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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 February 19, 2020

    15 Positive Thinking Books You Need for a Happy Life

    15 Positive Thinking Books You Need for a Happy Life

    Books give us the opportunity to live vicariously through the lives of people with greater wisdom than ourselves. They stimulate our brains and help us not only solve the problems we struggle with, but also motivate and inspire us with new ideas.

    One of the great things about people who think positively and live happy lives is that they love to help others do the same. There are countless positive-thinking books and these 15 are a great way to help you start living a happy life.

    1. Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor E. Frankl

    mans search for meaning

      This book goes through the horrific struggle of Viktor Frankl who survived holocaust concentration camps. The only thing that kept him going was his idea that everything, even the worst of human suffering, had to have meaning. If you’re struggling through anything in your life, I guarantee the words of Viktor will give you courage to press on and find happiness.

      2. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

      tuesday with morrie

         

        What is life’s greatest lesson? Morrie, a retired professor with a fatal disease, opts to use his predicament to share that message as opposed to just giving up and dying. Following the last few months of Morrie’s life will help you realize what is truly important in life.

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        3. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

        Lecture_Book

          Similar to Tuesdays with Morrie, Randy is a college professor who finds he has a fatal disease with only a few months to live. It is customary for professors at his university (Carnegie Mellon) to give a final lecture with the basis of ‘what wisdom would you impart to a large group of people if it was your last chance?’ Randy stays incredibly positive throughout and even keeps the lecture humorous and entertaining. Amidst it all, his wisdom is a powerful reminder about how to live a happy, full life.

          4. Earning Freedom by Michael Santos

          earning freedom

            Michael Santos was sentenced to 45 years is prison for selling drugs. During his term he fought hard to earn a masters degree and half of a doctorate (halted by the warden) while writing numerous books educating students about the criminal justice system. This book provides a fascinating window into his entire sentence (released in 2012) and how a positive attitude and strong work ethic got him through it. If he found happiness in prison through positive thinking, we can do it anywhere.

            If you don’t have the attention span to finish a long book, the following quick reads are shorter but just as powerful.

            5. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

            little engine that could

              This book has shaped childrens’ minds for years. It illustrates the undeniable fact that when you think positively and believe in yourself, you can accomplish extraordinary things.

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              6. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

              The_Giving_Tree

                Happiness is found in giving. What does it mean to love someone? What would you sacrifice for someone you love? This children’s book teaches a valuable lesson about unconditional love and what it truly means to be happy.

                7. The Dash by Linda Ellis and Mac Anderson

                the dash

                  “When your life is over, everything you did will be represented by a single dash between two dates—what will that dash mean for the people you have known and loved?” (Linda Ellis) We don’t choose a lot of things about our life – parents, birthplace, etc. – but we can choose what that dash between those two dates means. This short book will give you a great perspective on making your life worthwhile.

                  8. As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

                  As-a-Man-Thinketh

                    “The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to be harmoniously related to his inner state… Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.” (James Allen) This book might be short, but it is jam-packed with statements that will make you stop and think. We truly become what we think we are. Negative thoughts affect us more than we know. Positive thinking = happy life.

                    9. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald  Miller

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                    a-million-miles-in-a-thousand-years

                      You are the author of your story. No matter how boring or dull your life has been, you can always turn it around. Donald was in a rut in his life. He had no desire to get out of bed and found himself questioning the meaning of life. Eventually he realized he wasn’t a slave to a pre-written script. He used that mindset to turn around his thoughts, actions, and life. When the closing credits roll on the story of your life, what will people say? Never forget that you have the power to push your limits and live an interesting, happy life.

                      10. The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews

                      travelersgift

                        The Traveler’s Gift is a fictional story about a man who is overwhelmed with life and finds himself thrown into numerous true events from history – including Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. He interacts and learns important life lessons from seven different experiences. The book is full of ways to think more positively and find more success in life.

                        11. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

                        david and goliath

                          Malcolm Gladwell motivates you to challenge your preconceptions of underdogs and misfits in this thought-provoking book. When you break down the facts in the story of David and Goliath from the Bible, you find that David really wasn’t an underdog at all – he was the one with the advantage. This book outlines story after story after story of people who were at a disadvantage and learned to find the strength in their weakness.

                          12. How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton M. Christensen

                          how will you measure

                            How would you feel if you got to the end of your life only to realize you had been measuring success wrong? Clayton provides a mass amount of wisdom and advice on how to live a life you won’t regret.

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                            13. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson

                            Dont_Sweat_Small_Stuff

                              The small things we worry about every day may not seem like a big deal, but they wear us down slowly and stop us from living up to our full potential. Learn how to get rid of those worries and negative thoughts and live a happier life.

                              14. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

                              mere christianity

                                C.S. Lewis, who used to be an Atheist, explains how he came to find meaning in life through Christianity. He breaks down all the reasons we doubt and falter in life and how living the principles of Christianity fixes our weaknesses. Lewis is famous for his deep, thought-provoking quotes and this book is no exception.

                                15. Bushido: The Way of the Samurai by Tsunetomo Yamamoto

                                bushido

                                  Bushido is based on the Hagakure, a document that served as the basis for samurai warrior behavior. The document’s purpose was to shape the mind and the spirit of the samurai warrior.

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                                  Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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