6 August 2020
Thoughts on Speed Writing
by Rachel Shu
A friend of mine used to ghostwrite papers. As I recall, they could turn out 2 or 3 essays a day, equivalent to 20 or 30 pages. If I had to write that much per day, how would I do it?
Don’t focus on generating new insights.
- I’m sure I would end up making some along the way.
- Very little is new under the sun. Often the point of writing is only to show understanding, or quality of thought.
Minimize research time.
- Prioritize finding relevant sources and cap at a certain limit. These are not exhaustive academic papers for publication.
- Focus on abstracts, or topic paragraphs, and hunt for quotes in the rest. Don’t try too hard to understand.
Outline to a general template.
- I hated templates and tried to abandon them; I’d find a sturdy but flexible one if I was under time-pressure.
Practice and practice and practice.
- Doing it day after day would certainly help; writing to a deadline might be necessary.
- I haven’t done well with the kind of deadlines and unserious consequences I have let myself have in the past.
- I would cut other tasks to a minimum, try to knock it out as early in the day as I could. It becomes like a job - no time off to cook lunch, eat a sandwich and get back to work.
I don’t plan to ever write that much per day. But even if I only write for 2 hours a day, I could probably hit 5 medium-quality pages per hour, by focusing on efficiency. I’ll try to do that - after all, quantity becomes quality.