Create more content by learning to write faster
Writing is a creative activity. But that doesn’t mean it lacks a structured workflow. Nobody sits down at the computer and writes perfect prose and then walks away. Nobody. There are tips and tricks to becoming a faster writer that we’ll explore here.
If you write words—anything from blogs and books to sales letters and school essays—these tips are for you.
I created this list a month ago, and then put it aside to observe how I worked each day. To my chagrin, I realised I wasn’t even following my own best practices. [hand slap]. Each day I left out one or two techniques thinking they weren’t a big deal. But the little things add up and make big things.
These tips are in order from tasks you can do right away to those that need need more time (but have a bigger payoff). Here we go.
1. Prepare your (real world) workspace
Take 5-10 minutes before you sit down to organise your space. Every minute we waste getting a glass of water or opening an application adds up fast and can break the creative energy. I’m challenging you to do this one at the beginning of your workday.
Prepare your desk
- Clean the area of other projects and clutter
- Grab a drink and snacks
- Close the door
- Close the window to the barking dog
- Leave your phone in another room
Close down your email client, Facebook, and anything else that beeps.
2. Keep your objective in front of you
The creative process can take you down some interesting paths, so be careful you don’t get lost. As you type away, keep a note to the side of your screen with the project’s writing objective in the form of a question. Glance at it every once in a while and ask yourself if you’re still answering the right question.
3. Have your online tools open and ready
This was a big one for me. I recently quoted a job that should have been quick and easy. But my estimated time to complete the project fell flat because I didn’t have my online tools open and ready. The internet was slow, and Word seems to take ages to load when I’m in a hurry. It was really only a matter of five or ten minutes, but it affected my creative flow.
Tabs I open before I start writing include:
- Google Docs and Word
- Thesaurus (thesaurus.com)
- Word Frequency Counter (writewords.org.uk)
- Text to Speech (naturalreader.com)
- Grammar Check (Grammarly and Word)
4. Set a timer (30-minute increments)
While there are heaps of tools out there to keep you on track, I like to keep things simple. I search Google for ‘timer’, set it for 30 minutes, and start working. After 30 minutes I give myself the option to keep going (if the creative juices are flowing), switch to a new task, or take a break.
By focusing your efforts for short bursts of time, you’ll write more and dawdle less.
5. Use a writing template
Don’t recreate the wheel every time you need to write. Templates help you stay focused and reduce the time spent writing. The first press release I wrote took me two weeks to write the first draft. Ouch! Now I simply open the last one I wrote and type over it with new information. Thirty minutes later and it’s done.
Writing templates are your friend. And you’re not cheating; you’re being efficient.
There are templates for everything in Googleland. But if you don’t want to waste time searching and then wondering if they’re any good, head over to The Clever Copywriting School shop and buy what you need to get you started.
6. Start by writing crap for 30 minutes
Try brainstorming for 15-30 minutes. But make sure you cut yourself off at 30 minutes. When I brainstorm, I’m searching the web and jotting down what comes to my head as it pertains to the project. If time is on my side, I’ll set it aside and come back to it the next day. I find the best phrases and ideas are at the top of the page. This is why setting a time limit is important, so you don’t float away in the storm.
7. Write first, edit later
You’ve probably heard this tip before. When we edit as we write, we slow down the process and clog the creative flow. If you expect the first paragraph to be perfect before you move on, you won’t get very far. The first paragraph is often one of the last to be written. If you’re struggling and staring at an empty page, refer to Tip #6 and give yourself another 30 minutes.
8. Read anything and everything
Are the voices of your English teachers coming back to you? I don’t mean to stir up old memories, but they were right. The more words your brain takes in, the faster your brain can spit them back out. Read a variety of stuff—from cereal boxes and children’s books to appliance manuals and gossip magazines. When you read something that catches your attention, ask yourself why and tear it out to use as inspiration for a future project.
9. Practise, Practise, Practise
Don’t miss an opportunity to write. When I started out, I volunteered my services to help promote a local community event. I offered to write anything they needed—even the stuff I didn’t like to write about.
Write a blog. I’ll admit I’m a bit late to the party on this one. I figured if I didn’t have an audience then why bother? Practise, my friend. Write, send to family and repeat.
10. Learn to type faster
We’re nearing the end, and this one isn’t going to happen overnight. But it’s a big one. If you’re hunting and pecking and your head is bobbing up and down from keyboard to the screen, you’re wasting precious time. Learning to touch type might be in the same category as learning calligraphy or cursive, but if you can type without looking down you’ll write more words in less time.
The average person can type 36 words per minute compared to someone who can touch type at 58 words per minute. That equates to one extra blog post done and out the door before the average person presses the keys.
There are lots of free online typing tutorials. Start with this typing tool to test your speed and see where you rank from slow to pro.
So there you have it: ten tips to get your fingers flying.
Start with the easy ones at the top, but don’t neglect those lasty three. By spending time on them you’ll see the quality of your writing improve, making the process more enjoyable and profitable.
Over to you
How about you? What helped you become a faster writer? Do tell and share below.
Jody Carey is a Port Macquarie based copywriter who writes what customers want to hear by focusing on their experience. She’s the mother of two sport-addicted kids and ‘loves’ the sound of basketballs rolling around in the boot.