You’re under the gun to hit publish on that blog post, but it feels like you’ve got miles to go.
So, after swearing you’ll never commit to a deadline like this ever again…
You push back your chair, let out a deep sigh, and think to yourself, “Gee, I wish I knew how to write faster…”
Well, help is on the way.
Here you’ll find no less than 40 ways to speed up your writing
You may not need every single one, but just one little tweak could help you write faster and get your content out there with less stress on your part.
Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!
#1. Just Do It
Nike had it right, even when it comes to writing.
Sometimes you just need to barf out your ideas, and clean up the mess later.
In fact, Dan Kennedy, legendary direct response consultant and copywriter who’s helped his clients sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of their products and services, has said he keeps a plaque up on the wall at his office saying exactly that: “Clean Up The Mess Later”
The point is, you can edit later. Don’t let perfection get in the way of your progress. (More on that below)
Just tell your inner editor to take break, and let your inner child have at it
Strangely enough, the key to writing quickly is to write a lot, without hesitation.
Sometimes that means plowing ahead even when you don’t feel great about what’s coming out.
In the creative phase, you just let it all hang out. Nobody will see it until after you’ve let your inner editor come back in to clean up and make it great. (Or at least good enough!
#2. Write Every Day
As with playing tennis, golf, piano, alto sax, or communicating with your 5-year-old, or any other endeavor that requires practice, you’ve got to use your “writing muscles”.
The more that you do it, the better you get.
And you can practice writing fast, to get better at writing fast.
At the very least, if you want to write faster, get in some focused writing time every day, even if it’s just a few minutes.
#3. Set a Deadline.
Deadlines give you a reason to write quick.
The less time you dilly-dally with your writing, the more time you have for other productive activities, or even just playing with the cat, napping or taking your bike out for a spin in the fresh morning air, just for the hell of it, as a reward to yourself for getting your project DONE.
But a deadline with a strongly felt negative outcome can be a much more powerful motivator. It can give you the pressure you need get your piece done, regardless of how much or how little you feel like writing it.
#4. Stick to a Routine
Once your body and mind get used to writing at a certain time of day, you’ll feel weird if you don’t.
Block out certain times of day and days of the week when you can focus on writing. Then just stick with that schedule. It’ll help make your writing happen almost on autopilot
#5. Become a Monk
It’s astonishing how addicted we’ve become to the internet. And it’s constant interruptions and distraction can suck the lifeblood out of your day.
The solution is simple.
Perhaps not easy for you, but simple nonetheless.
Just put your phone on “Do Not Disturb”. Release your grip on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or whatever you favorite social candy is. Even for just a few minutes! The dancing cat videos will still be there when you come back.
Next, especially if you work from home, hang a big yellow and black striped sign on your door that reads “No Visitors: Writer at Work”. Or whatever it takes to let kids, family members and friends know, your writing time is sacred.
If you’re really a total tech addict, you can use any of a number of apps that block distractions and help you stay focused so you can get your writing done
#6. Don Headphones
When flying, a good set of noise canceling headphones can block an amazing amount of distraction that could otherwise put a serious dent in your writing productivity.
Cutting noise keeps you from being distracted by other passengers’ conversations and the general hubbub your ears pick up during flight. It can all fade away, allowing you to focus on the ideas flowing out through your fingertips and into your laptop, tablet or writing pad.
#7. Get The Right Groove Going
Now that you’ve got your noise-canceling headphones on, why spoil the effect with distracting lyrics?
Whether your thing is Hip-Hop, Country-Western, 80s Disco or whatever, if you get caught up in the lyrics, you may have a hard time assembling your own ideas.
Instead, put on some high energy instrumental music. It might be baroque, jazz, or even programs geared especially for study. Find something you like, that you resonate with, and that gets you in gear.
Get the right groove, and you may find it gets you writing faster than ever.
#8. “Off-Ramp” All the Other Stuff
Have you ever had a thought that comes up as you’re writing, and you think, “Oh, I’ve got to do something about that before I forget…”?
Well you can, without getting derailed. Just pull up a notepad (physical or digital), jot down your thought, then stash it in a secure place for later.
The quicker you do that, the quicker you’re back to your writing. And you’ll feel secure knowing you can always come back to it later
#9. Strap Yourself to a Time Bomb
Well, perhaps not literally (unless that’s what it takes — and you’re 100% certain you can beat the clock).
But DO give yourself a strong sense of urgency.
Imagine you’re James Bond in a race against time. Because, actually, you are in a race against time.
You may have heard of, or even currently use the Pomodoro Technique. It breaks your day into 25-minute intervals of focused attention. It can be highly effective, however you might find that a 90 to 120 minute interval allows you to get deeper into the project.
Using a physical timer that you can hear ticking away as you’re writing can help keep you focused.
Whatever method you choose, having that ticking and an alarm sound when time’s up can help you stay present, aware and focused on your writing
#10. Stuck? Shift Focus
One way around stuck points it to simply jump to a different section.
You just let go of the part you’re working and skip to something else. That allows your subconscious mind a little time to work on it for you.
When you come back later, you’ll often be surprised how easy it is to finish that part that had you stuck, once you’ve let your conscious mind take a crack at it.
#11. Get Off Your Butt
There are reasons for and against standing when you write.
Hemingway famously wrote standing up. So did Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, Vladimir Nabokov and Virginia Woolf.
You’ll burn about 20% more calories standing than when you sit. And it may be helpful to have different positions when writing if you have low back or neck issues or other aches and pains.
And, if you like pacing when deep in thought or solving a knotty problem, standing may be the way to go…
You can get a stand-up desk. Or just set your laptop on a pile of books or boxes. That’s a low budget and completely respectable solution.
That said, while standing desks were all the rage for a while, it turns out the health benefits may have been exaggerated. Do your research and come to your own conclusions
And, of course, you may simply prefer to sit when you write. After all, that’s the most common writing posture. We talk about “sitting down to write” and you probably were given at a desk to sit at in school. While all that doesn’t dictate how you write now, experiment with what works best for you.
And sometimes, just getting up off your derriere can stir up your thoughts in new ways, giving you a creative burst that speeds your writing.
#12. Keep Moving
Whether you prefer to sit or stand when you write, when feel yourself getting bogged down, get up
Walk around, get the blood circulating.
Just the simple act of physically moving around sometimes shakes your brain up just enough to jar a new idea loose that gives you what you need to get back in the flow.
#13. Start Early
Whether you consider yourself a ‘morning person’ or not, you may find you have more creative energy first thing in the morning. Try it before that first cup of coffee, or even breakfast.
It can be a super productive time of day before the rest of the family is up, before people are trying to reach you and before the cares of the day invade your brain.
Getting started when your mind is fresh can kick your writing speed up a notch or two
The other thing about getting started early is, you get at least a chunk DONE. If you’re prone to guilt, it may ease your conscience as it frees you up to do other things in your day. Or even just getting back in the groove to write more.
#14. Celebrate the Milestones
Once you get a chunk of your writing down, even if it’s just a paragraph or sentence… or a section, chapter, whatever… it’s time for a personal high five… a break… freedom to do something fun, celebrate, reward yourself.
Writing isn’t always easy. So reward yourself for progress made
(Just don’t forget to come back and finish the rest!)
#15. Go Public
Let somebody know what you intend.
One of the best ways to hit a goal is to let someone you know in on your plan. Or let lots of people know. It puts on the pressure.
So let ’em know, get done early and ask for the applause — you deserve it!
#16. Block the Time
This is a biggy. Block out time in your calendar for any writing project that you need to get done.
If you have a routine with repeating blocks, so much the better. When your body is used to writing at a certain time of day, you’ll get in gear faster
The critical thing is to set an appointment with yourself. That way it’s perfectly legit to block out distractions by friends, family members and colleagues.
Writing is hard work, and it requires concentration. Imagine a surgeon in the middle of an operation stopping to check what’s going on in his Twitter feed…
Same with your writing — especially if getting it done fast matters to your business. Set an appointment with yourself and stick with it
#17. Remember the 23-Minute Effect
Scientists have found it takes 23 minutes to refocus every time you shift your attention. That’s 23 minutes lost every time you let yourself get distracted.
Bear that in mind next time you’re tempted to check in with friends on Facebook, or anything that could pull attention away from the project you’re writing
Now, sometimes, you need to daydream creatively. You just need to put that daydream on a leash. Like taking your dog for a walk. Make sure you’re heading generally in the right direction and not just going every which way every time a squirrel shows up.
It takes just one of those 23-minute chunks to knock a good size hole in your day. Keep that in mind anytime you start drifting
#18. Keep a “Plan B” Project Handy
Having two or three projects to work on gives you options. If you get stuck, or sick and tired of one, you can escape without losing productive minutes and hours.
Switching like that lets your subconscious take over when you hit a wall. It can actually double your productivity
#19. Give Yourself Enough Time
Writing under pressure can help you write faster… But too much pressure can bog you down.
Whenever possible, arrange things so you have enough time to let the project you’re working on have a chance to gestate once you’ve done your research. That way, it’s not just your conscious mind at work. You’re letting that far more creative part of your mind — your subconscious — go to work for you
Being in too much of a pressured situation can keep you from getting into a flow state. Which may then cause you to procrastinate even more as your fears of making deadline mount. It can be a vicious cycle.
Having enough time allows you to get creative and tap your best thoughts as you get into “The Zone”. Being in “The Zone” helps you write fast.
Be sure that for any project you commit to, you give yourself enough time. Think Goldilocks: Not too little, not too much just the right amount of time pressure can help you write faster
#20. Make Progress, Not Perfection
If you have a perfectionist streak when you write, here’s good news:
By ‘letting go’, you could see a speed boost.
Look at all the ways you try to “get it right” when you write. Then stop doing those things.
For instance, you know that squiggly red line under misspellings in your word processor? Guess what: You can turn it off!
All you need it for is when you edit. Just remember, when you’re writing, write. Writing and editing use two different parts of your brain. When you try to do both at once, they compete for your attention, and you just get bogged down
In early drafts, you might not need to think through each and every idea to make sure it’s exactly right and that it clearly expresses the idea you’re trying to get across. That’s for later, when you’re editing.
Perfection and creativity are polar opposites. When you’re writing, let the ideas flow. Then come back later in editing mode once you’ve got at least a rough draft done
#21. Find Your Space
Whether it’s your home office, a coffee shop, kitchen table — wherever you’re able to get into a writing groove, find a space that works for you.
George Orwell wrote his most famous novel, 1984 sitting in bed in his nightclothes. What works best for you?
Find your best space and use it to your advantage when you need to get into that flow state, where you can rip out hundreds of words per hour
#22. Know Your Destination
As Stephen Covey famously said, “Begin with the end in mind.”
Writing is like a journey. If you don’t know where you’re going, you could end up anywhere. Sometimes that works, but for most writing projects, you need to take your reader from Point A to Point B.
If you want to get there fast, know where you’re going before you put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard or mouth to microphone.
#23. Go With The Flow
Here’s a corollary to #22: If you end up taking your reader someplace different than where you planned to go, don’t fret. You might now have a completely new piece to use.
You can circle back to the one that you were originally working on, or go with the new ending, as long as it meets the needs of the project. It could be, your muse has just gifted you a two-for-one deal.
Most likely, there was something of value that needed to come out first before you could get to your original destination. Writing is often a process of discovery.
So if you find yourself heading in a different direction, either get back on track, or realize you may have just discovered a new and possibly useful topic to write about. You can either go with it, delete it, or set it aside for later and get back to the project you were working on.
#24. Sketch Out The Big Picture First
Imagine you’re an architect sketching out what you want the house you’re designing to look like. Once you have that down on paper, you might then draw in details like windows, doors, roof eaves, maybe even a few dimensions…
Comic book writer and novelist Neil Gaiman, in one of his Masterclass segments talks about he sketched out actual rough drawings of the sequence of scenes in the story he was about to write.
You can do something similar with a blog post, article, sales letter, email, or any piece you’re writing. You rough out what you have in mind from a 30,000 foot view, and then come back and fill in the details.
It could be an outline, but if outlining feels too rigid, go with just rough notes, or shorthand.
Starting with a picture in mind gives you freedom to think about the overall shape first, before you start committing to details.
#25. Homework First
In writing, deep enough research can solve pretty much any problem you run into.
Research is like the main part of an iceberg. When the piece it done, you only see about one tenth of all the thought that went into it.
To avoid getting bogged, start by thoroughly researching your topic.
And if you find yourself stuck somewhere, you may just need to go back and do more research.
Don’t be fooled by the myth of “writer’s block” is a myth. It’s just a poor excuse for lack of research. When you get stuck, dig back into the topic you’re writing about. Dig deeper.
Then give yourself some time to let that new information soak in. Let it marinate. Before you know it, you’ll have the creative ideas you need to complete the project.
Sometimes, it takes a little time once you’ve done your research to come up with something new. You need to let different ideas bounce off each other to generate new ideas.
Author and entrepreneur James Altucher calls this process of existing ideas creating new ones “Idea Sex”.
#26. Don’t Wait For Inspiration to Strike.
Writing is a job. It has its moments. But behind those moments are a lot of grind. You just need to get done what needs done — no matter how you feel about it in the moment.
It’s a rookie mistake to believe you need to feel a certain way in order to write. The best writers know at times it’s simply like punching the clock. When it’s time, you do the work, no matter how you’re feeling in the moment.
Writing regardless of how you’re feeling in the moment bolsters confidence.
You’ll discover that, when you commit your energy, the writing simply happens. You get into a flow, which in turn helps you get more done in less time.
#27. Banish Your “Inner Editor”
As a writer, you put on different hats. Sometimes you write — that’s the more creative phase. Then, at certain times, you edit.
The key to writing quickly is to separate the two, so when you’re writing, you can let the ideas flow. If the editor comes along tries to sneak in and start criticizing, just wave it away like an annoying mosquito
Tell your inner editor, “Don’t worry, you’ll have your turn. You can come back later. But right now, I need to get creative. And I may make a mess of things. You’ll get your chance to clean up — LATER, but not now.”
Turn off your spell-check, ignore all rules of grammar, and quit worrying about what your grade school teacher (or your inner editor) might say.
#28. “Feed Your Head”
As Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane, sang back in the 60’s, you need to “Feed your head”.
This is especially true for writers.
Great writers tend to be very, very curious about a wide range of different things.
By taking in a varied diet of different ideas and information, you’ll have points of reference you can quickly reshape in unique ways to come up with hot ideas.
Which, of course, makes for great (and faster) writing.
#29. Harness Your Most Productive Hours
You’ve probably noticed certain times of day when you tend to be more productive.
For some folks, it’s early in the morning.
Some are night owls.
Maybe for you, it’s the middle of the day.
Find your most productive time of day and block it out on a routine basis if you want to speed up your writing.
#30. Iterate Like Crazy
Fortunately, unless you’re in a serious time warp or a REALLY remote location, you probably aren’t carving words into clay tablets, one stroke at a time…
Modern conveniences like computers mean there’s virtually ZERO cost to ripping out whole chapters (or smaller chunks) at a time. You can always come back and write a second, third, fourth, fifth, or as many versions as you like.
Depending, of course, on the amount of time you have for the project.
If editing comes easier to you than writing, you’ll love this tip.
Once you get something… almost anything down on paper or in your word processor, now it’s just a matter of editing and polishing until the piece is ready.
#31. Keep Your Spear Handy
Inspiration strikes when you least expect it.
In the shower… driving to the grocery store… walking the dog…
Capturing ideas is a lot like spear fishing.
When that fish shows up, you better be ready with your spear. Or you may go hungry tonight
It’s the same with creative thoughts. You need to be ready when they show up, or they vanish “like a ship in the night”.
Always carry a notepad or smartphone where you can jot down an idea before it slips away. If you don’t jot it down while it’s in mind, odds are against you for recalling it later
Some of your best and most creative ideas may come to you in that “no man’s land” between dreaming and being fully awake. In that state of “suspended reality”, anything goes — often things your critical mind will dismiss as ridiculous before even allowing you to consciously consider them.
#32. Practice Proactive Procrastination
Have you ever started writing and all of a sudden a bajillion other things you need to do seem to show up?
They may feel urgent in the moment. But if you give in and abandon your writing, you risk getting derailed.
“Positive Procrastination” means you don’t give in, you put them off. Simply jot them down where you can find them after your writing session.
When you know you can come back later, you’re able to focus on the project at hand
#33. Don’t “Multitask”
This goes along with tuning everything out. However, it takes it even a step deeper.
When you’re writing, just write.
Avoid fiddling with margins, thinking about plans for the evening, trying to watch TV, listen to a podcast while writing, holding a phone conversation, etc…
It’s hard to believe, much less practice “Single-Tasking” these days, with so many distractions available 24/7/365.
But the reality is, your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. If you want to know how to write faster, try staying focused. And when it’s time to write… write.
#34. Cut Your Umbilical Cord
Before you set out to write, make sure everything that you need in order to focus on your writing is within easy reach, and anything that doesn’t need to be there or that could distract you isn’t.
That includes Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, SMS, email, TV, radio — your “umbilical cord” to the world. In other words, all the things we’re so sorely tempted to feel attached to these days
Go ahead, pull the plug. Don’t worry, it’ll all be there when you’re writing is done and you’re ready to reconnect.
#35. Start a Scrap Heap
One of the biggest challenges we have as writers is falling in love with that brilliant passage we just penned.
You feel crestfallen as you realize that section you just wrote — a chapter, paragraph, sentence or phrase — isn’t really a great fit. But it seemed SO brilliant, you just can’t stand to snip it out.
Yet if it doesn’t add to the value of your project, you need to be unafraid to, as the saying goes, “kill your darlings”.
A technique you can use to trick your brain into letting go is to create “scrap heap” file for all those lovely little parts that don’t quite fit the project at hand, yet seem too brilliant to delete
Now cut out the part that needs to go, and paste it into the scrap heap. You can tell yourself, if you wake up in the middle of the night and realize you just HAVE to have it back, you can still retrieve it.
99 times out of a hundred, you’ll never use it again. But in the moment, it feels okay to let it go.
And that’s what gives this clever little trick its power. You get the freedom to forge on and get what actually needs said in that section DONE.
#36. Harness Your Invisible Brain
Feeding an idea, research, or questions into your brain before you go to sleep for the night… or even just before you take a nap is one of the easiest — and most effective — ways to speed up your writing.
Your subconscious mind is vastly more powerful than your conscious mind. Why not let it do the work for you?
Thomas Edison was know to take a nap when he had a tough problem to solve. What?? Sleeping on the job??
Yep. He’d pose a question to himself and then take a nap. Often, he’d wake up with answers and new, fresh, creative ideas about how to solve the problem at hand.
Letting your subconscious do the work for you could well be one of the best ways there is to speed up your writing
#37. Hit Record
For most of us, speaking comes a lot faster and more naturally than typing or writing by hand. It also sounds more natural.
Want to get that first draft done in a fraction of the time? Pull out a recording device and speak your ideas.
It’s best to start with a rough sketch or outline. From there, you can just talk your way through it. It may surprise you how quickly you can create original content that way.
Following the outline or sketch, just fill in the details as if you were explaining them to a friend. It’s amazing how much faster you can “write” a first, or even finished draft this way.
Once you’ve completed the recording, you can pay someone to transcribe it.
Voila! Now you simply have an editing job.
#38. Watch Out For Rabbit Holes
If you find yourself tempted to dive down deep into something interesting but a little too deep for the project at hand… DONT!!
You may find yourself two hours later with nothing done on your piece
As with so many other distractions pulling you away from the task at hand, simply copy/paste the link so you can find your way back — LATER
The rabbit hole will still be there. You can always come back to it when the time is right.
And, chances are, it won’t seem nearly as fascinating then as when you first encountered it.
#39. Just say “@@”
When you hit a place in your writing where something needs to be inserted that you don’t have all the necessary facts for, just insert “@@”.
Then, during the editing phase, you can just type in @@ in the Find field to find and fill in all the places that just need a few details you didn’t have before when you were writing
This is especially handy when what you want to say requires further research or documentation, but you know it’s out there and can be had later during the editing process.
It keeps you from getting sucked down rabbit holes, so you can stay on your writing project
#40. Leave a Loose End
When you’re in the midst of writing and it’s time to stop, just lift your fingers from the keyboard. Don’t worry about finishing the word, sentence or thought you were working on.
Doing so gives your brain an open loop you’ll feel compelled to close the moment you start your next writing session, thus getting you instantly back in the groove.
Whew — there you have it…
40 ways to “grease the skids” in your writing so you can get it done quick, and move on to other fun and/or productive activities.
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Now that you know how to write faster, what are your greatest writing challenges?
Please share them in the comments section below and we’ll try to address them in future posts.