How To Write More & Faster: Guide To Putting Your Thoughts On Paper

Credit: Dilbert by Scott Adams

Why is it so painful to get started on something new? 

It is a worthwhile question to ask: How do we begin to conquer the slow-to-start beginning of the writer’s day once and for all?

The writer’s block in its essential form is about subconscious perfectionism. Let’s examine how to overcome this all too common human experience.

A writer’s desire to produce works with such qualities as good, original and worthy, combined with his ability to judge good (difficult to do) and bad (easy to do), lies at the roots of our tendencies to procrastinate in the beginning of writing.

When you are starting a writing project, your subconscious mind perceives a huge gap between the final product – a great piece of work (for which it correctly judges as difficult to do), and your desire to produce it (an intense emotion). For as long as the mind does not know how to bridge this gap, the ongoing mental conflict causes the writer’s paradoxical inaction.

No-fail method for overcoming the start.

How do we trick ourselves into letting go of irrational perfectionist tendencies?

We stay away from scaring the mind with a big difficult goal. Instead, we divide the task up into many goals.

This approach helps you mentally in two important ways.

One, your mind is no longer burdened with the knowledge that it is undertaking a big, unsurmountable obstacle. Instead, you see a series of simple tasks you would never feel anxious about.

If you want to be motivated, keep dividing until each unit of your goal becomes impossibly easy.

Yes, that means dividing up your writing into small, small units. If you have had some writing experience , divide your task into paragraphs. If you are just starting out with writing, divide up your task in sentences.

Can you come up with one great sentence? Take a break, you finished one off. The next task you have to do? The same easy task. You already know you can do it.  All you ever have to worry about is to write one great sentence.

This approach can be similarly applied towards difficult readings (1 page a day!), musical instrument practice (just do one exercise for 10 minutes! ) and even programming (try writing one good function!).

This brings us to our next point:

Two, if you use our goal setting strategy, you feel more productive, more often, when you cross off those goals one by one. This is good conditioning for your brain since the rewarding feeling you get when you finish a goal is telling the brain to do more of the same thing. This means with practice, your brain learns to find the task more intrinsically rewarding. Magic happens.

Effortless motivation explained.

The principle of using systems instead goals can easily be the single biggest difference maker in your motivation levels.

In simple terms, this is all about keeping the deadline in your side mirrors and not the dashboard. Instead you focus on designing the processes (“Systems”) based on an understanding of yourself.

Scott McAdam’s, says about the idea “Systems vs Goals” in his book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big“, which was delightfully filled with golden nuggets of his personal principles, in an incredibly funny voice you’d expect from the creator of Dilbert:

“Willpower is a finite resource. Don’t pick a model that has failure built into it and requires you constantly drain a finite resource.”

There are two parts to this philosophy:

Don’t waste effort lamenting about your lack of willpower. Doing so depresses your esteem for yourself and creates the type of subconscious perfectionist tension we talked about in part one, which leads to further procrastination.

Focus on the model.  A model here is a explanatory system that works on principles of psychology so you don’t need to exert will power.


Leaving the last paragraph of a piece of writing to be finished at another time.

This model relies on the brain’s desire for closure and completion. This model by design gives you a boost of motivation and allows you to get your day started faster.

Contrast the difference to the “will power” model: how much easier to start the day knowing you are finishing the end of a writing project vs. knowing you have to start the beginning of a brand new project, even if both are of the same length?

Wrapping up:

There is a lively inner world inside each writer. With systems, you can design your way of working, banish apathy and procrastination, and consistently output your thoughts on paper. Not only that, you can get faster and faster at it this virtuous cycle of learning. It all starts with an understanding of you.