Time, Creativity and Content - Writing Efficiently with Great Results
Writing efficiently is about making sure the time you have to dedicate to writing is used as well as it could be. We are all busy. The demands on our lives are wide and varied – and demanding! If you are trying to carve out a writing career for yourself, or simply attempting to find an outlet for all those creative juices and stories you have stockpiled up inside your brain, then utilising the time efficiently that you have to move forward with your goals is just as important as what happens between your brain, the keyboard and the page where your stories and inspiration culminate.
Here are my top tips for writing efficiently:
- Make time to write – don’t let the apparently urgent things in life take you away from the really important things like writing if that is what you want to do. Let your family or roommate know that you will be spending time writing and that they should leave you alone to write during that time. Having the space to think and write is critical to writing efficiently. Most people won’t ring you for a social chat at work and this time should be treated similarly. Find a space where you can write undisturbed. Don’t try being efficient by writing in the family room where the kids are playing and your partner is watching football – it probably won’t happen very efficiently or effectively if you do. If you can, have the space setup all the time and equipped to write – perhaps you have a nice view out of a window where you can be inspired, or you have a cosy corner which you can retreat to, relatively undisturbed.
- Write at the same time on each day if you can and the other demands in your life allow. Think about what time of the day is best for you. When are you at your creative best? When does writing just seem to flow out of your fingertips and onto the page? I have a friend who regularly rises at 4am to write for 3 hours each day. At 7am he packs up the laptop, wakes up his kids and gets them ready for school. By 9am he has achieved two of the most important things for him and the day stretches ahead of him to do other things, knowing that he has already met his writing target for the day. Other people like to write well into the night, once the day’s tasks are complete. They can then clear their minds and sit down and write, unfettered by the other responsibilities or distractions of the day.
- Research what you want to write before you start to write. Don’t spend your precious writing time undertaking research. Get your facts and ideas sorted out before you sit down to write. Use mind maps and lists to jot down ideas and link strings of thought together. These can be great to structure your writing before you even sit down at the keyboard. If you have a notes application on your phone, or carry old fashioned paper and pen, then you can use these to jot down ideas as they come to you, standing in a queue, waiting for kids after school, while you are on the bus. Use mobile apps to research details for your writing. Once you have your ideas jotted down, break them into small pieces of research that need to be done and spend a few minutes here and there during the day undertaking short bursts of research. The ideas will roll around in your mind while you get on with your day. Finding images is part of doing your research before you start. If you are jotting down ideas as they come to you and using mind mapping, you will be seeing potential images too while you are online doing other tasks which you may be able to use (subject to copyright of course). Or you may find photo opportunities during the day while you are attending to other things which you can snap with your phone on the fly. All of this helps you to hit the ground running when you come to your designated writing time.
- Multi-task during your writing time if you can. By this I don’t mean trying to do multiple things on the computer while you are writing – don’t try paying bills or catching up on emails during your dedicated writing time. What I do mean is that you can put the washing on before you start or set the slow cooker going with dinner before you start writing. This way you will know that these things are still getting down even while you are writing! If you can train another member of your household to do these things then I think that is an even better outcome as you are giving them an opportunity to practice some critical life skills, freeing you up to do what is important for you.
- Remove the on-line distractions – turn off the social media. Don’t chat on Facebook with your friends, wait for the next Twitter to arrive from your favourite celeb or wander over to Pinterest looking for great images. Turn off your email – one incoming email can easily distract you for 10 minutes, while you read and respond, taking away that time from your dedicated writing time. If you are writing for the web, your blog or on-line articles where the content can be loaded directly into the site – don’t. Write it in a word processing program first – it’s much less distracting, as well as being easy to review, proofread, spell check and word count using standard features which come with word processing tools. All of these tools are designed to help you get the task done efficiently – make the most of them.
- Learn to touch type – seems like such an old fashioned notion, but once you’ve got your thoughts organised, your research done and the distractions are taken care of, it means you can sit down and just write. 60 - 80 words a minute is going to produce a lot more content and potential income than “hunt and peck” at 10 - 20 words a minute. While it takes some discipline when you first start, touch typing makes life so much more efficient and eventually you will be able to type without thinking about each and every letter. Then you can focus on the content, the tense, the phrasing and getting your words down, rather than expending your mental energy on finding the X or wondering why the CAPS LOCK is stuck on.
- Leave proof reading until the end. If you get stuck with your writing, don’t go back and critique your work by proof reading – again it will distract you from the task at hand. If you get stuck, go back to your mind map, list, or images for inspiration. Wait until you have finished a set portion of work – an article, a chapter, a specific segment before you go back and critically proof read and edit. Some people say you should walk away and come back and proof read later when your mind is fresh again. If time is not on your side, leaving proof reading until the end of your writing will at the very least put a little space between you and your words if you start proof reading from the beginning again.
Which time of the day is best for your writing?
By taking the time to put these tips into practice, the time you have for writing will be more efficient and that means you can potentially produce higher quality content, more content and potentially more income while making sure you are not missing out on doing other things which are also important to you. The time you have for writing will be more rewarding and your output will be higher and that is a goal to which we all aspire!