How Do You Write So Quickly?

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 3 seconds

A colleague at work recently asked me for tips on how I write so quickly. Others had recently talked about how working together I showed them how to get writing (reporting on data, not just freewriting) done quicker. So I am posting on my blog now some of what I wrote back to my colleague in an email. It took me 10 minutes to write that email!

First: exercise your writing muscle. Write a little every day. Public, private, anywhere, but just write something every day.

Second, write as early as you can in your process. If you spend a lot of time reading and not writing anything, you’re slowing yourself down. As soon as you read, and you have a reflection about what you read and some quotes you plan to use, write that down somewhere. Or use something like Hypothesis and use tags, and Hypothesis will help you retrieve what you wrote when you need to use it later.

Third, a big part of it is not to do more than you need to do for what you need to achieve. For example, sometimes you need to do a literature review. And you need to read of course several things to do it, right? But do you need to read the ENTIRE paper for each of the things you cite? Usually, you don’t! So you pick the key thing and you include what you need,  but you don’t spend forever reading the papers. Also, if you’ve been researching the same thing for a long time, and you highlight stuff and you keep your highlights somewhere (for me, it used to be Mendeley, now I blog and write papers all the time and I present a lot so all my favorite quotes from papers are highlighted somewhere or already quoted or referenced somewhere, so I find them easily and put them together quickly if I need to). 

Fourth,  this one is KEY: it’s sort of writing your thoughts in your head (or on your phone or on a piece of paper) all the time, even when you’re not actively sitting and writing? My cousin once told me that a PhD thesis is about ideas more than anything. Keep thinking about it even when you’re doing other things, and your thoughts will mature even when you’re like taking a walk (also a good place to think btw), or cooking or taking care of a child (which I had to do when I was doing my PhD towards the end). It might make you a bit “sar7ana” (unfocused, inattentive) in your daily life, which is the “mad professor” type of stereotype, but it makes for quicker work once you get to sit down and write.

Fifth, fight your inner perfectionist. You can probably do a 90% job in half the time it takes to do a 100% job. If what you’re doing will not kill anyone if it’s 90%, believe me, 90% is probably good enough. If it’s something someone will give you feedback on, do the 90%, and then their feedback will help you get to the 100% FROM THEIR POV, not yours. If you do 100% and then they give you feedback you’ll feel disappointed! But if you gave 90% you’re more open to feedback!

And this is what I was able to write in 10 mins.. I didn’t think about it, I just wrote and just re-ordered some of the points! 

Any other tips people have?

Featured image of Indian-dressed woman writing while sittifrom Pixabay. I love how she is sitting on the pavement and writing. I approach writing with urgency and I wrote this in 5 mins in my car (not me driving) as I entered campus!

5 thoughts on “How Do You Write So Quickly?

  1. I really like your comment about 90% and feedback – as I find one of the challenges is that we are taught to write 100% because we are being “graded”. When the grading stops, then it becomes OK to be a little less perfect, which in turn allows you to receive feedback more openly. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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