Here’s the one crucial thing you must do before you write

It’s not sharpening your pencils, nor changing the typewriter ribbon, nor even cleaning pretzel crumbs off your keyboard. Hint: It could involve taking a walk or, possibly, grooming Fido.

Ragan Insider Premium Content
Ragan Insider Content

Each of those mistakes deserves its own column, but today let’s talk about the downside of the last one—writing to figure out what you want to say. Here’s why it’s a bad idea: Thinking while you write creates too much work.

Of course, we all need to think—a little bit—while we write, otherwise, how would we get any words down on paper (or the screen)? However, starting to write before you spend some dedicated time thinking is only going to create way too much work for you.

Crunching the numbers

If you’re working on a paper (or a book chapter) of 8,000 words and you write at a rate of 300 words an hour—which is what many academic clients tell me is their speed—it will take you almost 27 hours to write the first draft.

Let’s imagine you don’t know what you want to say. Instead, your plan is to start writing and figure it out as you go. The inevitable result? You’ll probably have to write 2,000 words (or perhaps even more) to figure out your point. That’s an addition of almost seven hours of writing time alone. Who would sign up for seven unnecessary hours of work?

Even worse, however, is the mindset you’ll have to adopt for this sort of writing.

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.