5 Steps to Becoming a Faster Writer (and Why You Shouldn't)
I used to set deadlines for myself—hoping to complete my manuscript by spring, only to push it to late summer, then Christmas. Frustrated, I read articles for tips that would help me become a speedier writer. Hoping that some kind soul would bequeath to me the magic words (bippity-boppity-boo!) that would make me more productive.
But do you know what? Nothing those writers suggested actually helped me.
They would suggest that I spend more time in the chair.
I was already spending nearly every spare moment I could “in the chair” and still, the manuscript was squelching forward at a snail's pace.
Or they would say, become accountable, set deadlines, reward yourself.
Yep, already doing those things and they’re not helping me write faster.
I’m not dismissing the validity of time-management, but for me, more time did not equal meeting my deadlines. As a naturally self-disciplined person, I felt like these articles weren’t telling me anything that I wasn’t already doing.
Want to know what helped?
I stopped comparing myself to speedy writers.
My fast writer friends would say, off-handedly, “Yah, I hammered out my manuscript in a month.” Or, “I wrote 5k words before breakfast.”
I would stare slack-jawed. “Are…are you a demigod?”
Then, six months ago, I was having coffee with another writer friend and she told me that sometimes it takes her a week to do one small project. She’s the best writer I know, and I was like, “What? You? No way! You have this problem too?”
Clearly, everyone's creative process is different and accepting my slow process actually began to turn things around for me.
It took the stress of measuring up to the speedy writers out of the equation.
One’s writing speed, whether fast or slow, has nothing to do with creative talent. What is most important is that the writer is improving.
Five tips that helped me maximize my writing time
I love sitting on my couch in the mornings, tea in hand and paging through my Bible. Allowing myself to be filled up with the truth and focusing my eyes on Jesus, clears my mind of negative thinking.
I notice an enormous difference in my writing productivity on days that I exercise. Exercise increases oxygen levels in the blood, increases mental energy, and triggers positive feelings.
“Exercise can literally change your brain to get your creative juices flowing,” says Pierce J. Howard, Ph.D. “When you work out, your body flushes out cortisol, the hormone that helps trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response when you’re stressed, and which also shuts down brain functions for creativity and problem-solving.” Read the entire article here.
Research shows that reading increases brain function, grows memory, expands vocabulary, makes you a better writer, makes you more open-minded, reduces stress, increases empathy, enhances communication, improves your concentration, helps you sleep better, and helps you have clearer life goals.
Um, yes please!
4. Practice everyday
Nothing good comes without practice. Practice may not make perfect, but then again perfection isn't the goal, progress is.
Life is busy, so work writing time into your daily routine i.e. I’m going to write for 2 hours each evening.
Side note: If you feel a change is needed in your current lifestyle so that you have more time to write, take an inventory on how you spend your time. Cut out anything that does not add value to your personal growth or stifles your creativity. For me, it was canceling Netflix and deleting most of the social media apps on my phone.
5. Turn off the noise
I used to love listening to audiobooks in the car or music while doing yard work, but I was actually doing myself a disservice. I wasn’t giving myself the quiet time I needed to reflect on the ever moving, ever changing bustle of life around me. The most profound writers are students of life. They filter what they see, they study facial expressions and capture elusive feelings in swift sentences. They live to better understand.
My best ideas don’t come to me when I’m writing. They don’t come amid the clutter of a hundred daily to-dos. They don’t come when I’m listening to music or talking on the phone.
They come when I’m driving at night, or mowing the lawn, or picking up sticks in the yard—when I’m alone and undistracted.
My best ideas come to me when I quiet myself.
Abraham Lincoln once said, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax."
It is not a matter of spending four hours chopping down the tree (i.e. writing), but a matter of priming your best tool--your mind--to do its job!
I’ll never be the world’s fastest writer and that’s perfectly fine. I no longer compare myself to others, only to the writer I was yesterday.
As always, I'd love to hear from you, feel free to share your thoughts below!