How To Write Posts More Efficiently

in writing •  last year 

There are different ways to use your brain - some more efficient, some less. When it comes to producing creative content, using certain strategies can save us a tremendous amount of time, and it can make our output more creative.

Instead of going into explanations about this, I thought it might be useful to just list a set of steps you can repeat for each new blog post (or, really, for any kind of text).

Follow this and you will quickly start finding new blog posts developing in your notebook or computer:

  1. Whenever an idea for a possible blog post comes to you, write the idea down right away.
  2. If an idea comes to you about a part of a post (beginning or ending or whatever), write down just that part, even if it's a rough sketch or just a few words.
  3. Add more to the post draft as the various parts come to you and crystallize. The text will naturally grow as you notice and capture those parts, when they come to you.
  4. Don't sit in front of the computer or notebook, trying to think of what to write. Do something else and be prepared to write down your ideas whenever they come to you. Often times they come when you're under the shower, taking a walk, daydreaming, falling asleep, waking up - basically in all sorts of unusual places and when you don't expect them. Always carry a notebook (or some other idea-capturing device) with you. This is how you get your ideas on paper and turn them into posts.
  5. If, while you are writing the post, you get stuck on some place, just continue with another sentence or paragraph, or even another section of the post. Better words or ways of saying it will come to you in the meantime. If they don't, leave it for later or for tomorrow. This is how you can get yourself unstuck without wasting much time on being stuck.
  6. Watch as the post text grows and becomes more complete, with you spending minimum time on it, between other things.

Writing and Editing

Every author needs an editor. This is because, when you are writing, you are inside your head and you know what you mean by every single word you have put in the text. But how clear is it to others? One of the major jobs of the editor is to try to make sure others can figure out what the author was trying to say.

I don't have another person who edits my Steemit posts so I try to do the best with what I have. I find that I can be the author today and sort of be my editor tomorrow. That is, I write some text today, then tomorrow I look at it with fresh eyes/mind and I make various edits to make it more clear or to express my point better. Or I make whatever other improvements seem desirable (removing parts, adding new parts, restructuring, etc.).

Whenever I write a bit of new text or make changes to an existing text, I always want to look at it again later, with fresh eyes. To get this fresh look, it seems that I have to get a night's sleep. This helps me kind of forget the details of the text, so then on the next day I can have some of that reader's perspective of trying to figure out what the hell the author was attempting to convey.

I might do this write-revise cycle for a few days. Write some text today, read and edit it and add more to it tomorrow, then on the next day read what I have so far, edit it and add more, and so on. Even if I stop adding new text, I might keep editing. When I see that I read my text on the next day and I don't make many edits, then I know the text is ready.

Over-editing

I realize I might be leaving a wrong impression with so much talk about editing, so I'd like to say a bit about the dangers of over-editing. As I see it, over-editing happens when we lose fresh perspective on our text and we get very perfectionistic. At that point, we might start making the text worse with our edits. What I do to try to avoid over-editing is to leave my perfectionism aside - something that has taken me years to get better at - and stop editing when I lose the fresh perspective (i.e. I'm not rediscovering the text when reading it). When I've become too familiar with the text, I either publish it if I'm happy with it, or I take a long break from it so I can forget it well enough.

Final thoughts

It seems that the part about the editing turned out to be longer than the part about the initial creation of the text. It seems so difficult to express your thoughts using words and have other people understand these words similarly to how you meant them. The same words can be understood in different ways by different people. But in mathematics, chemistry and computer languages, the same symbol always means the same thing. Will we be able to one day achieve such clarity in natural languages like English, Spanish, Chinese, etc.? I don't know yet, but in the meantime I hope this post helps you in your endeavors.

Note: the first version of this whole post was written in a notebook for about an hour and a half. I was writing down a few ideas I had for blog posts and I suddenly thought of this one, then sketched a couple of ideas I had about what could be in the post, then the text just kept coming to me so I used the chance to write it all out. I was actually in the middle of something completely different when I decided to quickly capture my ideas for blog posts. Two hours ago I had no intention of writing anything. I had not even conceived of a post about how to write posts.

Image source: Free-Photos / CC0 Creative Commons


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You raised very important points here @borislavzlatanov. Just today I was taking surveys from writers and it's revealing where most persons feel inspired the most.
I am always empty when I want to deliberately write. But flashes comes when I'm busy, in shower, praying, in classes etc

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Yeah, this is a part of how our nervous system works. When we have focused attention, the patterns in our associative system are rigid. When we are waking up or falling asleep or daydreaming, the patterns become less rigid, so we make more novel associations.

It appears that the parts of the brain that are very active when we have focused attention are inhibiting the parts that are necessary for making very novel connections. By actively working on something, it appears that we prevent truly creative solutions from coming to us. (I mean "coming to us" metaphorically, since there are subcortical parts of the brain involved in making the novel connections, and when the information is carried to the neocortex, now it's in our conscious awareness and we get a sense of "it came to me from out of nowhere").

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Wow, you just explained in details a phenomenon I've been experiencing without explanation.

Could it be same reason why I improve drastically after sleeping over a new skill?

Let me illustrate, the day I climbed a bicycle, it was woeful, I couldn't even direct my guess neither could I pedal but the next day it was all smooth.
I experienced something similar learning to play the violin.

And most of these times I dreamt doing the same thing.

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Glad if you found my explanation useful.

Yeah, the solidifying of skills after sleeping would be a different physiological mechanism. It has to do with the connections between the neurons. When you learn something new, you are building new connections in your brain. During the night, it appears that unused connections get trimmed. So you're left with what you practice. If you practice the wrong things, you'll end up building the wrong habits (wrong neural pathways). But if you practice correctly (you repeat the thing the way you'd like to do it, not just any way), then you build the neural pathways you want. And those remain, due to them being utilized, while the other connections become weaker and disintegrate.

At the same time, with practice, it appears that a pathway becomes more efficient. So that's probably why it takes less and less effort and conscious attention for us to do something after we've practiced it a lot. It becomes automated/habitual. This is great because it allows us to build complex skills that consist of lots and lots of small movements (like walking, for instance), and we can even do other things at the same time (like walking AND talking). However, a downside is that now we have this habit we're somewhat stuck with. If we find a better way to do the thing (a better way to walk, to type on the computer, etc.), then we have to rebuild new pathways from scratch, while avoiding repeating/using the existing pathways.

Here is a TED talk that goes into some of the physiological mechanisms underpinning learning:

To listen to the audio version of this article click on the play image.

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