Writing is a necessary part of content marketing, and even if you’ve got a team of writers working for you, you may find yourself writing some stuff on your own. And if not, feel free to share this advice with your team, to help them improve their productivity.
Create an Idea Capture System That Works for You
You never know when the inspiration for a new article will strike. It’s a good idea to create an idea capture system that works for you – whatever it may be. You could track everything in Evernote. You could simply open your WordPress blog and create a draft post for use later. You could add it to your editorial calendar with some sources (that’s what I do), and choose where to put it later. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that you can easily fit into your workflow. You may try a few ideas before you decide what actually works for you.
Organize Your Ideas Before Writing
Whether you’ve taken then time to research your topic or not, the writing process will go smoother and faster if you’ve taken the time to organize your ideas before you start writing. One of the best ways to do this is with an outline. If the idea of outlining something drives you nuts, you could also use a mind map to organize your ideas. FreeMind is a free tool you can use for mind mapping. I don’t use them often since I prefer the outline option, but it’s all about finding what works for you.
Find Your Most Productive Writing Time
Everyone has a certain type of the day where their energy is better for writing. Some of us are more productive in the morning, while others are more productive at night. I find I get more done when I work early in the morning – because most people I know who would want to talk to me are still sleeping. This way, I can work with as few potential distractions as possible. Generally, if I try to write later in the day or at night, the energy just isn’t there.
If you work from home and have children or a significant other to care for, or other things that deserve your attention, it’s important to make a firm commitment to creating time and space to write. The time needs to be sacred, and unless there’s an emergency, nothing else should get in the way. Get rid of distractions and just write.
If you don’t have the space to have a dedicated office, at least do something like put on headphones to signal to your family you’re “in the zone” and can’t be bothered unless someone is bleeding or dying.
Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away and Reset Your Brain
When I sit down to write, and I feel like I’m forcing every single word, I know it’s time to take a break. I often feel pressure to get everything done by a certain time, which convinces me to remain in front of my computer. But if I’m churning out a whopping 50 words an hour, I’m not doing myself any favors. I’ve found that it’s better to get up and do something else – sometimes even going to take a nap – and then come back to the computer refreshed. When I come back, I can finish my article within an hour or two, whereas forcing it could easily have taken me three times as long before.
Make it a Choice – Not a Chore
When writing feels like a chore, you’re just not going to want to do it. Change the way you talk to yourself about it. Instead of saying, “I have to write two blog posts today.” Choose to say, “I want to write two blog posts today.” It helps keep you on track and makes it feel less like work.
Rewriting the same thing over and over, or relying on copy and paste becomes a time suck. If it only takes you two minutes to add your bio at the end of a guest post, you could have started a paragraph on a new blog post.
That’s where TextExpander comes in to save the day – and millions of keystrokes. Though it can take some time to setup your custom keyboard shortcuts for your most frequently used text, it’s worth it in the long run. You can use it for things like common words and phrases you use often in your writing, your biography, your email sign offs, and more. It’ll even keep stats to show you how much time you’ve saved! Other similar apps include Breevy and TypeIt4Me.
Turn off Automatic Spell and Grammar Checks
Seeing the red squiggly line is a pain because it tempts you to break your flow and correct it right away. If you turn off the “as you go” checks, you can focus on getting the words out, and then go back and check everything at the end.
Don’t Edit Yourself While Writing
Similar to how you would stop to correct a misspelled word or typo while you’re writing and it breaks your stride, you should worry about editing everything at the end. If you stop what you’re doing to add more detail, you’ll risk going into various rabbit holes, and ruin your productivity. When you’re finished with an article, edit by reading from the bottom up – as this will help you catch things you wouldn’t necessarily catch if you were reading from the beginning to the end.
Leave Flexibility in Your Editorial Calendar
Your editorial calendar is a valuable tool as it helps you know when you’re supposed to write what. But, if you stick to it exactly as it’s written, you could find yourself struggling to churn out the words. I recommend looking at the week as a whole, or even the month as whole, and writing the piece that you’re most interested in getting done.
This one, for instance, was fourth on my to-do list this week, but I chose to write it first, because when I sat down to write, it was the one that jumped out at me. As such, I have been able to move through it faster than I would have if I had chosen the first one on my editorial calendar for the week.
Play Games to Help You Learn to Type Faster
Many writers struggle with thinking faster than they type. When your brain is churning out ideas at lightning speed, but your fingers are moving at a snail’s pace, it can be hard to meet your timing goals. You’ll finish your 30-minute block with only a fraction of the page filled with words.
Learning to type isn’t as monotonous as it used to be. There are a number of sites online that have games, lessons, and tests to help you improve your speed. Take 15 minutes at the beginning of your day to work on these games and warm up before you sit down to write.
- FreeTypingGame.net: This site is full of free games, lessons, and tests to help you improve your typing skills.
- WordGames.com: This website is full of games that will challenge you to type as fast as you possibly can. If you’re one that has to look at the keyboard while typing, this can help you learn to type faster while looking at the screen, rather than at your fingers.
If you find that you do a lot of your writing while on the goal, you can find free apps that help you learn to type faster on your tablet or smartphone.
- TapTyping: This app works on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch to help you learn to type faster on those devices. The app is free, but if you want to unlock everything, you can make a one-time payment.
- Typing Master: This is a typing game that works on Android devices – smartphones and tablets. It not only improves your typing skills on the Android keyboard, but also lets you compete with other players.
Even if you already type fairly fast, there’s a chance you struggle with accuracy. What’s the point in typing 100 words per minute if there’s a bunch of typos you have to go back and correct? Using these games can also help you improve your accuracy rates, so there’s less to edit in the end.
And if you can’t seem to master the craft of typing on your mobile devices, you can always use Google Docs and the voice typing function on your phone. Sure, it’s not perfect and you’ll have to speak with a fairly uninterrupted flow, but you can always come back to it later for editing.
Challenge Yourself: Set Timers
If you notice it generally takes you two hours to produce 1,000 words, set a timer for an hour and challenge yourself to beat your normal word count. When you know you’re racing the clock, you’re more likely to stay focused on the task at hand.
Write Down Your Plan
Research shows you’re likely to do better if you take the time to write things down. At the end of your day, write down what you want to accomplish in terms of writing for the next day. See how well you met your goals and adjust accordingly for each day.
Break the Process Down into Smaller Chunks
If the idea of writing 1,000+ words for 4+ pieces a week terrifies you, break it into smaller chunks. Here’s my process:
At the end of the week when I’ve completed everything for my editorial calendar, I look to the next week.
I create the documents for the next four pieces. Then, I put in placeholder text for my intro, conclusion header, and conclusion.
When that’s done, I conduct a few minutes of research for each piece and copy and paste the links at the bottom of the document. I save them all and walk away for the weekend.
When it comes time to write again, I open the document I feel like working on the most, then open the sources I left in the bottom. I read through everything, create my outline, and then start writing.
At the end, I’ll find the places where I need more information, and go back and add things, then edit. It makes it easier for me, and I end up getting everything done faster by batching the creation and early research. That process may not work for you, but you’ll find something that does. For instance, you may want to focus on your headlines, then your intro paragraphs and so on.
Don’t Interrupt Writing to Find More Research
If you’re writing and find something that you feel could benefit from more research or material, don’t stop what you’re doing to go find it. You may find yourself on YouTube, three hours later watching videos that have nothing to do with the topic at hand. Instead, leave yourself a note. I like to bold the text and change the color to red, so I remember to go back in my editing phase and don’t accidentally publish something with my personal notes in it.
Create a Small Ritual
Getting in the habit of doing a few things before you sit down to write can help you be more productive. For instance, I always have a meal or a small snack. I pour myself a drink – whether it’s coffee, tea, or water. And I always go to the bathroom so I’m not racing my bladder, or getting interrupted when I’m in the middle of a killer session where I’m knocking out words super-fast.
Writing is a Skill – Learned and Improved
While some people are naturally better at writing than others, the fact is it is a skill that can be learned. The more you do it and the more you work on it, the faster you can become. The faster you become, the more your quality has a chance of suffering, so the key is finding a balance. When you’ve mastered the art of speed and quality, you can use that newfound time to focus on other areas of your business, or expanding your content marketing efforts.
How long does it take you to write? Are there any other tips and tricks you could share? Tell me about them in the comments below.