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How to Write More Efficiently #1

Is it possible to write more efficiently?

Too many writers (I have been among them) allow the book-writing process to go on and on. We lack efficiency which is a practice and, like all practices, it is possible to learn to write more efficiently. There are many ways to learn to write more efficiently but I want to propose only one way here.

As we probably all have done, we can clean a living space up rather well in a few hours if we learn that we have unexpected company arriving soon. It’s not the best clean up we’ve ever done, but it also didn’t take a week of clearing our schedules and doing nothing else. With this sort of compromise cleaning, we are able to enjoy our company without being embarrassed by our space. The switch from messy to reasonably clean—and not housekeeping perfection—was done with surprising efficiency.

We put off so many tasks—like house cleaning—because we envision the huge commitment it will take (sometimes this is called “awful-izing”), because we are cursed with perfectionism (“Oh my we will have to dust the ceilings”), because we really don’t want to do what we know we ought to be doing (“where are the chocolates?”). Limiting the time we choose to invest in housekeeping and focusing on what really needs to be done can produce surprising results.

Write More Efficiently

Writing a book can be an endless commitment, one that is characterized by revision after revision.  When we set a deadline for ourselves however (the equivalent of an imminent unexpected guest), we create  a goal that requires us to let go of the interminable process of writing and rewriting. In short, it forces us into writing efficiently and confidently!

I know I work all too often with writing clients to whom I have to say “You have to let go of this book. Move on to your next one.” They are still quibbling about whether “home” is a best word, ever so much better than “house,” and whether “too” has more impact than “also.” Time to move on, folks.

A deadline is arbitrary.

Sometimes a cut off date can lead to sloppy writing and a missed opportunity to write  a better book. I’ll be the first to admit that. But I have myself been victim of letting a book go on and on when  a deadline would have focused me on writing a good book that would have found its ready audience and have gotten another book started.

A deadline—with wiggle room for renegotiating it with one’s self—almost always proves a useful tool to improve sloppy writing behavior—putting a stop to endless writing projects.

Exercise:

1. When (what date) would prove to be a useful deadline to focus your writing? (Christmas? An anniversary? A birthday? Retirement?)

2. What sort of daily/weekly/monthly writing schedule would be necessary to meet that deadline? (Remember to factor in some slack time—illness, visitors, vacations, other work.) It is best to underpromise and overdeliver when you schedule.

3. Make a mark on your calendar every day you honor your deadline schedule. Learn to write more efficiently.

[To access the second post on writing more efficiently, click here.]

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