Write fast. Write as fast as you can. Don’t overthink it. Don’t worry if it’s factually correct or if the dialogue sounds real or if you stay consistent with the character’s eye color. Write fast.
Ernest Hemingway stops writing whenever he feels like he is in a good flow. He doesn’t want his well to run dry. But Hemingway writes every day. Hemingway isn’t working 9-5, Hemingway doesn’t need to cook food for his family, Hemingway doesn’t need to drive his mother to the doctor for a check up. Hemingway doesn’t have to do all the things you have to do, so don’t compare yourself to Hemingway.
Don’t let a project simmer too long. Cook it on high heat and serve it up. Write fast and get it written. You cannot edit a piece of work that is not written, so get it written. If you have 1 hour to write. Write fast. If you have a whole day to write. Write fast. Get it written. Get your idea on paper. Plow through any resistance or overthinking.
How should a character walk across the dining room? What’s another word for “slowly”? What’s another word for “with purpose”? It doesn’t matter, use the word that comes to your head now. Write fast.
Get from point A to point B without dallying too long on the details. You can come back and expand on it later. You will be distracted. Your friend will call you and ask, “What’s up?” You will go out for dinner. You have work the next day. You want to catch the game tomorrow. You have to meet the in-laws for dinner the night after. By the time you get back to your writing, all the momentum is gone. Write fast, get as much down on paper as you can. Get your first draft done. Deal with the second draft. Deal with the third draft another day. Get the first draft done.
Just so you know, I wrote this whole rant in five minutes. It was all the time I had.
Let me know how your writing sprint is going and good luck!
There are many reasons to write regularly. I don’t mean writing to communicate like emails or text messages, but journalling, writing fiction or working on a well-researched topic.
Why is this something we should do? Why write a story when there are already so many other stories out there? What makes me think my writing is so much better than anyone else’s? For anyone feeling the resistance, I want to talk to you today.
Writing is Working Out
Writing is not about impressing someone with your vocabulary or turn of phrases, just like how going to the gym and working out is not about beating someone up at a Costco parking lot. Going to the gym is about taking care of yourself and doing something for your physical health. Writing is very much like going to the gym, but instead of working out your body, you are working out your mind.
If you’ve ever done any meditation, you know that you are supposed to focus on mindfulness, which is being conscious of what you are thinking about, but you are not chasing any of those thoughts, you are simply allowing them to pass unencumbered.
Writing, on the other hand, you are chasing every thought. You are capturing all your thoughts. You are making connections with all your thoughts. You are analyzing them and diving into them and understanding why they are there. Writing, when it is flowing, can get you into that meditative state. Writing is the blend of exercising and meditation if that makes sense.
You are working out your thinking muscle, which can apply to literally every part of your life from business to communicating with your friends. Like working out, you allow writing to be an outlet for your emotions. Before you yell at something, write. Combine it — go for a walk and then write. It is possibly the healthiest thing you can do.
Writing is Finding Time to Think
We make decisions every day and we call that thinking, but it isn’t, really. It’s reacting. We are reacting to the surrounding environment. We are reacting to what people are telling us. We are reacting to our mood and emotions.
Let’s be honest, in day-to-day life, we are not too far off from mindless zombies trying to get through our responsibilities and obligations so we can go home and lie down. We get through the day without analyzing or reflecting on what we’ve accomplished.
Socrates says that the unexamined life is not worth living. He means that if you don’t take time to understand the decisions you made, then you don’t understand your goals, you don’t understand what you are living for, and you don’t have any wisdom to pass on before you die.
If you block off some time to write, you will have prioritized time to think and examine your life. This is time to reflect on your previous experiences and what you’ve learned. This is the time to examine where you are in relation to the goals you want to achieve. This is time to record the ideas you want to share.
And here is the most important thing: I rarely know how I feel about a topic until I write about it. Anything political, anything philosophical, and anything about art, I don’t truly know until I sit down and write about it.
We all write for different reasons, but these are two reasons I write. Let me know why you write in the comments below.
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I used to write a lot when I was younger. I used to stay up all night and hammer out three to four chapters. When I had a week off from school, I would dedicate a few days to do nothing but write. I participated in the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest three times — and even self-published one of them, The Past In Between, just for kicks. I knew the well of my imagination and inspiration was never going to run dry. However, something else did…
It wasn’t my motivation that got depleted, it was my time. Regardless of how successful you get as a 20-year-old, eventually, as the number increases, you will find that the free time in your day to do what you want will decrease. By the time I reached my 30s, my free time to work on my own projects were sparse.
Now, I don’t want to make a rant about how busy I am, because being busy is lacking priority. If you don’t have time to do something, it is simply because it isn’t a priority. Working on my short stories or my novel isn’t a priority anymore. I have a full-time job, I have friends that I wanted to see, I have a dog I want to take on walks when the weather is nice, and I have a wife that I’d like to spend the prime of my day with.
Those days that I used to block off simply to write are few and far in between. There are zero days in the year where I can just write. Even when I don’t have any plans scheduled with, I will still need to walk the dog, cook food, and maybe do some chores in preparation for the upcoming week.
Yet, I haven’t stopped writing.
Writing is still a large part of my life. It is a critical part of my identity. I still try to fit it in whenever I can, but it is hard to do. You know the saying, “The hardest part is starting.” And it is absolutely true when you are writing. Sitting down and getting to work is the hardest part. I believe it only gets harder when you don’t have an empty schedule to commit to it.
Expectation: How I Like To Write
In my ideal world, I would have a day fully committed to writing. I would wake up with a fresh cup of coffee and hunker down and immerse myself into my work — deep work, as author Cal Newport would refer to it. I yearn to get into the flow where my writing is essentially pouring out of me like hot water from a kettle.
I enjoy having the little distractions and blocks in between. I enjoy allowing myself to mill around the apartment for a moment thinking of the direction to guide my characters in.
I would usually have a movie playing in the background, something I have seen a million times before, just to keep me company. Pulp Fiction is a good one. Honestly, anything by Tarantino will do because it’s long… and it works to track how long I’ve been writing.
This was how I wrote in my 20s. It was something I looked forward to like a vacation. But now… when I do take a vacation, writing is not what I want to do. Writing is fun, but writing is also work. When I have to prepare for a week at the office, I don’t necessarily want to put myself through a fifteen-hour write-a-thon.
Reality: How I Write Now
Today, I write the same way I do a lot of other things. I squeeze it into my schedule. There are a few days in a month where I can commit myself fully to creative writing, but they are often hijacked. I’m not sacred with those days — although I should be.
I write whenever I can, fifteen minutes before I head off to work in the morning, thirty minutes during my lunch break, or ten minutes as my dinner finishes cooking in the oven. Any spare time I have, I add it to my projects. It’s my way of making the most out of the little time that I have.
I find these little sprints incredibly hard, but with everything going on, if I don’t have them, I might not be a writer at all. So I sprint.
I used to be a writer who needs a few minutes to warm up. This can mean sitting at the desk and getting into the right mind frame or it can mean rereading some of my previous writing, which is necessary if I’m working on a longer project. When I only have fifteen minutes blocked off to write that doesn’t leave me a lot of time to get into the groove. I need to start writing. There is no time to hum and haw about where to begin. I simply need to begin.
Arguably in four scattered fifteen-minute writing sessions, I will probably get more words down on a page than in a 1-hour session, simply because of the urgency, I placed on myself. This had led me to the hypothesis that perhaps writing a first draft should best be done in a series of spurts, rather than one long marathon. This is an experiment I am curious to perform.
There May Never Be An Ideal Time to Write
What I’ve discovered through these past few years as my time has been segmented and divided between all the people love and responsibilities and obligations I have is that there will never be a perfect amount of time to write. Just like how there won’t be a perfect amount of time to work out or practice an instrument. If you want to do something, you will need to fit it into your schedule. It doesn’t mean you can’t do all the other things in your life, it simply means that when you notice an empty slot in your day — which believe me, if you look, you will find it — take advantage of it. Make the most out of it. Don’t sit there and think about doing it.
Remember, starting is the hardest part. So whenever you think that there is time to write, start. It’s that simple. Open up your project file, scroll down to the spot where you left off, and continue. Do this every time you have a break in your day and eventually, you will chip away at a project that you were waiting for a perfect time to work on.
There is no perfect time. There are no better or worst time. There is only time.
I play hockey recreationally, which means whenever there is a game, I show up, warm up, and play. And if we are good enough, we make it to the playoffs within our tier and sometimes even win the championship.
We don’t have a coach and we rarely practice drills. All we have are 3 separate periods to improve.
We have our warm-up where mistakes don’t matter.
We have the game where each success can propel us forward to better opportunities.
Then there are playoff games or even championship games, this is where we show off what we really have.
I see writing in somewhat the same way. The more you write, just like the more games you play, the better you will be. The thing is, you won’t always get to practice on a championship stage. Not everything you write will have the same level of importance. Sometimes what you write will simply be warm up. Sometimes it’ll be an inconsequential game. You take everything you learn from those two levels and apply it to the final one: the championship.
With all that being said, here are three types of writing (or any other sort of content creating) that I am consistently working on. This way, I am able to keep track of what I’ve made and see gradual improvements over time — much like looking at a scorecard after a game.
Content You Publish Right Away
This is my warm up content. This is me experimenting and practicing a new technique. This is my honing a specific skill. This is me making something, throwing it out into the world, and seeing how everyone — if anyone — response to it.
In this day and age, we might be wary of posting something unpolished, but let’s be honest, if it’s no good, the worst thing that can happen is that it will be ignored and be buried under a mountain of other content.
Obviously I try to do the best I can when creating, but when the horn sounds and warm up is over, I’ll publish it.
Find time daily or weekly to create something you will need to publish right away. No looking back. Make it and ship it within a given timeframe.
We all have a ton of ideas and this is a fantastic way for you to start executing it and see how it can start appearing on paper. Not every idea is genius, even though you may think it is. There is no point keeping it in your head. Make it and see what the world thinks.
Content You Edit and Publish
This is the regular season game. Each piece matters because they add up to the the corpus of work you have created throughout the year. Yet, your career is not going to be hinged on this. There will be another game coming up.
Here is where you create a piece of content and put a bit more attention in polishing it up. Perhaps editing it once or twice — maybe even letting a third party review it and offer feedback. These are content that matter to you. This is where you want to push yourself to improve in one specific area. You can apply some of the techniques you practiced during your warm up and see how it fits with the overall structure of your piece.
What makes this piece different from the last is that this one will have a deadline. These are creative writing contest, guest post submissions, a scheduled publishing date for your blog, etc. Like a regular season game, there is a set schedule for when you need to produce this content and when they need to be completed.
There needs to be something that will keep you accountable to keep producing. It needs to be good, but you also need to deliver.
Content You Refine Until You Are Satisfied
This is the championship project. This is the big one. This is what you’ve been working for your whole entire career. There isn’t really an urgency for you to finish this project, but you need to be hungry to get it out into the world. It needs to be the best representation of yourself.
Ideally, this is the project that will earn you credibility and perhaps even some money as a writer. Like a championship will solidify an athlete’s legitimacy, so will this content do for you.
Yes, even though you worked hard, you can never guarantee success in a playoff situation. You are competing against all the other content out there in your niche. However, unlike sports, it’s not a zero sum game. Just because another piece of content has done well, doesn’t mean yours can’t.
Take your time with this project. Take what you’ve learned from the previous two projects and slowly apply them here: adding what has worked and improving what hadn’t.
Continue creating content from the two previous steps, while working on this one.
This is how I approach content creation with the emphasis on creating more and learning as I go. Let me know what you think of this process and whether this philosophy has worked for you as well.