My friend Janeen Latini wrote a book in three days. It's an actual book -- not an extended article in large font. When I first heard this, I was amazed and fascinated. We held the same corporate job and both have families and friends to keep up with. While I was struggling to find time to respond to emails, she was doing that plus writing a book.
How was it possible? Writing for me had always required protracted periods of just thinking about what I wanted to write. When I actually sat down to start typing, the time it took was the time it took. And as someone whose primary long-form, solo writing experience was all political science papers in college, I thought writing was supposed to be difficult, painful, boring, and worthy of my best procrastination techniques.
Finding out that it was possible to write a book in three days meant I immediately had to talk to my friend about how and why she did it. At the time, doing more writing was a goal of mine, but I didn't know how to get there.
When I was able to get Janeen on the phone, she gave me a couple of the important clues to how she pulled this off. A key strategy was hiring author coach, Angela Lauria, creator of the Author Incubator. I later talked with Angela who shared some of her wisdom gained after shepherding hundreds of best-selling authors through her program. Both Janeen and Angela shared their tips on how to both write faster and write with intention.
- The first and most important thing is to know your audience. Angela strongly advises writers to write to a single reader. It's counterintuitive but this approach actually enables you to reach the broadest possible audience because you force yourself to get specific and focus on the most relevant issues.
- Adopt the "go slow to go fast" approach. This means taking the time upfront to get organized and collect your ideas in a repository along the way. I use Trello to organize my notes and ideas, others use programs like Evernote. The tool doesn't matter -- just establish a place where you immediately paste links to other articles, quotes, pictures, little voice-to-text memos you send to yourself with ideas, etc. Continuously collect ideas. Ideas spark throughout the day in response to what you may be doing or what may be happening around you. If you have all of these ideas collected in a central place, it's infinitely easier to sit down, create a detailed outline, and make something out of those raw ingredients -- fast. It's like having a well-stocked pantry. You're better prepared to make meals on the fly if you don't have to run to the grocery store.
- Repurpose content. Find at least two additional ways to use your original work. If it's a self-authored report for a client, pull out the points that apply most broadly and write a blog post or another article. If it's a market summary you've done internally, summarize the main findings on your corporate site. I'm always amazed at how infrequently businesses do this simple step to make their work easier and build their brand.
- Block out dedicated time to do your work. My friend Janeen blocked out the three days with three other authors and Angela. They booked a space in a beautiful location and had food brought in. They had internet available for their research, but made a commitment to themselves to devote the time to writing.
- Set up your support network in advance. Finding others who have the same writing or speaking goals can be a huge source of energy, inspiration and focus. Tell them about whatever project(s) you're working on, and get them to hold you accountable to actually do that work. This is one of the best uses of your network, and one that goes untapped too often.
- Hire someone to get you through the rough patches. If you struggle with a specific aspect of writing or speaking (or whatever your work is), hiring a coach, editor, or consultant can help. For example, I struggle with presenting my ideas in a logical order when speaking. To prepare for presentations in the past, I've hired somebody to help by just listening and providing feedback to get my thoughts in the right order. Don't let yourself get sucked into the fantasy that you should be doing all of your writing work on your own and in seclusion. Good coaches and editors are worth every penny they charge and more.
You can pick up the pace of just about all of the important aspects of your work. The key is building up useful resources and then using those resources to help get you there.