Five resolutions for more productive writing
Writing can be a time-consuming business, but if you adopt these resolutions you’ll produce great writing faster.
If you can reduce the time it takes to produce an effective piece of writing at work, you’ll free up time for other things. A busy workload in the studio means we’ve had to explore ways to squeeze everything possible from the day. Here are our top five tips.
1. Make writing a priority
When writing isn’t the main part of your job (and even when it is) it can be hard to give words the attention they deserve. But if writing is low on your list of priorities, you’ll end up trying to do it after everything else when, frankly, you’re exhausted. It’ll end up taking longer overall and it won't be up to standard.
So, this year, resolve to schedule writing for when you're usually fresh and at your most productive. How much time is up to you, but I usually find an hour is about right. It’s hard to get much done in less than that and my attention starts to wane after sixty minutes of intensive writing.
2. Ensure the brief is realistic
This can save you a lot of time. When you’re busy, it’s all too easy to become a slave to your to-do list. You focus on completing each task to get it off your desk, rather than really thinking about exactly how you should do it. Or even if you should do it at all.
Suppose your to-do list includes writing an advertorial for an industry publication. You’ve been asked to write the text and told it should include the history of the firm, why customers should buy a particular product, and a case study featuring that product in use. Yet the whole piece has to be no more than 200 words. It’s impossible to fit that all in, isn’t it? That way lies madness, and countless rounds of changes.
You’d be surprised just how often we see situations like this. And we always find that challenging an unworkable brief and helping a client to create a more realistic one is, ultimately, quicker and easier than trying to produce the impossible.
3. Focus on the reader (and what you want them to do)
It may seem counterintuitive, but writing isn’t about the writer. Nope, it’s all about the reader.
So instead of thinking "How am I going to write this?" or "What should I say?", try to keep one question at the front of your mind: "How will my reader be persuaded?" Your goal may be to sell them something, to encourage them to get in touch, or even just to read some important information. Whatever it is, you need to focus on that. Doing so gives you a much better chance of producing an effective piece of writing first time.
4. Start by summing up your argument
There are lots of different approaches to crafting a good, persuasive piece of business writing. But this approach has never lets us down.
When you’re under pressure to produce, it’s easy to feel you have to get something – anything – written down. Try to resist this and aim not to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) until you can write a sentence that encapsulates your argument.
If you can sum up your main point in 25 words or so, it gives you a great opening for your piece of writing. Distilling the essence of your story into this first sentence also makes you think through your argument and gives you a great foundation for the rest of the story.
We find this approach makes writing faster and produces drafts that need fewer changes.
5. Don’t stop until you’ve finished your story
Just as it’s important not to start too soon, it’s vital not to stop too soon. When you’ve done the hard work of summing up your argument and you’re well into writing, don’t stop until you’ve produced as much as possible – ideally, until you’ve finished your draft.
Of course, if you’re tackling a 10,000 word report, you’re not going to finish it in one go but you could break it down into sections and work through each one without stopping. That’s how I wrote this post. After a few short sessions deciding what to write, I worked through the draft in one go. Then I left it for a while before editing it, proofreading it and posting it on the site.
Resolve to adopt these five resolutions, and I believe you’ll find yourself becoming a more productive writer in 2017.