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How to Become a More Productive Writer

Productive Writing

photo credit: darkmatter via photopin cc

You might note that the title of this section doesn’t mention becoming a better writer. Here’s what I know – if you become a more productive writer, if you start to see the benefit of consistently sharing your ideas through your writing, you’ll become a better writer.

So, first let’s work on making you a more productive writer.

Become a better reader

I guess you knew this one was coming, but it’s a fact. Reading blogs, reading business books, reading magazines, reading books that are way off topic will help you find your own style and voice more than any other dynamic.

Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King

Keep a swipe file

When you read, bookmark stuff that grabs your attention. It may be because a certain style, a certain lack of adverbs or a lyrical use of certain words – no matter the reason you need to start putting things away for a rainy day. Get plastic file folders or employ a tool like Evernote to clip, organize and keep examples.

Keep an idea file

Use a tool like Workflowy to store and access ideas as they come to you. Since you know you’ll need more content later this week or later this month, just keep adding ideas as you read things and have flashes of insight. One day you’ll be stumped or one day you’ll want to plan your week of blog posts and this list will be like an old friend of unstuckness.

Be opinionated

You don’t have to piss everyone off, but you don’t have to agree with everyone either. One of the ways to be more productive is to look at things with a view that’s  counter to the crowd and take a stand you can defend.

Write like you talk

I think this is just good advice no matter what. It’s easier to write in your own voice and you extend your personality to the reader more effectively by being who you are.

Stay organized

One of the most effective ways to up your writing productivity is through outlines. You were probably taught this in your grade school English class and there’s a reason – if you stay organized in your thinking, you’ll write faster and clearer. There’s nothing harder than sitting down and composing 700 words with no idea of where you’re headed. Decide your main point, create three to five subheads and 3 to five bullet point per subhead. Your specific outline may differ, but this is the most effective way to write quickly.

Let it rip

Don’t edit every ten words or so, just get it down. You can go back and fix obvious things if you change direction, but try to get the first draft done before you do too much to fix it.

Used a timed method

Set a timer on your computer for 45 minutes (I use Apimac Timer) and write with your head down until the bell goes off and then get up and go do something else for about 15 minutes. I find that this approaches makes me more motivated to write, even something very long, when I know there’s a set time for a break. It also allows me to clear my head and come back with renewed energy.

Edit sober

For this point I draw from a famous Ernest Hemingway quote – “Write drunk, edit sober.”

You don’t have to take this literally, but the idea of coming back to your writing after a cooling off period is a good one. It’s pretty tough to assess the quality of your writing, let alone omitted words, when you’re in the throes of your brilliant ideas.

Spend the most time on the title

My last piece of advice has more to do with getting more readers than productivity, but if you spend extra time on any element of your writing, spend time on the headline or title.

There’s nothing that makes your writing more productive than the impact of more readers!

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