We live in a world where there never seems to be enough time. We are given ridiculous amounts of tasks to do and aren’t taught proper time management skills. Companies deliberately create distracting ads and other media that draw us away from our work. One minute we’re told to relax and have fun, and the next we’re looked down upon for not working harder.
Which all makes writing particularly difficult. It’s a task that requires deep concentration, uninterrupted blocks of time, and almost complete separation from the present tense. And every single other thing within our reach completely contradicts that lifestyle.
I pay a lot of attention to the questions people ask about writing. It is, in a sense, my job to answer these questions as someone who has been offering writing advice for over a decade.
One question in particular stands out to me: How do I write well, but fast?
We’re obsessed with this false belief that everything that takes time can and should be done more quickly. This applies to both skills and habits. I could get dressed and then head to the bathroom to brush my teeth, or I could save time and do both simultaneously.
I’m going to attempt to answer this question with the least amount of sarcasm as I can bear. Whether you want to develop and/or master the writing skill by next Tuesday or it’s taking you forever to write your novel and you want to know how to finish it next month, don’t worry. I’m here for you.
So how do you learn to write like an expert without putting in the time? How do you do the same amount of writing it takes you two hours to do in just 20 minutes? Here are the seven steps I recommend for anyone who’s just started writing and wants to achieve this feat.
How to write well super fast:
1. You can’t.
2. You can’t.
3. You can’t.
4. You can’t.
5. You can’t.
6. You can’t.
7. You can’t.
At least, not right away. Not right now.
There are two ways to look at this: either you are asking how to become a good writer in general without spending years developing your craft, or writing takes too much time and your lack of patience or focus is driving you to wonder what to do about that.
If you’re wondering how to write more without decreasing the quality of your writing, the answer is still time, dedication, practice, and patience. If you don’t want to put in the time, what’s the point?
You don’t lace up your sneakers without ever having run before and win a marathon.
You don’t pick up a violin having never played one before and perform a song without making a single mistake.
You don’t decide you want to become a bestselling author and write a good book on your first try.
It’s ridiculous to even imagine that a skill like writing can be learned quickly. Most writers develop their voice and style over decades, not days. What makes you so special that you think you’re able to do it any differently?
In all this, I’m not saying that you are incapable of becoming the expert writer you so desire to be or that you can’t get more done faster. I’m saying that if you don’t, early on, develop the patience
I understand that most people don’t feel they have enough time to write, and therefore want to know how to get their writing done faster while making it look like they spent more time on it. My response is that if you’re not willing to put in the time and effort required to produce good writing, you may not fit into the writing life.
Being a writer requires sacrifice. Whether you want to get all your work done so you can go watch TV, spend more time with your family, or earn more money by writing more, you pretty much have nothing to gain from trying to speed through the process of learning to write better or writing poorer quality work faster.
I suppose if you’ve spent over 10 years writing like I have, you might eventually learn to shut out distractions, stop procrastinating, and shamelessly put your thoughts onto paper without worrying about whether they’re good or not. But is googling how to write faster really the best way to spend your time, when you could instead be writing?
Reasons people write slowly:
- They’re naturally slower writers and there’s nothing wrong with this
- They don’t know how to or choose not to erase environmental distractions from their writing space
- Have trouble concentrating and haven’t developed techniques to combat this
- Want to be a writer but aren’t really interested in the actual writing part
- Lack the self-confidence to write whatever comes to mind without fear of being judged
- Would rather be doing other things, which I suppose is their choice.
Please, enlighten me. What’s the rush? Why do you need to write faster? Maybe you’re just overwhelmed and don’t want to give up on writing but don’t feel you can dedicate the necessary time to get it done. Maybe you’re a destructive procrastinator and you want to know how to write 20 articles in less than 24 hours.
In those cases, I say take a step back and re-evaluate your priorities. What are you really trying to accomplish here? Are you even enjoying your writing time? Maybe for you it’s just a job that pays the bills and you’re not trying to have fun. That’s fair. I just don’t want you to sprint headfirst into disappointment thinking this is something that’s easily achieved, because it isn’t.
I guess, good luck with your writing, whatever your goals are. Try not to worry so much about how long it’s taking you to figure things out or write a book or get a job. These things take time, and I think in the long run you’d much rather do good work that took you hours than do sort of okay work that took minutes.
The more years you spend writing, the better you get at getting those ideas out of your head and onto paper. I’m not saying it gets easier. There are just, usually, fewer barriers to entry. You know that when it’s time to write, it’s time to write, and you do it.
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Just because some writer you follow seems to crank out a book every month doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing. Follow your own path. You do you.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.