There are many qualities that work to my advantage when writing.
I have a strong imagination, a way with words, and a nose for narrative structure. I’m also a talented manipulator of emotions, which my Twitter experience has only made more obvious.
With such an ideal combination of talents, you would expect them to come together and crystallize into something close to the ideal writer. But one of the writing virtues still eludes me, to the point where I now need to actively seek a remedy.
I still have yet to become a fast writer.
Why Is That Important?
It’s important because of volume. Writers who can create a large catalog of works in short order have a large advantage. And while slow writers can, and have, gone on to great success (looking at you, George RR Martin), there really is no more effective way to give yourself a promotion than by becoming a fast writer.
Now, there are obvious constraints at play here. People with day jobs are so much the worse off when trying to build volume. People who are scatterbrained (and many writers are) also have a stumblingblock. Writers who are sleep deprived (which even more writers are) have it worst of all, because speed requires focus.
Then How do We Correct This?
Well, if sleep deprivation or other health problems are an issue, then those need to be rectified. Day jobs need to be planned around (until you are in a position where you can securely reduce your hours or even quit work altogether).
Apart from that, the issue is one of discipline. And I’m afraid there are no substitutes. There may, however, be shortcuts.
The last thing you want to do is interrupt your work while you are in a state of “flow”.
Now, flow is a cognitive phenomenon which has been researched and discussed by people far more qualified than myself. In summary, it is a period of peak mental efficiency that can come when applying oneself to a task. During the flow state, the human perception of time vanishes, and it is possible to accomplish large volumes of work without realizing, or even caring, how much time has passed.
The enemy of flow is interruption. So we don’t want to interject any unnecessary breaks while we are in the flow state.
However, I have discovered that, during non-flow work, particularly at times when the flow refuses to get started, there may be a need to step away from the work for a moment.
Work that is unpleasant, that is an uphill battle, becomes more manageable in bursts. And by eliminating distractions during the downtime (such as eating a meal, going to the bathroom, etc), clears the mind in a way that may make the flow come easier.
But these breaks need to be short. The last thing you want is to get so off course that you end your writing session altogether. Luckily, there exists a tool to help you achieve this.
A Modern Miracle
Have you heard of this newfangled gizmo: the smartphone?
Among its many features are ways to organize time. I’m not talking about calendar or schedule apps (those take up at least as much time as they save). Rather, I refer to the smartphone’s timer function.
With it, you can set a ceiling on any break you give yourself. Thirty minutes makes for a sensible maximum. During that time, you can clear up whatever else needs clearing up, but the authoritative alarm on the phone will summon you back to the real work.
If you’re not already taking advantage of this, you should start today.
Regardless of what you think of my ideas, it is in your interests to seek ways to improve the speed of your production.
Each of us only has so many years on this Earth, after all. And none of us will have enough time to write ALL the books we have planned. That thought haunts every writer.
Let it motivate you to do better.
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