Faster? I’m trying to write at all


For anyone else who has faced a blank screen—and for those old enough, a blank sheet of paper—and wondered, “What the hell do I think I’m doing here?” and need another distraction/excuse to keep from typing, have a look at this fun column about how to write faster.  Here’s a taste:

Hunched over my keyboard, I’m haunted by anecdotes of faster writers. Christopher Hitchens composing a Slate column in 20 minutes—after a chemo session, after a "full" dinner party, late on a Sunday night. The infamously productive Trollope, who used customized paper! "He had a note pad that had been indexed to indicate intervals of 250 words," William F. Buckley told the Paris Review. "He would force himself to write 250 words per 15 minutes. Now, if at the end of 15 minutes he hadn’t reached one of those little marks on his page, he would write faster." Buckley himself was a legend of speed—writing a complete book review in crosstown cabs and the like.

(snip)

[Ronald Kellogg:] "Writing extended texts for publication is a major cognitive challenge, even for professionals who compose for a living." See, Dad! This is hard work.

(snip)

Kellogg is always careful to emphasize the extreme cognitive demands of writing, which is very flattering. "Serious writing is at once a thinking task, a language task, and a memory task," he declares.

(snip)

Kellogg terms the highest level of writing as "knowledge-crafting." In that state, the writer’s brain is juggling three things: the actual text, what you plan to say next, and—most crucially—theories of how your imagined readership will interpret what’s being written. A highly skilled writer can simultaneously be a writer, editor, and audience.

Since writing is such a cognitively intense task, the key to becoming faster is to develop strategies to make writing literally less mind-blowing.

There are tips for “would-be writers” at the end…but don’t jump ahead, do the work!

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