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Preparation for the win

I’ll tell you right now that an article which takes an hour to write, takes several more just to prepare.

Here’s the deal: If you’re writing quality content, and you expect a good reaction from the audience, you can’t churn out content like a factory churns out widgets.

In a sense, content is a means to an end in your online marketing. It’s a tool for driving traffic, shares, and sales.

This means it’s an instrument for growth, but it’s not something that you can just flip a switch and triple production.

The reason for this is that writing is also an art. Art isn’t something that can be produced in a factory, but I would still consider a piece of art a “product”.

Therefore, it’s best to adopt the mindset that you writing efficiency can be improved, but it’s not as predictable as scaling production in a factory.

Think first, write later

I remember listening to an interview with a famous author, although I can’t remember his name for the life of me.

He talked about his writing process and how he’s managed to churn out several best-selling books over the course of a few years.

The strategy that he adopted was one of persistence.

He would write a certain number of pages every single day. If it took him 1 hour, great.

If it took him 10 hours, he would still do it.

I tend to agree that “stuff” needs to get done no matter what.

However, my belief is that we can (and often should) accelerate the process.

There are two ways to become a faster writing:

  • Write a lot, so that you get better at it over time
  • Approach the task of writing the correct way by thinking now and writing later

The first point is self-explanatory, but here’s what I mean by the second:

Writing is difficult to scale. It’s not a widget that can be produced in a factory. Rather it’s a handmade product, a piece of art.

If we’re creating a normal, scalable product, we know exactly how it’s built.

We know the pieces necessary to construct it, we most likely have a manual that tells us what to do, and if we simply follow the manual, we can do it predictively faster over time.

But with writing, there is simply a blank page in front of us. No one tells us what to write about, how much to write, or what formatting to choose.

It’s our job to create our own guidelines, our own manual.

This starts with a list of ideas.

Let the preparations begin

I don’t just open a Google Doc and think to myself, “What will I write about today?”

Either I already know what it is that I will cover, or I look to my long list of ideas patiently waiting for me in a Google sheet.

That means less thinking. We only have to focus on the topic, we don’t have to come up with an idea out of the blue (which isn’t easy to do day after day).

This is the whole point!

The less thinking we have to do while writing, the better.

Stephen King once said, “Writing is refined thinking”.

This means that we perfect our thoughts by removing the clutter, just as you would remove the impurities during the refining of metals.

We have a jumble of ideas and content within our mind that we need to get on paper.

In a sense, we have to translate our thoughts into words, or “Refine our thinking”.

Remove the impurities of your thoughts by focusing on building out the instruction manual for yourself.

Once again, the less thinking you have to do when you’re writing, the better.

This means knowing exactly what you will be writing about before your fingers hit the keyboard.

Thinking during writing is slowing you down…

A lot of the thinking that goes into my content happens in the days before I begin writing the actual article.

For example, I am currently this piece, but I’ve already been thinking a great deal about the next one.

In my mind, I have a very good idea of how it will look.

And furthermore, I’ll help myself by writing down a simple plan before I begin the article: It’s this crazy new idea called an outline.

In school, they would tell you how to format an outline in a certain way, with Roman numerals here, capitalized letters here, and numbers here.

It’s a waste of time.

Formatting your outline doesn’t matter unless it’s necessary for the integrity of the piece.

All that matters is that you spill your thoughts onto paper in such a way that when you go back to fill it all in with content, you will be quickly reminded of what it is that you were planning on discussing.

Once again, you are making it as easy as possible by cutting out the thinking process when writing.

Time to speed up the process

Thinking is a great thing. It leads to awesome content.

But for it to be an effective component in our writing, we have to do a majority of the thinking before the actual task of writing takes place.

I’m sure there are a whole series of other tips and tricks for faster writing.

Of course, I’m not getting very specific here.

We all have our own strategies. My main point is simply that we do the preparation before the writing.

We allow our minds to wander, think, and process those thoughts before jumping into an article.

If we follow a strategy of thinking first, writing later, we can get a whole lot done in a whole lot less time.

Below is a video of me writing an article for a guest post. I thought about the topic I was covering, wrote out a very simple outline, and then managed to write out the entire article (1800+ words) in 1 hour and 4 minutes.

Obviously, this doesn’t factor in the time of editing, formatting, adding in pictures, and all the thinking that went into the piece prior to writing.

Regardless, it’s simply a demonstration that this approach to writing can be effective for those trying to produce more.