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How to Write Better and Faster

How to Write Better and Faster

    I remember when I was younger and how I truly hated writing. If I had a paper due in school I would wait until the absolute last night before it was due to start writing. In doing that I would always set myself up for failure. My papers ended up being a mish-mosh of ideas that didn’t make any sense, spelling mistakes, and usually a paper that didn’t meet the length requirements.

    I then thought that writing was this sacred act that only “writers” could do, that it took a ton of time to get your thoughts down on paper, and that you had to have an advanced degree or tons of experience to know how to do it. Well, if you take a look at any of the millions of blogs online today you can see that my thoughts were nowhere near the truth. Writing is a pretty natural act that many people do on a regular basis.

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    In fact, to write well and to do it quickly doesn’t take some sort of magic. Most anyone can do it by following some simple guidelines.

    Warm-up

    We’ve talked before about the importance of writing every single day if you want to be a writer. Well, writing every single day doesn’t only put you on a fast track to actually writing something good, it helps you warm up for other types of writing. Think of it as a way to get the “junky” writing out of the way before you get to the good stuff.

    Know what you want to say

    The key to writing faster is knowing what your main idea is. A main idea should be something that you can explain in one sentence and doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand it. That is, unless you are writing about rocket science.

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    For “standard” types of articles and blog posts, being able to explain your main idea in one sentence will suffice and leads you to the next step.

    Outline your ideas

    Now that you have a main idea you can outline “sub-ideas” and explanations that lead you to that main idea. Knowing what you want to say is very important, but coming up with ideas and explanations to back up your ideas can be even more important.

    Getting your article’s flow out in an outline form is a good way to see how your sub-ideas work together to explain what you actually want to say.

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    Let it sit

    I’ve found that one of my biggest hurdles in writing is forcing myself to do it when I am “tapped out” of any good ideas. This is when I need to step away from the article or project and let the ideas “simmer” for a little while.

    I always find myself refreshed and ready to write when I do this. So, if you are staring at a blank screen, step away from the computer. You can always come back to it and when you do, you will have a fresh perspective.

    Write till your fingers hurt

    Now that you are warmed up, have a main idea and outline, and aren’t burned out from writing, you need to get as much down on paper as possible. This is what some call “free writing”. Don’t let your fingers stop moving while you are doing this. Get out as much as you can regarding what you have outlined or even write more things that weren’t in your outline.

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    This is where you write something pretty crappy. But the idea is to not self-regulate your writing at this point; it’s to get out of your head as much as possible and then critique and edit afterwards.

    Edit and restructure

    Now that you have a bunch of writing down on your screen (unless you use paper) you can start to pick things apart, move them around to better match your outline and help further explain your main idea, and make your prose have a more logical flow. This is also a good time to spell check, find weird grammar and logic mistakes, and maybe even rephrase things with better choices of words.

    When choosing words remember this: not too many people care that you are a “big time writer” and know a whole bunch of different, awesome words. What they do care about is being sucked into your writing and also being able to understand it. Don’t use big words for the sake of using big words. Always try to err on the side of making your work understandable, not fanciful.

    Cut, cut, cut

    Now that you have all those words you can start to cut out the “fluff”. This goes back to the last point; most people don’t care about how long your sentences are, but sure as hell care if they can or can’t understand what you are trying to say. So, find the things that are needless in your writing and cut them out completely.

    And that’s about it. If you want to write faster and better follow these steps and see what a huge difference they will make in your writing flow. If you only take one thing away from this article, remember that writing faster and better is easy to do as long as you know what you want to say. Get a good main idea and the rest will fall into place.

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2020

    13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

    13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

    For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

    “We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

    “It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

    Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

    You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

    Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

    1. Take a step back and evaluate

    When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

    1. What is the problem?
    2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
    3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
    4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
    5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

    Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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    2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

    If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

    At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

    Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

    3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

    Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

    4. Process your thoughts/emotions

    Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

    1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
    2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
    3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
    4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

    5. Acknowledge your thoughts

    Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

    By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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    Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

    6. Give yourself a break

    If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

    7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

    A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

    Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

    After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

    8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

    As Helen Keller once said,

    “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

    Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

    9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

    In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

    1. What’s the situation?
    2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
    3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
    4. Take action on your next steps!

    After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

    10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

    A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

    Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

    For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

    11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

    No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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    12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

    No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

    13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

    There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

    After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

    Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

    Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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