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I’m kind of a writing geek in that I hang out on writing websites, read books and magazines about writing, and belong to Facebook groups for writers. I’ve even been to a few writers’ conferences. No judgment to my fellow writers, but interior design industry events are much more fun. Better swag bags too!
Anyway, I do all of that in-the-trenches, boots-on-the-ground wading through information about writing so I can deliver gems like this one to you:
My #1 tip for getting your writing done faster is when you sit down to write, set a timer for 15-20 minutes and slam out what content writing guru Ann Handley calls “The Ugly First Draft.”
It’s totally counterintuitive to the way I was taught to approach my writing as an English Lit major. I’m sure many of you can relate to my collegiate all-night essay writing sessions where about 90% of that time was spent laboring over my first draft - and then a mad 3:00 am scramble to polish things up as best I could.
Does that bear any resemblance to your current blog post writing method???
In her book, Everybody Writes (which I happen to love, but admittedly, you may not find it as fun and riveting!), Handley explains why that focus-on-the-first-draft approach is not only inefficient - it also results in sub-par writing:
“Recognize that brilliance – or anything close to it – comes on the rewrite. That implies that there is a rewrite, of course. And there should be.”
That’s why those 3:00 a.m. attempts at cleaning up my drafts felt more like desperately slapping on spackle and glitter rather than actually polishing a relatively well-written piece.
With The Ugly First Draft method, the clumsy, slapdash work happens in that initial 15-20 minute brain-dumping session. Two things are accomplished there:
1. Right off the bat, you've pushed past the biggest writing sticking point for most people: the blank page / screen staring back at you with no idea where to start.
2. You now have raw material (your general ideas) to work with, but you've avoided wasting time trying to make those initial (possibly misaimed) thoughts make sense.
And yes, it's probably truly ugly. It may not make any sense; it may be totally boring; you may have veered horribly off-topic.
But that’s good because now you have a jumping off point. You’ve captured your ideas and thoughts and you can readily see where it’s gone wrong, where it's gone right, and where it needs extra attention.
Now you’re essentially editing as opposed to writing from scratch.
You're moving pieces and parts around, trying different wording, and inserting personality, humor, and even some of your brand messaging language.
It's more like putting a puzzle together than trying to draw your own picture, which in my view is waaayyyyy faster and more fun than slaving over my keyboard for hours on end, trying to find the next word in my first draft and knowing that the rewriting is still ahead of me, as well.
Don't get me wrong - I’m oversimplifying things a bit here in that I do believe in putting in some time pre-writing on planning and strategizing. Those are really what make a 15-minute Ugly First Draft session possible (and productive). You can check out my full 'get-the-writing-done-faster-and-better' method in my guide for How to Write Fabulous, Client-Attracting Content in Only 15 Minutes a Day by subscribing to Deb Mitchell Writing here.
Even with the extra planning, I find The Ugly First Draft method saves me loads of time and infinite frustration.
And probably most importantly, it makes me a better writer by helping me clear away the irrelevant junk in my writing sooner. That means I don't waste time trying in vain to rewrite it into not being irrelevant junk.
Try out The Ugly First Draft method and let me know how it works for you.
Do you think this tip counts as writing 'swag'??? I glammed it up for you as best I could!
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