This is the transcript of a talk I gave on the Wisdom app. You can listen to it here.
Hello everybody! I hope everybody is good. It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these talks, so it’s really nice to be back chatting again. I always get a little bit nervous when I’m about to press that let’s go button. I don’t know if anybody else is like this. But my brain is just like Oh my God, as soon as you press the let’s go button you’re gonna have to start talking. And isn’t that a little bit scary? Because you don’t want there to be any awkward silences and all. Are you actually ready? So I spent ages with my finger just hovering over the let’s go button like am I ready, shall we go?
I don’t know. Anyway, hi. So yeah, I haven’t done a talk since Christmas, I think maybe Christmas Day was my last one so it’s nice to be back on the app.
So today, doing a little bit of a writing session for you, so we’re going to talk about some tips for writing faster. How can you, you’ve got something to write and it can be a whole range of things, and I’m hoping that you’ll be able to apply these tips to all sorts of different things that you’re writing, so.
Whether you’re like me, for example, I’m a digital marketer by day, so I write a lot of blog posts and articles and website content newsletters, that kind of thing. If you write stories, fiction, poetry, nonfiction, so memoir, or essays, if you’re studying and you need to bash out an essay or a report or something business related, or anything at all that you have to write.
I’m hoping that this is going to be useful for you.
So let’s just dive straight in. So the first tip that I have is taking advantage of your time and inspiration when you can.
And it’s just really realising that we’re not going to want to write every day you know, not every day is going to be a good day to write for us. We’re not robots, you know, we can’t just go on autopilot and bash out a load of words every single day without fail. We have other concerns. We have other emails coming in taking up our time. You know, we have personal problems or things to think about that are distracting us – it looks really nice outside and we’re just sat there wishing that we could go for a walk in the sun instead. There’s lots of things that distract us from writing or make us just not feel like doing it. Maybe we’re feeling a little bit under the weather. So many reasons why not every day is going to be a good writing day for us, and that’s absolutely fine. Some days we’re just not as productive as other days because we’re humans, and we’re not robots. You got too many other things clamouring for attention. Maybe you don’t know what to write about, and you know, that’s really hard as well.
Just really getting stuck and not knowing where to start, which we’re going to cover. Or maybe you just feel like really demotivated.
Maybe you don’t want to write the thing. Maybe it’s just incredibly boring and you want to be writing about something else. Or doing something else, or you’ve got writer’s block or whatever it is and it’s just taking advantage of your time and inspiration when you can. Knowing that okay, some days I’m not gonna really feel like doing this, but today is a good day so I’m really going to take advantage of it. While I feel like writing well, I know that this is a good day for it.
So you know, just take that that time and promise yourself that you’re gonna get it done. And bash out the blog post or the story or whatever it is. And then the more that you do during this time, then the less you’re going to have to do on those days when it’s more difficult to find the time or you don’t feel like it.
That’s a really good option as well, if the content that you’re writing isn’t urgent, so you might have something, oh yeah, I really need to bash this out because it’s due today. Fine, get it. If you’re having a really good day, get ahead of yourself. Why not? You got something that’s due to be sent to somebody next week. You’re in a really good frame of mind. You’re ready for it. You’re feeling productive and energised. Take advantage of that time when you can because you don’t know, tomorrow you might just be absolutely exhausted and just not feeling like doing any of it at all. So that’s the first tip. Take the time and the inspiration when you can get it.
And granted, that isn’t necessarily a time saving tip in the grand scheme of things, but it does save you time when you really need it, when you’re really not feeling it.
The second tip is to give yourself something to work from when you return to your piece.
So you might not necessarily be writing the whole thing in one go. It might be really long, or you might not have enough time right now to dedicate to it. Maybe you’ve only got half an hour.
But again, if you feel like writing, then go forth and write and and get it done while you can.
And if you have a couple of different pieces to write, consider writing both of them or starting to write both of them in the same session. What if you started something and you didn’t have the intention to finish it?
You go in and you think “I know I’m not going to finish this right now and that’s absolutely fine”.
Well, firstly that takes a bit more pressure off you, doesn’t it? Because you don’t go in thinking “oh gosh, I have to write this whole report right now”.
You can write half of it.
Or you could put in some notes for yourself for the future. Just do a little bit, just do what you can. What you have the time and energy to do.
But when you leave it, leave it at a point where you’re going to be able to pick it up again easily next time.
You know, leave where you know what your next sentence or your next point is going to be, and maybe write that down so you don’t forget. “In this next paragraph, I’m going to write about…”
Whatever comes next, and then leave a note for future you.
So that future you isn’t cursing past you like “oh gosh, why did you leave this topic this, uh, this piece in such a mess or hardly done? I don’t know where to start with this again.”
So just make it as easy for yourself in the future as possible, and then you can do a couple.
You could start two things and then that’s two things that you’ve started.
So either, if you’re starting something today, then maybe the next day, when you return to it, if you’re feeling low on energy, when you come back to it, you already have started something and it won’t take you quite as long to finish it. And it’ll be so much easier because you gave yourself a really good starting off point to continue from. Or alternatively, you could either do as much as possible so it’s easy for you to come back to or you could just do the bare minimum if you’re having a low energy day, do the bare minimum, the easy bits there, putting in, like making notes for yourself, whatever it is.
However you do a first draft or start a first draft or something done. If you do that on a low energy day, then again, you’re going in without the pressure of “Oh my gosh, I’m I need to finish this”.
You go in in knowing that you you’re not going to finish it.
But you’ll be ending the day knowing that hey, it’s been a really low energy day, I found it really difficult to get motivated and get anything done, but at least I’ve done something and then the next day you’ll be able to come back to something rather than trying again to start from scratch.
So that’s a tip, to give yourself something to work from when you return to your piece.
The third tip is to keep a notebook of ideas.
For work, I’ve got a little notepad document that contains some ideas that I’ve had for blog posts.
Like I had an idea for a blog post once from a TV show that I was watching about Cadbury’s chocolate factory.
And it was all about how Cadbury’s branded itself over the years. And, you know, working in digital marketing at all, that’s really interesting topic that I could talk about as well.
And so I used that programme as a a kicking off point for a blog post about branding, and that idea came to me while I was at home watching TV after work. And so I wrote that down.
Because if I didn’t write things down, I would absolutely forget them. I don’t know if you’re the same, but if I don’t write down the thought then it might as well have never, never occurred to me, so I know I can’t trust myself to remember anything so I do try and keep track as much as possible.
And so I do that with blog posts. Just have a little document. Or, you know, have a notepad or something to write ideas down.
And I do that with poetry as well, when I’m writing poetry. I have 67 pages now in my Word document, which is just full of little snippets of ideas for poems, and some of them have been in there, probably for about ten years, and some of them are just absolute nonsense and they don’t make any sense, but there’s gems in there as well, that I can come back to. Just little ideas.
And again, it’s just a way of giving yourself a starting point.
So that when you’re looking for ideas, you’re looking for inspiration, again, you’re not necessarily starting completely from scratch, you know, looking for ideas for what to write or how to write it, what do you do? You go to your notepad or your document.
And also I would say to make good notes as well.
I do remember in previously some of my notes haven’t really necessarily been complete sentences or made that much sense.
So if you are keeping a notebook of ideas or the notes app in your phone or whatever, just make sure that you are actually going to understand the note when you come back to it. So that’s the third tip, then, is to keep a notebook of ideas, and in theory that may help you to come save time when you’re trying to find inspiration later when you’re looking for things to write about.
You know, just write things down that you find interesting when they come to you. You get like a little bank of ideas or little seeds that you can use as starting points, so that then when you come to the blank page, you don’t sit there, stare and get and think. Oh gosh, what on Earth do I write about? So hopefully it’ll save you time that way.
My 4th tip is something that I do really often and it’s one of my favourite ways to just get cracking on something. So my 4th tip is to do the easy bits first.
So when it comes to actually getting the words down, it can be really difficult to get into it at first.
Say you write in a blog post. I’m just going to take that as an example. Even if you know what you’re going to write about and what your purpose is, what your goal is, it can still be difficult if you’re trying to get that perfect first sentence down, you know, sometimes when you’re writing something, especially if you’re writing like an essay or a report, sometimes the hardest bit to do is the bit that comes first, you know, the introduction. So don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to write your document or your blog post or whatever it is from beginning to end in the order that the reader is going to see it.
If you want, you could write the title last.
Because sometimes if your concept changes as you’re writing it, you know, maybe that will change anyway. Maybe your title won’t be what you started with by the end.
And sometimes when you’re actually writing something, the act of writing informs you of what you’re actually writing about and you learn what you want to say as you go. You might not necessarily know what you want to say until you start saying it.
So the title or the introduction might follow afterwards, and what you end up writing might not necessarily be what you had originally set out to write.
Which could be especially true with fiction. For example, you know, when characters don’t necessarily act in the way that you intended them to, because they really do have a mind of their own sometimes.
But going back to kind of a blog post, example or essay.
You could write the conclusion first if you want to. If that’s easier, you know, just write whatever it brings to your mind first.
Whatever spurs you into the act of writing, and don’t worry about the structure or the grammar or anything like that yet, just make a start just so that you’re not staring at a blank Word document anymore, just so that you’ve got something that you can work with.
When I’m writing blog posts, sometimes the first thing that I do is write the call to action right at the end of the article. You know, it will say something briefly summarising what’s been in the blog post.
You know, get in touch with whatever business I’m writing for. If you’d like help with whatever it is, and then with a link and link to the contact page and the phone number or whatever, and that’s the thing that I write first because I know that I’ve got to have the call to action in there.
That’s the easiest thing that I can start with and the one thing that I can rely on that, well, I know that this has got to be in the blog post, so I start with the conclusion and then maybe I’ll do the introduction.
Or maybe I’ll put some some notes in that I can work from later, which brings me onto my tip #5, which is to put notes in your document.
So again, I’m thinking about blog posts at this point, but it could really be all sorts of things. And if you need to do some research before you’re writing, you might need something that you’re working from so things like copy and pasting information from other websites, which obviously you’re not going to use because we don’t plagiarise, but to help you to formulate your ideas and arguments and to find information from the experts, you might be looking at websites and copy and pasting information. Now put that in the document.
Obviously mark it clearly so that you know not to use it, ’cause it’s not your writing. So yeah, so notes from other websites or documents or whatever it is that you’re referencing. Quotations, facts and figures, anything that you’re going to rephrase.
Again, just put that in a kind of a notes part of your document clearly labelled so that, well, firstly, you don’t have to keep flicking back and forth between windows on the computer.
But also again, it just shows you you’re not completely starting from scratch because you do have something here that you can work with.
So that’s #5, put notes in your document.
And then tip #6 is to use placeholders. Uhm, have you ever been in a situation where you’re writing and there’s a word on the tip of your tongue and you really want to use it and you just can’t think of what that word is?
And it’s really annoying, and it’s completely halted your work because you’re just sat there trying to think “What is this word that I’m trying to think of?” and it just won’t come.
Well, I would say use a placeholder.
Or it might not be a word that you can’t think of. It might be something that you just don’t have to hand right now, like a fact, like oh, I know I need to add that in or if you’re doing something academic, it could be I need to put a citation in here. I need to cite this, and just leave yourself a placeholder note and come back to it later.
Maybe highlight it in yellow or something so that you can make sure that you definitely see it and know that you need to come back to it. But rather than just sitting there for ages thinking oh gosh, I can’t think of the word or oh no, I have to interrupt my flow to put a footnote in or something like that. You know, if you can’t think of the word “exponential”, it’s fine to just instead write “that word beginning with E that means really fast”. Highlight it and just come back to it later, and that’s your placeholder, and then you can carry on.
Because hopefully you were in the flow. You had momentum you don’t want to break it. It’s difficult to get it. Sometimes, as we discussed earlier, you don’t want to break that momentum.
So that’s #6 is using placeholders. #7 you probably heard before, but it’s to edit later and to not edit as you go. You know, don’t sit trying to think of the perfect introductory line and let that stop you.
Uhm, there’s a phrase that I can’t think of right now, and if I if I was writing, I would put a little placeholder in saying “put in this story that you’ve forgotten what it is or who said it, but it’s something like don’t let perfectionism get in the way of getting the job done. Basically, done is better than perfect, especially when you’re just doing a first draft and you know you’re going to edit this, hopefully, it really doesn’t matter that it’s not immediately perfect. So by editing as you go and second guessing yourself is really slowing you down. So in order to write faster, to help yourself to see your progress more quickly, which will hopefully then in turn also make you more motivated ’cause you can see that you’re doing, you’re getting the work done, just don’t labour over things being perfect and in editing them. Just get as much out as you can for that first draft and again if you have to leave and then come back to it, you’ll have plenty of material to work with.
And that can be less daunting than knowing that you have a lot left over to create from scratch and also just puts so much pressure on you to get things right the first time, you know, good is better than perfect. That’s my mantra for sure. So that’s tip #7 is to edit later.
Tip #8 is kind of an optional one. It might or might not work for you, but tip #8 is to think about using a dictation tool rather than typing, and I guess that depends on how fast you type and also maybe what it is that that you’re writing and how well the dictation tool works for you.
So in say Microsoft Word or Google Docs, there is a dictation tool. So you could perhaps dictate to the programme instead of typing. I do this sometimes. Sometimes when I’m writing poetry or I’m writing, I’m journaling and I want to get it on the computer and sometimes I’ll have written it down in in a notebook first. I do quite like to write with a pen, the old fashioned way. I don’t know, it just feels like a little bit more organic and sort of inspiring for me when I’m working on something creative, something sort of not really work related.
So I will write in a notebook and then eventually I’ll realise I want to put this on my computer.
And that’s when I often use the dictation tool, because sometimes it’s just difficult to hold my notebook open and type into the laptop at the same time, so I do write using a dictation tool in that scenario.
I do prefer Microsoft Word dictation tool because I tried to use the Google Docs one last week and it didn’t seem to understand me as well as Microsoft Word did. I haven’t really looked into how to properly use a dictation tool, so I’ve kind of been guessing as to how to tell it to display punctuation and I haven’t always been getting it right, or the dictation tool hasn’t always been getting it right, and sometimes it doesn’t understand me and so sometimes it can be a little bit frustrating trying to use it, but it’s worth a go if you fancy it.
Especially if your typing isn’t very fast, or you find it just easier to dictate instead of typing, but yeah, it really just depends on how good the dictation tool is at picking up your voice.
Maybe it depends on like the quality of your microphone as well. That’s tip #8, to consider using a dictation tool and just see if that’s any quicker for you. It might be that it’s slower because it’s quite frustrating, or it might be that it works really well, so it’s just something to try.
I do have a hidden #9 tip ’cause I I did say at the beginning there’s 8 tips, but my hidden 9th tip and final tip would be to promise yourself a treat if it helps you to write faster. And I put that in because I know that I’m having pizza for dinner. So I thought when I finished my Wisdom talk, I’m going to have pizza and that’s gonna make me motivated and excited.
I can see I’ve got a guest waiting I I’m gonna come to my guest, I just want to run through my tips one more time for the people who came late.
So the first one is to take advantage of your time and inspiration when you can really to do things and get your writing done when you feel motivated to do it and take advantage of feeling good at that time.
The second tip is to give yourself something to work from when you return to your piece, so you might want to intentionally do things so that they’re half finished so that you have a good way of coming back to them so you can kick off really quickly next time and think, yes, I know where I’ve left this, and I know how I’m going to continue and finish this and that puts less pressure on you as well.
And tip #3 is to keep a note notebook of ideas so that you have something to work from when you’re trying to find ideas. Hopefully you can get a little Bank of things stored up that you can come back to
#4 is to do the easy bits first so you don’t have to write from beginning to end. You don’t have to start from the introduction, you could start with the conclusion. Start with the call to action, whatever it is, and just do the easy bits first and then you you’re not looking at a blank page anymore.
Tip #5 is to put notes in your document so paste all those things in there that you’re going to reference and work from. And that’s just easier for you.
#6 is to use placeholders, so if you can’t think of the word, you need to put a fact in or a citation, just literally put a note into yourself, highlight it so you can see that it’s there when you know that you have to come back to it. And that won’t interrupt your flow and hopefully that will make you faster too.
#7 is to edit later. Not now, not as you go. Keep yourself in the flow.
#8 is to use a dictation tool. See how that works out for you.
And #9 is to treat yourself and give yourself that motivation.
Okay, let’s have a look.
Guest is joining – 3, 2, 1. This is the only this is the second time I’ve ever had a guest so hi!
Jason: Hello Sam, or is it Alexandra? I don’t. I don’t know which do you prefer?
Sam: Sam, yes hi, who am I speaking to?
Jason: My name is Jason. I go by 72 the architect. OK so I’m an attorney at law and I listen to a lot of you have a great many tips. One thing that I would add or encourage is when you’re writing, you know keep your sentences 10 words or less. Many people make their sentences way too long grammatically and confuses the reader. And if you don’t state, if you can’t state it simply, then you’re working too hard. You’re working too hard to make sense. Just remember that everything needs to come together, not work it together, but comes together because you’re conscious word count a little bit, but then at the same time, context – don’t use bigger words that are bigger than your actual vocabulary. Say words that you actually mean not what you intend. Those are the things I would recommend on people on how they’re writing or to improve their writing skills.
Sam: Yeah, that’s that’s really good. Thank you. Yeah, I I agree with all of that. I do a lot of sort of proofreading other people work at my day job and it is a bit of a bugbear when a sentence just gets a bit too long and by the end of the sentence, you’ve kind of forgotten how the sentence began sometimes.
Jason: Yeah, I I just feel that a lot of people they want to say something intelligent and informative. But if you are actually to read it to yourself and listen to yourself, that’s why. Also, another way I proofread is if I’m reading it out loud to myself after I finished whatever page. And it doesn’t flow with me. And my mind starts to argue with it. Look at where your mind starts to want to react to change. Like what is it? The message is really trying to say. Some people are just too verbose and they could cut their paragraphs down from. I don’t know eight sentences to maybe four and a half five. Just by simple dramatic changes and the process of how your mind works versus the page works.
Sam: Yep, definitely. Reading out loud, that is a really good tip and I think when I’m proofreading some people work I think that they haven’t proofread it themselves and I don’t know if that’s because they know that I’m kind of going to come in as quality control and I’m going to sort it all out anyway. But I just notice that they could fix some of their problems just by sitting and you know, really, taking the time to just read it out loud. And yeah, just make the checks themselves and also just what you’re saying as well about people want to make, you know an intelligent point and they want to make themselves look sort of really smart and like they’re the experts and that so they use like longer sentences and bigger words. Again, I’m sure there’s a phrase or something that I can never remember, but is basically that the mark of a really intelligent and wise person isn’t that they’re using all of these big words and explaining these complex things, is that they’re explaining something complex, but they’re doing so in a way that a layperson can understand, and that shows that the person writing or talking really understands their subject, doesn’t it? Because they can convey it in in a way that makes it really simple for anybody else who’s listening.
Jason: Right? Because like a lot of people ask me, how do you? How do you decipher or translate legalese? And I’m like you want to go to legal education. Great if you’re not sure. I’ll tell it you in layman’s terms, and that’s where you’re talking to people where they’re at, not where you hope them to be. So when you tell them, like can you explain something. Let’s say a legalise word was ipso locutor or persona non grata. These are terms and Latin terms. They’re defined as performances, but you can just simply say, you know I can cut that big word out and just say you’re a person. That’s not allowed. And here’s why. If you want any allowing people. To see this is where I feel. Like a lot of people aren’t literate. Coherently literate, I feel that people read less and talk more, but when you’re a practised and well-versed reader. It helps you articulate what you want to say for the purpose of the story or the tale or the information, not you just trying to mean well. I think people try to mean well too much and get lost in translation.
Sam: Yeah, I think reading really is such a an important practise for writers. I know it’s such a cliche that in order to be a good writer, you have to read is quite, you know, often touted advice. But I think it’s so true. When I was a kid I used to go to the library and I used to take out like 10 books over every week and I’ll just be reading everywhere, I’d be reading before school. I’d be reading at the dinner table, you know? And now that I I’m an adult, I’m a writer and a proofreader, I find that I really understand what good writing is and what makes what makes you know, a sentence grammatically correct and all of that kind of thing. But I couldn’t tell you, for example – nothing spring into my mind right now, but you know, like the grammatical rules and all the different words for them, and I couldn’t you know, I couldn’t tell how to tell you that.
Jason: So so it it takes a lot of practise it takes and to be good at grammar, pending on where you are in the world. Or, you know whether you’re in the UK or the states. Grammar works like for the English language, there are things. There’s definitely agreements in the rules in certain circumstances. And then there’s difference of the rules. It just depends on the application in which you’re writing for. You know so. I just tell people if you’re overly worried about grammar, just write simple sentences and then work your way out of it. You know, so if you can’t say what you really want because you’re not familiar, write it simply, and then as you read it, you know. Sure, you could ask for people help. Or you know, some input. There’s always these different grammar apps that are well available to so many people, like Grammarly.
Sam: Oh I love Grammarly.
Jason: Yeah, a lot of people like that. Me personally, I use Grammarly once in a while. Once in a while I don’t. I don’t use it too often, but usually I’m my own best editor and then there’s my secretary. She’s always done a great job for me. You know, so when I get a second pair of eyes, like all right. You’re not so hot, or I’m right on the money. So anyhow, Sam, thank you so much for your time. I just wanted to come up and say hello and welcome to Wisdom and I’m enjoying your talk.
Sam: Thank you, thanks so much for coming on this. You have really great advice. Thank you.
Jason: Alright, have a great one.
Sam: Yeah, it’s really interesting. Just like thinking again about being a reader and being a writer. And as I I was saying, I can’t sort of say what particular grammatical rules are or like the different words for them. I only a few years ago found out like what splitting an infinitive is, for example, like I couldn’t tell you those kinds of names of grammatical things, but I can tell you what’s right about, you know whether a sentence sounds right or not. I can tell you how to fix it and that’s all through reading, so it really does go to show that the more you read, like the more that you pick up, even if you don’t know, the names of all of these grammatical rules.
And I think as well, having somebody that you can go to like Jason was saying about his secretary.
You know, obviously being his own best editor I. I’m absolutely the same. But yeah, having somebody that you can go to as well for that help and Grammarly is, I just really love Grammarly, especially the Chrome extension because then you can use it on basically any website really on Google Docs and on anything that has some kind of a field to fill in or emails and that kind of thing. So yeah, definitely vote here for Grammarly as well.
So those are my 9 tips for writing faster. I hope that that was useful to you. Thank you so much to everybody who joined, and I look forward to chatting to you again later about some more writing tips. Bye!