Get Your Writing On The Fast Track

The first paragraph of Stephen Downes’ essay titled “Half an Hour: How to Write Articles and Essays Quickly and Expertly” struck a chord with me because he shares how colleagues frequently ask how he can write so much over a continuous period – while he also does a fair number of other things – like post constantly to his various blogs (I’m certainly in amazement at his output). Not to suggest that I’m in Downes’ league, but I do find that librarians I meet at conferences will sometimes share a similar comment with me. It’s a hard question to answer, and I usually just mutter something about good time management skills.

In some cases it really just boils down to being able to get something written quickly – which is why I thought Downes’ essay was worth sharing. In conversations with colleagues about their writing projects, once a good idea is developed, a stumbling block for many would be librarian-authors is getting started and then getting rolling. If getting started has presented a challenge for you in the past I think that Downes provides good strategies for approaching the writing process in a way that will speed things up at the start and then help to maintain the momentum needed to get a writing project to completion. It’s critical to avoid the bogging down that ultimately leads to half-finished manuscripts.

None of this is to suggest that fast writing is good writing. Fast writing will help you get your thoughts out and into some form in which they can then be revised into something worthy of publication. One piece of advice I’d add is to not worry about writing too much or the quality of what you are writing – on the first go round. Just focus on getting your ideas out (and use Downes’ strategy to give it structure and substance), and then you can refine them and tighten up your manuscript with successive re-writes (hopefully aided with critical readings by trusted colleagues). Being too focused on perfection when tackling the first draft is one way to kill momentum.

If you’ve got a good idea for what gets your writing projects onto the fast track, please share them in a comment.

4 thoughts on “Get Your Writing On The Fast Track

  1. Three years ago–when I was doing two monthly columns, a bimonthly column, and my ezine, all on my own time, I would have said “sheer terror,” only partially in jest. I had (and still maintain) a three-month spreadsheet/calendar to keep track of deadlines and allow enough time ahead of them, and always assumed that if I ever missed one deadline, the whole structure would come falling down. As a result, I was always way ahead of deadline.

    Otherwise…well, that’s an essay I’m supposed to write (by request) and will, one of these days: How to be reasonably prolific and lazy at the same time. “Lazy but efficient” has always been my answer, and part of that is trying to do a first draft in as continuous a form as possible, without getting too hung up on outlines, structure, etc.

  2. IF…there’s someone to apply to for release time (not at my shop). If I’m lucky my spouse will give me some release time on the weekend to dedicate to writing.

  3. I think the key is caring about your topic. What motivates me is when I feel as if I have to say something about whatever issue it is, that it’s something I care about. That always lends a certain urgency to the process.

    That and deadlines. I find deadlines do much to clear away the clutter.

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