Writing Success Isn’t About How Fast You Write

Slow writing is, actually, okay.

I write fast.

There is no specific method I used to make this happen and I do not like to put too much emphasis on it because I don’t want anyone thinking that my way is “the” way.

But this is the truth. Whether it’s working for a media company that expects one-hour turnaround times on stories or National Novel Writing Month (11 times) or just the fact that I’ve been writing a lot of things for a long time, I do not struggle with speed.

Many writers do, though. They get frustrated — and sometimes really wrestle with their ability to finish writing projects — because to them it feels like writing takes too long and they wonder if they are doing something wrong.

Spoiler alert: You aren’t doing anything wrong. You write the way you write, and that’s no sin.

Why do some people write faster than others — and should you train yourself to speed up your production? Is that even possible? Here’s what I know.

Some people’s lives/environments/careers prepare them for speedy writing. I write for several entertainment sites, and there are days I will grab a story and have a 300-word write-up about it done in less than 10 minutes. (Not including editing, photos, etc.). That is very fast. But it isn’t fast because I’m naturally that fast. It’s fast because it has to be. It’s breaking news. It has to get out into the world.

Some people are fortunate enough (if you consider it a positive thing) to have no other choice but to learn to turn a writing assignment around in a very short amount of time. This “accidentally” happens to a lot of writers and they are stuck with speedy writing habits in basically all the rest of their writing endeavors. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it isn’t. But it happens.

Don’t have a fast-paced work environment to teach you how to write faster? You don’t have to. Some people are cut out for these kinds of jobs and others aren’t. Just because you can’t write an article in 60 minutes or less doesn’t mean you’re any “less” of a writer. Some types of writing require speed and quick turn arounds. Many do not. Do the kind of writing and work that’s right for you. Don’t worry about the journalists. They’ll be fine. We hope.

Some people … are honestly just born this way. But anyone can learn. I have always struggled to slow down my mind. Sometimes I still have a hard time speaking because my thoughts move faster than my mouth. This is just the way I am. I compensate by typing fast, and the combination of thinking and typing quickly just means I write quickly. It has nothing to do with quality, my education, or anything like that. I am me.

If you’re a person who thinks more slowly through everything and takes your time putting ideas into words, then guess what? You are you. This is who you are and there is nothing wrong with you and you are not “broken.” You write more slowly. It has always been that way. If there isn’t anything you can seem to do about it, then don’t let it be a stressor. Accept that you write slowly and go at your own pace.

Can you train yourself to write faster? I’m not exactly sure why you’d want to — unless it’s an extreme case in which you can’t meet deadlines because of slow writing — but I suppose you can do things like more carefully planning out what you are going to write before you do it or even writing more frequently (such as every day) for a short amount of time to get used to it.

This area in particular, I am not an expert in, I will admit — I tend not to worry about speed and thus haven’t developed any strategies that I can offer. However, this SmartBlogger article about how to write 1,000 words in an hour has some interesting tips. A lot of the slow-writing struggle does have to do with distraction — the article mentions turning off spelling/grammar check, etcetera. It could be that you don’t WRITE slow, you just don’t spend all your allotted writing time actually, you know … writing.

Quality will always be more important than quantity. This is a lesson I had to un-learn as a NaNoWriMo veteran. (For those who don’t know, NaNo is a challenge that has you write 50,000 words in 30 days — not much quality writing happens in those 30 days, I can say from experience!)

Even though it might seem like more writing will get you more followers, more likes, more money, more success, when it comes down to it, people will always appreciate better content over more of it. Some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in blog posts have happened because I rushed through something trying to get more posts done instead of focusing on making the one post really good.

Don’t sacrifice better for more. Trust me on this one. You would much rather have five good blog posts than 50 kind of awful ones. Sometimes things take longer to complete, but they are more than worth the extra time required to get them done. In addition to learning how to write well, we also have to learn to have patience. Instant gratification does not exist in the publishing world. Accept that now. Good things come to writers who TAKE THEIR TIME.

Success doesn’t have a deadline. Goals might, but success doesn’t. It’s never too late to start and it’s never too late to try again. It doesn’t matter if your book takes 10 months to write or 10 years. It doesn’t matter if you post on your blog once a month and it takes five years to develop an audience. IT DOESN’T MATTER.

Stop looking at other people’s journeys and wondering, “Why am I not there yet?” In this universe, you cannot exist in someone else’s timeline. You can only progress at your own pace along your own timeline. You don’t know how long Person X has been working to get that book done. You don’t know how many years so-and-so blogged to an audience of two and a half before they got big. (Oh man, major props to whoever gets that reference.)

You go at your own pace and get to your final destination doing what is best and reasonable for you. It doesn’t matter how fast you get there, as long as you’re doing all you can to, slowly, get there.

Have you always wanted to write faster? What would you hope to accomplish by doing this? What do you think your biggest hurdle is here? Let’s talk about it.

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.

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One thought on “Writing Success Isn’t About How Fast You Write

  1. “Success doesn’t have a deadline”…I love it! This is the best advice – I have heard in awhile. In this past year – end of 2018 I sent out twenty plus submissions – to various publications. I did not get published but I did receive – some constructive criticism. It was great to receive it – even though – I did not get published – the fact that someone totally unbiased read my work and commented on it – was amazing for me!

    I do intend to put together two short stories – this concept is weighing on my mind but in a good way. I just need the writing space – to immerse myself in to be able to begin.

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