School may have taught you to write, but it probably didn’t teach you to write fast and once you start working, you routinely write under deadlines.
I learned this at my first job when the average writing assignment was due “by the end of the day.” Unlike school, time to research wasn’t built into the calendar so I was always pressed for time.
Writing against the clock is much easier when you have a note-taking system. As author David Allen once said: “Minute-to-minute and day-to-day you don’t have time to think. You need to have already thought.” Building a Second Brain is the best way to leverage the thinking you’ve already done. Instead of writing from scratch, you can create an outline by collecting your most relevant ideas from books you’ve already read, conversations you’ve already had, and evergreen notes you’ve already written. Like alchemy, the article’s structure comes together organically once you’ve compiled enough ideas. This is when most people start writing, but talking about your ideas is a faster way to concretize your structure.
Talking forces you to structure your ideas because it happens at the speed of thought. Set a three minute timer, pretend like you’re talking to a friend, and explain what you want to write. As you do, transcribe your words with Otter. Often, it helps to repeat the exercise because doing so refines your thesis. If you’re feeling ambitious, take time off the clock every time you re-explain your ideas. By the time you’re done recording yourself, you’ll have your structure organized and the ideas externalized. Only then should you start typing.
I’m not saying you should always write fast. Some essays demand contemplation. In my own writing practice, all my long-form essays take more than 100 hours to write. But just as drills can build an athlete’s skill set, every writer should practice writing fast.
At most, writing fast will vastly increase your earnings power because writing well is thinking well, and people who write fast, think fast. At the very least, by forcing you to build a note-taking system and structure your ideas by talking, tight deadlines will make your process more efficient. And if you’re wondering, I wrote this article in 94 minutes.
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