Write Systematically and Become More Productive


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Studies have found that people who have no plan consistently fail to achieve their goals. The same finding applies to writing. If you just work on what you feel like each day, you can generate lots of unfinished writing projects. What can you do to avoid such a dead end?

You need to develop your own writing system. You have writing goals. Most of your writing is moving toward at least one of your goals. Some of your writing is off topic. You need to set priorities for your projects. Which subjects are the important ones?

Sorting your writing by subject is a start. For each subject, you might also want to have a rough work category and a finished (or “to be published”) category. Set as many categories, or statuses, as you need.

Goals Should Be A Top Priority

You should always have specific writing goals in mind. It’s great to have goals for the year, but what is it you most need to work on now? Pick a goal and work on it until it’s completed.

Working on a single project is more productive than jumping from project to project if you can write without getting stuck. On the other hand…

Ryoki Inoue, the world’s most prolific writer, recommends multiple writing projects as the best way to maximize productivity. That make sense. If you become stuck on a project, you switch to another. There’s nothing like writing to clear writer’s block.

For example, when I wrote the first draft of this article, I was working on increasing my writing articles as my main project. At the same time, I had secondary projects working on psychology articles and a novel.

By picking a goal and seeing it through to the end, you gain the satisfaction of a job well done and can see that your writing is going somewhere.

Do The Easy Writing Tasks Immediately

Clean up your easiest projects quickly. Don’t save them for a rainy day. If they can be completed in a day or two, that won’t interfere with your most important writing. It can really bring you down to have a long list of writing projects waiting to be done and not making any progress. Solve that problem by finishing the easy projects quickly.

Too Much Time Is Better Than Not Enough

Always give yourself enough time to do a good job. Nothing sucks more than constantly telling yourself you failed to meet your deadline. If you would just apply yourself more and do it, you’d find your projects finished ahead of time on a regular basis. But, maybe that’s not the problem.

I’ve said elsewhere not to give yourself big blocks of time to write in because the work will expand to fill the time. I stand by that. Give yourself short blocks of writing time to work in. But also, give yourself as many blocks of time as you can every day.

Before you start work on a writing project, you believe you know what will be necessary. Beliefs are often wrong. What if you need to do more research? Even fiction can require research when your characters go through experiences that are too different from your own. And life itself likes to throw curve balls that hold up all of our plans.

By giving your writing projects more time than they apparently need, you improve your chance of success. I used to give myself a goal of writing 10 articles a day. I failed daily. Then, I gave myself a goal of one article a day. I succeeded daily.

Quality Versus Quantity

Quality is a more important goal than quantity, but too little output and your writing is going nowhere. If you concentrate on writing as much as you can, you will also maximize your writing experience and become a better writer faster.

Concentrating too much on either quality or quantity can hurt your writing. If you always go for the highest quality, you will be a slow writer and make slow progress. Concentrating on producing lots of writing can make you a hack as you churn out one crappy piece after another. The answer is balance.

Work on improving your writing speed until you notice a difference. Then, spend more time on improving the quality of your writing. Do more revising. Read and study anything you can find about writing. When you can see that you have become a better writer, get back to work on being productive.

I like to pursue both at once by always working on writing faster, but with a lot of revision and reading about writing.

Whatever system you decide to use, make it your own. If a step in someone else’s system doesn’t work for you, study that step to make sure it’s not something you need to learn. Once you know you’re not missing anything important, you can drop it. Develop your own personal writing system and your writing will take a giant leap forward.

Article by Ivan Izo.

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