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.