How to save hours of writing time

I'm a big fan of Parks and Recreation. Amy Poehler is fantastic as Leslie Knope: her enthusiasm and her drive to over-deliver on everything hits pretty close to home.

There's one scene in the second or third season when her boss (Ron Swanson!) sits her down for a lesson about overextending herself, and he says this:

Never half ass two things. Whole ass one thing.

I mean, come ON. That's a LIFE LESSON. I can't overemphasize how much I love this, and how much I needed to hear it.

It's not just a great life lesson—it also applies to the task of writing. It's something I started doing a long time ago, sort of by accident, because it seemed more efficient to me.

The lesson is this:

Separate the task of writing from the task of editing.

In other words, don't half ass the writing and the editing by doing them at the same time. Whole ass each one separately.

Think about it: how often have you gone down a rabbit hole in the middle of your writing time? You'll sit there until the exact word you need comes to you, you'll stop to tinker with a sentence until it's perfect, or you'll go back to find that missing reference. Which, if it involves searching the Internet, may get you sidetracked into watching little dogs fall off big couches.

What you're actually doing is blending the tasks of writing and editing instead of treating them separately. This is really inefficient, and it probably drives you nuts.

STOP IT. Whole ass your writing, then whole ass your editing.

How do you do this? I'll lay out the basics this week and then in the next few weeks I'll go into each one in more detail.

In the writing phase:

  • Map it out
  • Take a dump (as in a brain dump - but the other kind might also help!)
  • Resist the urge to tinker or do additional research in the writing phase
  • Use placeholders to maintain momentum

In the editing phase:

Separating writing from editing is so much more efficient. Trust me on this.


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What's the most useful thing you learned about separating writing from editing? What happened when you tried this? Tell me in the comments!