Is writing making you tired? Is there a way to overcome exhaustion when writing?
When we think of writing, we automatically assume it's the act of sitting down at the computer and creating a new article, report or book. What we seem to miss is that there are other factors that come well before the writing process that drain us more than the writing itself.
What's even more important is that there is a way to avoid the other factors—those minefields easily. While writing may still be difficult, there's no reason to make it even harder than it is.
Let's find out how to remove the unnecessary obstacles that are making us so tired while writing.
Right click below to save this episode.
Re-release: Why Writing Is So Exhausting (And How You Can Make It Less Of A Chore)
Original: Why Writing Is So Exhausting
This article is an AI-generated transcript.
Here's a question. Do you know what is the top-selling furniture product at Ikea?
Okay. Do you want a clue? Ikea has sold 110 million pieces of this furniture since it was introduced in 1978. Still don't know what it is? It's Billy, Billy, Billy!
Billy the bookcase has sold 110 million pieces. And amazing as that sounds, it's not the best selling product at Ikea. The best selling product is not a piece of furniture at all, but instead meatballs! Over a billion meatballs have been sold, and that's a ratio that's 22 times greater than Billy the bookcase.
This means the best selling product of a furniture store—is not furniture at all.
And this ties in nicely with what we're going to cover today, which is about article writing. And why we find it so exhausting to write an article. We often think that it's because of the topic or because of something that has to do with the article itself.
But this is the kind of like the Ikea story.
We think the main thing is the furniture, furniture, furniture, but the meatball bit can't be left out. The same applies to article writing. We are fixated with writing the article, but that's not always what we need to focus on.
It could be something else that we're doing that's causing all the trouble. It's not about the writing itself. It's about all the other stuff.
What is that other stuff?
The three things we're going to cover on article writing are:
1- The timing of the writing deadline.
2- How you approach your editing process when writing articles.
3- And finally, it's the result.
Let's start with the first one, which is if you write on the day of the deadline.
1- The timing of the writing deadline.
One of the things that I was really proud of when I was creating a presentation in Keynote was how long it took me to do such a task. It would often take me three weeks to four weeks. That's a whole month to do a single presentation. And I wore that like a badge of honour.
When I was making presentations on stage, I'd be sure to let the organizer know that it took a whole month to do that presentation. The presentations were good. They had tight animation.
They had loads of cartoons. And when you looked at the presentation, it looked like at least two, three weeks work, if not a month's work.
However, in time I found that I could do this in 15 days and then eventually in three days. This is precisely what I did when I had to make a presentation for the Brain Audit Webinar Series.
I waited for the last three days. And this is not uncommon for most of us when we have a deadline; we know when the deadline is showing up.
And usually, we are going to procrastinate until the very last moment. And at this point, I'm going to guess what you're thinking. You're going to think. Well, there's so much pressure. It's so frustrating. That's why it's exhausting.
No, no, no. Yes. There's no doubt that there is pressure because you're doing everything at the last minute, and you don't have breathing space if a computer stops working, or if someone has to go to the doctor or just about anything has to happen.
Now you did, you don't have any leeway, but that's not the main problem.
The main problem in writing is not in writing itself but about thinking and discussing.
- An article starts with an outline or a topic, just a random topic. It doesn't have to be the final headline. It could be just a random topic.
- And then after that, what you've got to do is think about it. Why are you writing this article?
- And then comes the discussion part. I tend to do this both on WhatsApp or through some messenger, or even on the forum in 5,000 BC or when I'm speaking to Renuka or anybody that I meet and what's happening is I'm clarifying the concepts in my head.
And nothing has been written down on paper yet.
When I follow that kind of system, then I start to edit. And this is the beauty of any kind of creative skill, whether it's writing or photography, or just about anything; the crux becomes what you keep out of it, what you get rid of.
We get stuck with writing because we're trying to put in too much stuff.
Too much stuff confuses us, confuses the reader, confuses everybody. It's very crucial not to be writing on the last three days.
If it takes you three days to create something, you cut out the thinking and discussing time, and that's when it becomes more frustrating. Everything is so much more tedious.
And this first point goes to show that it's not about the deadline.
The deadline can be crushing. But if we have that breathing space, then we think better. And when we think better, we move all the elements better. And then eventually, the writing is still frustrating, but not as frustrating as before.
Now, admittedly, no one can give you this magic bullet. We all know that we should be doing stuff in advance, and we don't do it.
But if you're wondering, why do I feel this way? Every single time?
It's because you're waiting for the last minute. You can't fix this problem by waiting for the last minute. You have to be circling the airport a few times before you get that clearance to land.
That's the first thing that you need to look at. Are you writing for the deadline with just the allocated time? Well, that's problem number one, which takes us to problem number two, namely editing.
2) How you approach your editing process when writing articles.
We've been conducting article writing courses all the way from 2005, I think. And I have never met anyone – Who's not a perfectionist.
Every single client that we've ever had has been a perfectionist. So if you say, Oh wait, I'm a perfectionist at writing, then you're not someone special. Every single person that you will meet, or I will meet, is also a perfectionist at writing, which kind of begs the question:
What do you mean by perfectionist?
And when you ask people, what do you mean by you're a Perfectionist. They say, “Well, I can't submit any sloppy stuff. So I go back, and I edit everything, and I spend a lot of time with the starting paragraph. And then I go back, and it takes a long time to edit everything, to clean it up, to make it really good.”
Well, here's some news for you. Nobody's work is good. And we know this to be true because you can test it right now. Look at what you've written today.
And then you can look at that work three years from now. And then you can look at the work five years from now. The more space you have between now and five years, the more you will find today's work to be shoddy.
And this is for everyone. And this is for everything.
If I look back on the podcast that I created five years ago, well, they're very sloppy, and you don't have to take my word for it. Just go and scroll all the way down to the first Three Month Vacation podcast, and you will find that's not so great after all. So I don't go back and listen to the old podcast.
What has this got to do with writing?
The point is you can do much better, and you can become more of the perfectionist that you want to be by writing more frequently. Then by cleaning up one piece endlessly.
And this is what used to happen on the earlier article writing course.
We didn't have an allocation of time. We used to have just an assignment. So you have to write an article and then off you go write the article. And it only occurred to me that there was a problem when one of my clients said that she was spending three hours every night writing an article.
And of course, she was spending about an hour writing the article and then two hours editing it. And it might sound excessive to you that someone would go through so much trouble to clean up an article. The reality is that no matter how much she cleaned up the article, it was only about 2% or 3% better.
I'm plucking that figure out of thin air, which is to say the edited/perfectionist article was barely better than the one-hour-uneditied article.
On our article writing course, we started to put in timings.
As in: you have to write this article within an hour or within 45 minutes. And when that timer goes off, you have to stop.
And then you get 20-30 minutes to edit. But no more than that. The reason for that is that if you're exhausted from writing this article, and then you spend another big chunk of time editing the article, then your article is not much better, which is really sad when you think about it, because we all want to do the best that we can.
But it's not much better.
What makes the article better is for you to write the next day and the day after and the day after.
So frequency becomes the way that you get better at article writing; frequency becomes the way that writing becomes part of the system, and then you don't get so exhausted trying to be a perfectionist.
There is no perfectionism at all in the system that we've been following, which is to go back and clean it and edit it. And no, it doesn't work that way.
So here's what you need to do.
Step one: You need to have a timer set for one hour. I don't think you should spend more than an hour writing a single article. You have to finish writing the article from the beginning to the end.
This is not taking all the outlining and thinking. This is just you started writing, and you finished writing in one hour.
And then you allocate just 20 minutes for editing. Again, another timer goes off, and you stop. Now, if you keep space between writing and editing, you aren't rushing towards a deadline; well, your editing will be so much better.
So instead of 3%, maybe the article will be 4% better, but that's it.
The only way you can remove the exhaustion is to write on a consistent basis.
And the reason for this is very simple.
When we write on a regular basis, what we're doing is we're making mistakes, and we don't know the mistakes we're making, but our brain works out, “Oh, you did this today”.
And now you're doing that tomorrow. And it kind of fixes the mistakes, doing a course, learning how to write that, kind of remove some of the mistakes as well.
But editing is a curse
It's a curse, not because of anything, but because it's not improving your article as much as you think it is.
I have seen hundreds and hundreds of articles, and they've been edited to death, and they're not improving at the rate that the writer things to improving, and the writer can see this themselves years down the line, or even months down the line.
So do yourself a favour. Start two timers and get going.
And that's when you will find that instead of three hours of writing, you're only going to spend an hour and then later in the day or later, next day, you can do some editing and you're on your way. And that's when you find, Oh, wait, this article isn't as frustrating as exhausting.
Again, it's still hard work until you become very good at it.
But at least it's not as demoralizing as it is right now. That brings us to the end of the second part.
- The first thing is the deadline— If you're too close to the deadline, no breathing space, you're in trouble.
- The second thing is you're writing to that crazy deadline, but you're also editing like crazy thinking.
Your article is going to be 200% better or 300% better. Nope. 3% better.
Maybe, maybe. It's not worth spending all that time for 3%. Just tidy it up two months from now. That's when you'll have a better article two years from now.
This takes us to the third part, which is probably the most crucial of all.
3 – And finally, it's the result.
And precisely why article writing is so frustrating. What's it about ? What do you want the customer to do or think once you're done with the article?
Here's a little test, pick seven or eight random articles on the internet. And then just by the headline, try and figure out what is the result that they're trying to get.
And then maybe read the first paragraph. If you have some time and try and figure decipher, what kind of result you are going to get after reading that article, and you can do this on YouTube.
You can do this on podcasts. You can do this anywhere. Just try within the first few minutes. What is going to happen once you get to the end and I'm going to make it slightly easier for you.
I'm going to just pick some from YouTube because it's the same thing. That's just content anyway. Okay. Here's the first topic, iPad tips and tricks. Everything you need to know about the iPad.
Can you see the result? No, you can't. You can't cover it or everything in a single article. Of course, it's going to go off on a tangent.
Here is the second video title. And that is the best cheapest espresso setup, which is under 250 pounds. Is that promising a result? I think so you're going to have two or three units and you're going to look at which ones are the best ones.
And, and here's the third one, another coffee. How managing the temperature of the water improves the taste of the coffee?
And this simple strategy of knowing what results the client is going to get when they finish the article enables you to direct them precisely to that spot.
There's no fluffing in wondering where is this article going? No, you have a destination. And you can see this right in the headline. Even if it's a random headline, it's not a polished headline, it's just a working topic.
It doesn't matter. You can see that there is no result when we get to the end. There is no result. And because of that, the writer is also confused. The thoughts are confused. The ideas are confused. The discussion that follows from there is confused.
And then you're struggling, and this is not just for articles or videos, but even when I'm writing a book, I'll look at that section of that chapter and go, when the reader comes to the end of this page, or when the reader comes to the end of this section, what do they feel or what has changed their mindset or what can they do?
And when you have that kind of focus about when I get to the end, when the reader gets to the end, what's going to happen, are there a thought process or a physical change in what they do?
It doesn't matter, but you've set out in advance. What's going to happen in the end. And this is a beautiful process because it makes your life so simple as a writer.
Not easy, but much simpler than if you just wander into the article and go, okay, I'm just going to write an article. No, what's going to happen at the end.
If you determine that the title of your article changes, the tone of your article changes, everything changes. And of course it speeds up things because you know, I'm headed here.
It's like a road trip, you know exactly what you're going. And you're not just running left and right. Any place at all, you following a predetermined pathway and not surprisingly, that takes out a lot of the frustration from writing
We set out on a mission didn't we? We didn't look at writing and structure and how the headline works and how you need to start.
No, we looked at the outside stuff, the diversions, the things that get in your way that have nothing to do with the process of writing itself, which means that the next time you sit down to write, you should have these three things in front of you.
Or at least remember them so that you don't have the same problem. The first of course was the deadline.
We all know that we want to procrastinate and everybody procrastinates, you're not special, but procrastinate with some breathing time with at least doubled the breathing time, because you want to think it through, you want to discuss it.
And that's what makes it easier, easier to get rid of the stuff that gets in the way. Just by the discussion, you get clarity. As you find with many discussions, you get more clarity as you have to express yourself over and over again. And if you don't have that space, you're stuck. You only have that limited time.
And then if anything goes wrong, well, we know how that rolls out. Don't we? The second point is that everybody is a perfectionist. There is no such thing while I've never seen anyone. Who's not a perfectionist.
When it comes to writing. And yet I've never seen anyone whose work has improved a hundred percent or 50% or even 10% just because they spent all that additional time on editing.
What I have seen is that people who write on a consistent basis, they improve quite dramatically in a month. In two months and three months, you find it's much easier.
Your best friend and your most hated enemy is the timer. Keep a timer for the article, keep a timer for the editing, and you will find that the whole process is a lot less exhausting.
However, and this is the one thing that you have to remember if you don't know the result, when that article is written, when the reader comes to the last line or the last slide or the last, whatever, there should be a result.
And you should determine that result in advance. So if it is about how to change the temperature of the water and you get a better coffee now, you know exactly the direction that you need to go in.
And there's none of that fluffing around. I can't tell you how much of a relief it is when you know, precisely what the result is going to be.
And in today's world, where there are so many of these articles that are just nonsense. Your article stands out. Your video stands out just from the headline itself.
Forget about the article. Just the headline itself says this person has determined in advance where they're going, and that brings us to the end of this podcast. Determine your results in advance, and you see how much easier it's going to be to write articles.
A quick summary
1- If you write on the day of the deadline.
2- If you take more than 20 minutes to edit your work.
3- If you have no clue what the reader must do/or think when they finish reading your piece.