How to Speed-write on Medium
Get your writing out of the Draft Limbo
No, I’m not going to write about correct grammars or techniques like picking splash images or breaking up your long trains of text into headlined sections. I’m talking about choosing to write about something and Actually Nailing It™ as fast as you can.
Most of the more successful articles I wrote on Medium were written in one sitting. This isn’t because they were more fun to read, correct, or precise. It is simply because they got published and survived the Draft Limbo.
When you stop your writing half-way, save it to draft, and go do something else, it is much less likely you will ever come back to finish it. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but it happens to a lot of us with other responsibilities. We might not have the luxury of sitting back down, revisit our halfway draft, and pick up where we left off with the same flow we had when we started out. We end up with so countless ruins of text stuck in the Draft Limbo for eternity. (Look no further, I have so many myself it takes a few scroll to see them all.)
As with the case of most online content, on Medium, you should publish often than not. Having your writing out there give your audience a sense that you’re a dedicated writer and an better idea about topics you care to write about (this helps you too, since the topics you most often publish about are the ones you care the most to finish). Publishing often also gives you more visibility to other readers who otherwise might not have noticed you outside of your niche. This is different from writing a conventional long-form book or research material obviously because your online articles have much less time to catch the attention of the readers. Moreover, speed-writing is a good writing exercise. It helps you to let go of the overthinking syndrome plaguing many of us in today’s over-informed world. It helps you to curb your ego and perfectionism, the two most common enemies to getting things done.
When it strikes, don’t wait
When you are suddenly struck by an idea so strong you feel the urge to write it down, don’t wait. Ditch everything you’re doing (unless you’re driving, of course). Get behind your keyboard and start typing in the way you would share it with your friends over glasses of wine. Don’t get distracted by erratas and red lines. You can come back to fix them later. Don’t bother formatting your text or headers either. The goal is to get to the end or at least the meat of the article down in crude form, as if you were jotting down something quickly. If there are things you need to research about, make comments right within the writing where you would insert external references.
The point of speed-writing is to capture the fresh moment when you are hit by an idea and the natural flow is still on your side (for me, the natural flow normally lasts for up to 20 minutes undisturbed). You don’t have to publish instantly, but you should expect to only be proofreading, revising, and filling in researched texts when you come back, not working on the main idea where you need to channel the flow back once again.
Find the right time
Unfortunately, you can’t control when the next big idea will strike. However, it will more likely do when you are alone, well-rested, and relaxed than when you’re occupied with work or chores around the house. I usually wake up early in the morning before anyone else so I can have to to be with myself, meditate, squeeze in a small workout rep, and start the thinking. I know I have a 20–30-minute natural flow period, and being up in the morning make sure I can have that block of time to myself if I so choose to write. Remember, the key is to be able to quickly sit down and speed-write your thoughts down, not the thoughts themselves.
Finding ideas to write about
This is one of the most difficult thing for a writer. But here is a trick that works for me — think about things you’ve encountered in detail without judging or identifying with them. Let them come like a passing train and you’re the witness on the station’s platform. Don’t try to stop and investigate anything in particular until something really clicks. Most of the time, you won’t be writing about big, world-changing ideas. In fact, there were rarely one single big idea that truly changed the world. Most big ideas are culmination of smaller ones from many thinkers collectively combined to form something spectacular. So don’t strive to be that big thinker. Relax, and accept that you can be the small thinker (and writer) who might very well have the chance at inspiring others to build bigger ideas. This way, you won’t feel the pressure to only write about big topics that can often hamper speed-writing.
👋🏼 Hello there! I’m Pan, a first-gen immigrant, designer, and self-taught technologist currently living in the west coast with my family. I’ve started to write more about things I care as a person outside of the tech world, like family value, meditation, self-awareness, privacy, freedom, and of course writing. I’m also interested in helping people to become better in what they do, or just become better.
If you have similar interests or just need someone to share about things ( tech is fine too), please feel free to drop me a message on Twitter or ask to connect with me on Signal.