Write as fast as you comfortably can


I wanted to craft the greatest statement of purpose ever written by a graduate student. So I searched the internet and read many credible guides, perused numerous samples and gained much knowledge.

I pondered deeply my career objectives and sought existing concepts to fit my passions. I plotted. But I didn’t write a word. I was waiting for the perfect pitch. The inspiration never came and days rolled into weeks, the deadline looming ahead. And it was beginning to frustrate me.

Until a veteran advised me: start writing.

And so I typed my heart out, turning off my internal editor. The boys in the basement were turning out paragraphs so fast that I didn’t get enough time to neatly punctuate or correct typos. It nearly killed me but I didn’t mind. I kept on and soon, I had pages that become the first draft.

Shitty, though, it was better than nothing. My mind was uncluttered.

When I returned several days later, I read with fresh eyes and was able to cut out needless words, proofread and edited my work, finally trimming the size to two pages of precious prose.

It’s looking more like it. Though I still need to run it by a few trained eyes before I send it out, I am at rest. Fortunately, James Scott Bell gave concise words to this principle I practiced.

He said,

“I’m an advocate of writing as fast as you comfortably can. I believe that creativity and flow and your best material come when you can get those words down relatively fast. You take your time when editing, but when you compose, get out of the way and let the words and ideas come. If you are a slow writer, consider that part of the reason may be fear. You think that if you write too fast your quality will suffer. This is a bias toward control that is a common affliction among writers. You want to assert quality control up front, at the creation stage. What you need to do is allow yourself to write junk. Don’t try to shape every word or page as you write.”

I agree – Asides from helping you do away with procrastination, this ups your writing speed and trains your imagination to crank out more material at a faster rate.

Write as fast as you comfortably can. Edit later.

P.S.: I’d even heard that every writer has about 10,000 bad words (or is it paragraphs?) inside. The earlier you get these out, the better.