Writing has always been an incredibly useful ability and something that has a great many uses. From copywriting for websites and fliers or essay writing for exams, to writing emails and blog posts; no matter your walk of life you are likely to find yourself having to write on occasion – often in large quantities. I in fact work full time as a freelance writer, meaning I will write thousands of words on any given day and for me the ability to write more quickly means the ability to produce and sell more articles and thereby increase my profits.
It’s certainly in my best interests then to find ways to increase my writing speed without letting it affect quality. By honing this ability I have managed to get myself up to 8,000 words a day and sometimes more. The way I’ve accomplished this though is probably not what you think. Read on to find out how you can become a much more productive writer.
Working With Your Brain
Chances are that if you’re interested in increasing productivity and enhancing your workflow, you will have read several articles like this in the past. The difference is that most of these articles will have been aimed at telling you how to increase focus (and thus productivity) when your brain doesn’t seem to want to be play ball. This way you can potentially eradicate procrastination and distraction and thus get more done in a shorter space of time.
There is a problem with this approach however, which is that it means fighting against your brain’s natural impulse. In other words, if you find it tough to focus and you force yourself to anyway, you are always going to be at war and this isn’t going to be particularly conducive to productivity. You will be pulled in two directions and even if you can improve your concentration that won’t be the same as actually enjoying the work and concentrating by choice.
Go With Your Flow
This is my strategy then – to aim to work with the brain. To let it guide you and to take advantage of your natural ebbs and flows. For instance, if I really can’t focus on one topic that I am writing about, it may just be that I’m more in the ‘mood’ to write about something different. If I am supposed to be writing about shopping, but I find myself constantly browsing sites about movies and games then if I can I’ll choose to write about a topic that has more to do with movies and games. Because that’s what I’m obviously currently in the mood for, it means that the words flow much more easily and I don’t get at all distracted.
If you need to write as part of your job, then you may not necessarily have the option to write about computer games. Instead, what you could maybe do is to tie the two topics in together. Say you’re writing for a fitness blog for example, you could write an article on ‘How to Get Ripped Like Hugh Jackman in Wolverine’ or ‘The Top Physiques in Computer Games’. This way you are actually still writing about the topics you find fascinating and you’ll find that you’re better able to really stay focussed because it’s what you wanted to be reading and writing about anyway. Want to stop procrastinating? Make your work more enjoyable than the procrastination!
Ranting and Raving
If you don’t find yourself being distracted by something you could write about though, then you will need to think back to the last time you did feel passionately or obsessively about something. Perhaps you had a real rant to your friends about how people waste time in the gym, or maybe you’re obsessed with a good book you just read and it’s all you ever want to talk about? If your friends are like mine, then they’ll quickly get bored of you ranting and raving on the same topics, so the solution is to use your writing as catharsis and as a place to really have a good rant. When you really get into the topic and get passionate on it, you’ll find that the words just flow and that you can hardly stop yourself.
Make it More Interesting
Sometimes you won’t have the option to choose what you write about or even the title though – and sometimes you’ll even be told to come to a certain conclusion that perhaps you don’t passionately agree with (if you’re writing promotional text then normally you’ll need to make the conclusion a positive one).
In these situations you can still make your writing more engaging by writing it in a more interesting way – perhaps by using an interesting metaphor, or by being more creative and chatty in your pros. You can even just ‘challenge’ yourself to make things more interesting – perhaps challenge yourself to write at a certain speed or to include more impressive vocabulary.
This is even easier if you do have freedom in terms of the topic and structure and particularly in fiction. If you are a novelist or story writer struggling with writers’ block then often this just boils down to the part of the story being dull and can be avoided by adding something more interesting to the scene or just changing the scene. Any of these things can make your article more interesting to write and as result they will normally be more interesting to read (good writers know to avoid boring scenes of exposition – you should always make sure there’s something interesting happening and that the main story elements come through naturally).
Prime Your Mood
If you still can’t find a way to make your topic more exciting, then something else that might work is to make yourself more excited for the topic you’ve been given. You can achieve this by ‘priming’ your mood, which essentially means putting yourself in the right frame of mind for the task ahead. For instance, if you need to do solid work on a potentially dry business topic, then reading a business book or watching a business talk on YouTube first can put you in a ‘business’ frame of mind. Likewise if you need to write an article on fitness then I often find it useful to actually go to the gym first – while you’re there you’ll have time to think about health and fitness and you’ll no doubt have a lot more to write about when you sit down to work. Alternatively try reading an article on the topic you’re about to write, even if it’s dull you’ll probably come away somewhat inspired…
Sometimes if you find your concentration waning, no article is going to be interesting enough to hold your attention. In these situations you should again listen to your body rather than fighting against it by taking a break from your work – even if only for ten minutes. This way you will often find that you then return to your work reinvigorated and better able to concentrate. Rather than struggle through work for two hours, it’s better to take a half hour break then enjoy one and a half hours of effective concentration.
Another way you can make life easier for yourself when it comes to concentration is to allow yourself a ‘partial’ distraction to prevent yourself completely stopping work. This is one of the benefits of having desk toys such as a cat’s cradle or a small sandbox. These kinds of gadgets allow you to have a little fiddle while you’re waiting for something to load or while you’re thinking of how best to continue your article but they won’t provide enough entertainment to completely distract you. If you’re going to be momentarily distracted then it’s much better that you be distracted by a cat’s cradle than by Solitaire on your computer.
Another semi distraction is to have music on in the background while you write, or even to watch something on silent if you are a good touch typist. Often I will write while watching people play Sonic the Hedgehog on YouTube as this way I get to watch a burst of colour and action when I’m writing which can counteract a boring or dry topic that I have to write about. This works well because it satisfies the creative part of the brain that needs more stimulation and thus prevents you from becoming bored.
Set the Structure
One of the big things that can cause you to stop working when you’re meant to be writing is not knowing what to write next or how best to continue your article. If you’re not feeling it or not convinced by your next point then you won’t be able to continue until you come up with something you are happy with.
As such then having a structure written out for you before you begin can really help you and turn your work into a matter of just filling in the gaps. Writing the structure itself can take time too, so to maximise your efficiency you should jot down your article outlines during your free moments – when queuing in the bank perhaps or while waiting for the computer to load (even when you don’t have a notepad and pen just thinking about the writing in advance of writing it can help). This way, when you then sit down to work you’ll be able to quickly fill in the points and elaborate on your notes without having to think up the topic as well.
The Flow State
The flow state is a state of mind that is often talked about in business books and on productivity courses and describes a point where you are focussed solely on the task at hand with no distractions. There are countless texts on how to achieve this state and maintain it but all I’m going to say is that when you find yourself in this hyper-productive zone, go with it and don’t break your concentration for anything (even the toilet or tea) until you cease being productive on your own.