It used to take me several hours to write an article, and I was skeptical that articles could really be written more quickly. I even wrote an article here about my skepticism, entitled “No, I Can’t Make a Living Writing Articles for Associated Content,” where I expressed astonishment about how other writers were churning out articles in half an hour or less.
However, as the saying goes, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” And so I’ve changed my mind, and have decided to give speed writing a chance.
To do that, I’m going to have to unlearn some old habits, and try to adopt some new ones. I’ve got some ideas that I think may help me do that. Maybe they will help you too:
1. Let go of perfectionism. I’ll always remember a fiction-writing teacher I had who said that he usually wrote about twenty-five drafts of his short stories. I think that has gotten lodged in my subconscious as an ideal standard. Now, I think I need to let it go. While that level of work and attention certainly has its place, it’s overkill when it comes to most internet writing, which is more casual and of the moment, and where meanings are meant to be clear and easily grasped, not layered, symbolic, or otherwise hidden as they might be in a literary story.
2. Don’t link. I’ve gotten in the habit, both from academic training and from reading and writing link-intensive materials online, of wanting to back up every assertion with a link, in order to give proper credit where it is due and also to help the readers find more information. In fact, I think of the hyperlink as the defining characteristic of the internet, the thing that makes it different from other kinds of communication. But links don’t work well on AC, which frowns on links because they can make an article obsolete if the target site shuts down or moves its pages, as often happens. Articles are sometimes even being returned to authors with requests to have the links removed. By not linking in the first place, I can not only save writing time, because creating and checking links takes a lot of time, but I can also get more in line with what AC currently wants.
3. Avoid research. This is related to avoiding linking, because I’m nervous about including information from elsewhere without an accompanying link. The problem can be solved by not including such information. And that will save a ton of time. I think the vast majority of the time I spent writing my time-intensive AC articles was spent surfing the internet doing research. Without research, I can be a much faster writer. And again, as with the items above, this is not only faster, but it also seems to be more in line with what Associated Content wants. They appear to want people to write out of their personal experiences, not from second-hand information.
4. Don’t be compulsive. Being compulsive, like being a perfectionist, is another character trait/flaw that I would like to let go, or at least ease up on. An example of my usual compulsiveness is that when I wrote the quote, above, about how “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” I had a strong urge to check it on the internet, to make sure that I got the wording of the quotation correct, and to find out who wrote it. But, in the cause of writing faster, I resisted that urge! I told myself that it really doesn’t matter if I got the quote exactly right or not. In some contexts, such precision is desirable or even necessary. But for the sake of this article, all that really matters is that the point I was trying to make comes across. So not only did I save the time that I would have spent tracking down the quote, but also the time that I probably would have spent going down other alleyways that my original search led me too. Which brings me to my next point:
5. Don’t websurf while writing. If you’re like me, and you’re easily sidetracked, and one search leads to another and then to another, until you glance at the clock and wonder where the time has gone, then try to go cold turkey and avoid doing any websurfing at all during your writing time.
6. Set a time limit. This was an excellent suggestion that Wanda Leibowitz made in the forums, where she recommended setting a timer for 40 minutes and doing as much as you can during that time. She said the timer motivates her because she likes to see if she can break her speed record. That sounded like fun, so I adapted the suggestion for the writing of this article — I am using it even as we speak! I set a timer for 30 minutes, with the idea that it would be an experiment. I decided I would write as much as I could during that time, try and get all the thoughts in my head down, and then stop. Well, 30 minutes caught me mid-thought, so I gave myself another 15. Right now I have 9 minutes left to go. I’m pretty sure I can finish up by then. That won’t mean that my entire article will be finished within those 45 minutes — I still have to proof it, and polish a bit (though hopefully with Maxim # 1 “Avoid Perfectionism” firmly in place!), find a photo, and submit. But just setting a limit on the writing stage feels like a big improvement to me. I feel like it’s freed me up to write without worrying so much about what I’m writing. So I’m not just saving time, but I also feel better psychologically!
And with that, I think I am going to stop, with six minutes and 45 seconds still remaining on the clock, bringing the total writing time for the initial draft of this article in at 38.25 minutes. Yay me!