Writing Quickly

In another post, I had written that writing is hard because we get frustrated that the process of writing is so much slower than our process of creating. Notwithstanding that, we often make the process even harder by writing even slower than we are capable.

The medium (the material) that a writer works with is not ideas, it is not pen and paper, nor even keyboard and word processor. The medium a writer works with is words and we have to supply the words. A blank sheet of paper gives us nothing to work with.

When a sculptor works some clay into a bust of a person, they don’t start with a small amount and carefully fashion the perfect nose; then fashion an eye and join the two together. No, they start with a big lump of clay and from that lump, they begin to refine the head, the nose, eyes, ears, mouth, cheeks, etc.

Yet, how often do we, as writer, agonize for hours over that first sentence? Then when we start on the second sentence we notice the first is not as perfect as we imagined and so we rework it again, making it flow better into the second. This is a lot of work.

When we agonize over that first sentence, we are like the sculptor who agonizes over some small detail (like the nose) without even having the general form and outline of a head.

Unlike the sculptor who can buy a lump of clay, we must create our own raw material, we must fill pages with words and then refine them.

Don’t agonize over what you are writing. Just write. Write quickly, get those feelings, those emotions, those ideas onto paper. Don’t worry about repetition, don’t worry about uneven flow, don’t worry about inconsistencies – just get the raw material out.

Write for as long as you can. Write until you have nothing more to say, then put your words aside for a day (or longer).

When you pick up your work, you will find it is imperfect – but that is fine. Now you have raw material to work with – words; words you can form, shape, rearrange, add to and delete at your whim.

Writing is a two step process: the first is the creation of the words (the material) you will work with; the second is revision. Don’t knock yourself out getting that first draft down, just write and write and write. Don’t edit it. Don’t think about it. Just get the words out. Once the words are out, you will find the process of revision is much easier than trying to create prefect prose from the beginning. (Besides, you will find it much easier to revise or throw out a phrase that was hastily written over some clever phrase you agonized over.

Image is used under terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

Original image is by izzyplante and can be found here.

The image has been modified from the original to: (1) extract the foreground person, (2) blur the paper and writing, (3) add copyright mark, and (4) resized.


  • Elliott says:

    Very nice article. Never thought of writing that way!

    • admin says:

      Thanks for the comment.
      It is not an obvious way to write. When we write, we want everything to come out perfectly and so we end up torturing ourselves writing a few words before throwing up our hands in frustration or finding something else that needs more urgent attention.
      The whole idea is to just dump your ideas on the page – create your raw material – and then massage it into shape.
      THe other problem is that writing and speaking seem so very similar and related – after all, we use the same words and structure. But … if you were to transcribe a normal conversation, you would find it is horrible writing. Conversely, good writing both (1) reads well and (2) is spoken well. One of the tips to see how your writing is, is to read it out loud. If it doesn’t sound good, then it is not good writing.

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