Monday, August 15, 2011

A Taste of Haste: Accelerating the Writing Process

In the Slate article, “Slowpoke: How to be a faster writer,” Michael Agger explores why some people can more quickly finish writing projects. He relates habits and anecdotes of highly efficient writers, which effectively boils down to “read and write more each day.” Agger offers this practical writing tip, “Try to limit your working hours, write at a set time each day, and try your best not to emotionally flip out or check email every 20 seconds. This is called "engineering" your environment.”

To aid with checking Email/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Wikipedia/ insert your favorite internet distraction “every 20 seconds,” some people prefer to work in surroundings without internet or install software, like Freedom©, that turns off a computer’s network connectivity for a given period of time. However, if you have the discipline to stay only on sites that are relative to your writing, Agger suggests using the internet for research while writing can be helpful. He writes,

“The modern multitasking style of composing next to an open Internet browser is one solution to limiting writing's cognitive burden. There are experimental programs that will analyze what you are writing and attempt to retrieve relevant definitions, facts, and documents from the Web in case you need them. Like many writers, I take a lot of notes before I compose a first draft. The research verifies that taking notes makes writing easier—as long as you don't look at them while you are writing the draft! Doing so causes a writer to jump into reviewing/evaluating mode instead of getting on with the business of getting words on the screen.”

Agger cites research from The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance in which author Ronald Kellogg purports, "Serious writing is at once a thinking task, a language task, and a memory task." Naturally, by sufficiently preparing for each individual part of the writing process, the writer shortens his production time. For instance, Agger relates how much easier (and presumably faster) it is for one to write about what one already knows. He says, “… the writer's brain is juggling three things: the actual text, what you plan to say next, and—most crucially—theories of how your imagined readership will interpret what's being written. A highly skilled writer can simultaneously be a writer, editor, and audience.” This all-in-one approach to writing takes practice, which Agger says can only come from reading more to increase knowledge (what you know) and then writing more, with the critical eye turned inward. And if you really just can’t seem to expedite your writing output, find a paid writing gig – Agger points out that “the promise of money has a way of stimulating writerly ‘flow.’ Amazing!”

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