The biggest problem with article writing is the exhaustion factor
It's write, delete, write, delete and the endless cycle goes on. So how do you go about article writing? Can you really write articles and not get exhausted?
In this series you get to see how I went from getting really frustrated, to writing 800 word articles and then 4000 word articles. What's the secret to such an enormous output? And how do you do it without getting exhausted?
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Re-release: How I Write 4000 Word Articles Without Getting Exhausted
Original:How I Write 4000-Word Articles Without Getting Exhausted
When I was growing up in Mumbai, India, I thought pizza was sweet.
No one I knew had ever eaten a pizza and all the references to pizza were from Archie Comics. Archie—and especially Jughead—always seemed to be eating a pizza. And for some reason, I associated pizza as a sort of candy, or sweet dish.
Imagine my surprise when I ate pizza for the first time in my twenties.
I sense a similar sense of surprise when I talk about how I write an article. Every time I talk about article writing, clients are usually taken aback. It’s almost as though they’re experiencing a disconnect between what they perceived to be true, and the reality.
You may or may not know that I turn out about 3000-4000 words of fresh content every week. I do all this writing in between cooking and painting and everything else.
So how do I write an article? Is it really a writing gene?
Well, it can't be a gene because I struggled like everyone else. I'd take two working days to write an article, back in 2000. Today I can complete an 800-word article in about 45 minutes. So what's changed?
Strangely it's got not a lot to do with article writing itself, and a lot to with how I manage my energy.
So what are we going to cover?
Topic 1: Putting space between activities
Topic 2: Using a timer
Topic 3: Never research when writing the article
Stage 1: Spacing out your article
Here’s how I cook a meal.
I get fresh vegetables and ingredients from Huckleberry—the organic grocery store up the road.Then I do nothing.
Later that day, I’ll assemble the ingredients and then do a second bout of nothingness. Finally, when I’m ready to cook, several hours may have gone by. But cooking is quick, painless and the dish is incredibly tasty.
What you’re reading about seems to be my method of cooking, but it’s not.
It’s my method of conserving energy. To me, energy is what allows me to write so much. And the best way to expend energy is to do everything all together. The rookie writer will sit down, try to dream up the idea for the article, then try to write and get frustrated on a consistent basis. Instead, what you should do, is do as little as possible.
So here’s how I go about my writing
I’ll write down a topic, or if I’m, um, prolific, several topics.
Then, before the idea slips away, I’ll write down three sub-topics. And in this article, the topic was about “How I Write” and the sub-topics were about:
– Putting space between activities
– Using a timer
– Never research when writing the article
Once that’s done I let my brain take a well-deserved rest
It may seem like it’s important to keep the momentum going, but the best thing you can do when writing, is not to write anything at all. If you feel obliged to do so, maybe you can take those three topics and outline them.
An outline will have a lot more detail because it’s the structure of the article and shows the flow.
My outlines usually cover these main points.
– What are we talking about?
– Why is it so very important?
– Other questions such as when/where etc?
– Mistakes, if any
A week usually starts off with me writing one or many topics and sub-topics
Then once I’ve let a day or two go by, I’ll write the outline. Another 24 hours will slide before I start to expand the outline. This part takes the most amount of time. If I write an 800-word article, it may take me about 45 minutes (it used to take me two days to do this part when I first started writing articles).
And if I take on a 3000-word article it might take about 3-4 hours. But here's the thing: I don't sit down to write everything all at once. And you shouldn't either. You should break up your writing into bits.
There's a very good reason for all this breaking up
It's called energy. Every step takes energy. When I'm cooking, (and believe me I love cooking), just getting the ingredients is a minor mission. Then the cutting, chopping—again, stuff I've come to love over the years—it's all takes time. And anything that takes time also drains energy.
But the moment I split up the activity and come back later, it seems like someone else has done the prep work. And all that's left is to finish it off.
Energy needs to be your biggest focus
Time is what we focus on a lot, but hey, you have time; I have time; we all have time. We flop down on the sofa at 7 pm, and we're not in la-la land until three, four, even five hours later.
So we have time. We just don't have the energy. Which is why breaking up your article into bits is what makes it manageable. Writing is an incredibly demanding skill, even for an accomplished writer, and it's best to get back when you're reasonably charged.
But there's more to it, and you know it
When you put space between your topics and outlining, your brain gets a chance to mull over the ideas. While you sleep, your brain is doing its thing. It sorts out the bad ideas, keeps good ones, and when you get back to writing, nothing has changed. And yet something has. It doesn't stop there.
When I go for a walk, I'll run the ideas past my wife
And especially on days when I'm really confused, this seems to work well. Even if she's not quite awake at 6 am, and she mostly isn't, just voicing the ideas lets the ideas distill.
At times, if Renuka doesn't agree with me, she'll snap right out of her slumber-walk and rattle out a list of objections. These objections force me to think, to refine the article. At this stage I'm still on the tightrope between article topics and outlining, and nowhere close to writing the article.
Eventually I will have to tweak that outline, and it's time to write.
This article was written in parts as well
I wrote the topics earlier in the week.
I then wrote the sub-topics.
Finally, today, Thursday, is when I'm sitting down to write it.
I may fudge a bit and try to edit it as well once I'm done—but only when I'm done
I realise that many newbies edit and write at the same time and in the process, they never get to the finish line. As you get better at writing, you realise that the deadline is all that really matters. And today, Thursday, my deadline is clearly to finish, not edit this article.
If I do get to the end point, I'll run it through Grammarly, edit and we're ready to go. But some days I might add one more step. I'll e-mail a client or a friend whose judgment I trust. And ask them to look over the article. So now I have to wait even longer.
This break adds to the pause factor, and I mull over the ideas until the suggestions come bouncing back. When they do, there's always some clarity that's needed and some bits that need fixing. Which is slightly frustrating, but it almost always makes the article better.
When you're just starting out as a writer, you're likely to be amazed at how quickly seasoned writers turn out a finished piece
All my sob stories about how much time I used to take to write an article doesn't wash well with you. Your goal is to write faster, instead of slaving over the article for hours, even days.
You want to get to the finish line, and that's the biggest problem. Instead of trying to write the entire piece, break it up. Just thinking of these stages might drive you crazy because you're likely to be thinking: who has time to go through all these steps?
And that's the whole point of this section on spacing out your article
You don't have time and drinking that bottle of whatever is in your fridge isn't going to give you energy. By spacing your article, you're not using up more time at all. I use 10 minutes to write topics and sub-topics.
Another 30-45 minutes goes into outlining. And finally, it's another 45-60 minutes of writing, and I'm done. In all, even if you add editing time, an article takes about 2 hours back to back.
And when I'm done, I'm not drained. I'm ready to take on another task and keep going with my day. To me, that's the biggest joy of all. I feel a deep satisfaction when my article is complete.
But I also know I have the energy to keep doing other work-related tasks. And that feeling is totally different from when I first started writing articles and was exhausted by the end of the article writing exercise.
But that's not the only pizza moment I had in my life. I ran into a second concept quite by chance. It sounds like a deadline, but it's not a deadline at all. It's called a timer.
Stage 2: Using a timer
Notice how you’re all excited when you get a new computer?
It’s a blank slate; there’s practically nothing on the hard drive.
And at least on the Mac, there’s a special section called “Downloads”
Whenever you start to download something from the Internet, the file goes right into the Download folder. When I last checked a few minutes ago, there were 74 files there. In a month from now, there may be 85.
And give or take a year and the folder will continue to accumulate junk that I never look at. In short, the more space I have in that folder, the more I’m likely to fill it with something.
On the Article Writing Course, clients, tend to fill it with hours of writing
The Article Writing Course at Psychotactics is like no other writing course I know of. Clients who join the live course, and this is the live course online, often have to write two about two articles a week.
The first half of the week is spent on topics and sub-topics. Then it’s a day of outlining and finally it’s time to write. The writing stage is when they labour over their work for hours on end. Until 2015, clients would often take 3, even 4 hours to write an article.
Then in 2016, I gave them a fixed amount of time
The instructions were clear. Every assignment had a finite amount of time, and when the timer went off, they had to stop and submit their work. Even though the participants were given a fairly chunky bit of time, writing is not always easy.
You have to write often enough so that the structure becomes second nature. Once that structure is in place, it’s relatively easier to complete the article in time. But at the start, most of the clients didn’t finish in time.
It didn’t matter.
They had to submit their work
Once the timer went off, it was akin to an examination hall. You had to hand over your assignment. As you can imagine, this causes a fair level of frustration among the writers. They feel they need more time to complete their work; more time to edit it and perhaps polish it. And yet, it doesn’t matter.
If you write to a timer, you are acutely aware that you have to finish before your deadline. As I’m writing this piece, I know that I have to finish about 1600-2000 words in the next hour and a half and then the timer goes off.
The timer is an energy saver
Let’s do it your way for a change. Let’s say you keep writing until the article is done. And let’s assume that journey from start to finish took you four hours. You’re now wasted for the rest of the day, aren’t you?
You took on such a monumental task, but you’re completely drained and headed to the fridge to scoop up the remaining ice cream. But if you stopped in about 90 minutes, you’d be tired, but certainly not exhausted. You’d have to take a break, there’s no doubt about it, but you’re ready to go after a while.
Understanding how to manage your energy is a big deal in life
This article is about writing, but without a timer, your cake gets burnt, food has to be tossed, and articles are just about as inedible. The reason why most writers keep going for hours on end is because they believe they’re improving their article.
But I can tell you from years of experience, and having read close to a few thousand articles on the Article Writing Course itself. Time doesn’t make your article better. If you spend 50% more time on your article, it doesn’t get 50% better.
Instead if you break away, you do yourself a big favour
I had to learn this lesson because I didn’t realise the value of a timer. I just looked at the deadline and kept working towards it. And the deadline is a mirage. The only thing that counts is a timer. When the timer goes off, you’re done. On the Article Writing Course, clients don’t get a chance to keep tweaking their articles.
Instead, they just get better at writing, so that by the time they’re done with the course, they’re able to write at close to, or at the amount of time allocated. In your world, you may still need to meet that article deadline. Even so, let your article lie unfinished for today.
Tomorrow, set yourself another timer
Then come back, finish the article, give it that spit and polish and you’re done for this round. People often ask me how I get so much writing done in a week. The answer is not simple because it involves so many factors, but one of the biggest weapons in my armoury is the timer.
And just to be sure that I don’t get distracted, I put on a Facebook and Gmail block. I can’t surf the Internet, can’t do anything but write.
Get a timer
It’s hard to believe a timer can change your writing life, but it will.
You will learn to write faster because your timer demands it. And in doing so, your quality will improve.
You’ll have fewer articles in the article graveyard. You hear the bing, and you get up. Your work is done for the day.
Which takes us to the third part: No research when writing the article.
Click here to read part 2 of this series: How To Write Extremely Detailed Articles Without Getting Exhausted
Oh and before I go
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