image: Man with laptop courtesy of Bigstock.com

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8 thoughts on “How to Write Smart, Not Fast

  • Miss ZP

    I love the idea, to find out the weaknesses and strengths..
    And yes, sometimes when we have the idea, we put our self in rush.
    In my humble opinion, it’s not the quantity that matters, but the quality.
    It’s not how long that you can write, but how you pick the right topic, right word and how you come with good explanation..
    This articles, really inspiring me!

  • Ann Druce

    Sometimes we procrastinate, blaming something “more urgent”, when it really is a case of something we’d prefer to do! I recommend committing your writing schedule to your computer calendar and setting reminders.

  • Beth Havey

    Danny, you do have great ideas. And yes, we all have to find our own path.

    I think the hardest part is when life throws you curves and even with the best intentions you just cannot get to the work and follow the ROUTINE like you want. But I maintain, that if you are meant to be a writer–you will be able to break down even the strongest barriers. Example–if someone is ill and you spend a lot of time in hospitals, take a notebook with you and work whenever YOU are not needed. It might lift your spirits to escape to your writing world.

  • Kevin Carlton

    Top musicians, writers, engineers, designers, sportsmen and -women, you name it, you’ll find many of them have some kind of system in place (even if they’re not aware of it).

    I personally don’t think you should fret whenever you haven’t written as much as usual. In terms of developing new thought processes and ways of going about things, you’re invariably achieving more than you think.

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