Writing Productively

Writing Productively

-Written By Dr. Rebecca Cory

Headshot-Summer14Leadership Faculty Dr. CoryI have a reputation around the office for being a productive writer. If you want something done quickly, I can do it. I’m often asked how I can write so much so quickly. Here are some of my tips.

 Write Now, Edit Later

When you have an idea, and have done the appropriate research and outlining, just write. Sit down at your computer and type until you have the required word count. Do not worry, on the first draft, if the phrasing is correct, or even if the sentences are complete and the spelling is correct. It is much easier to edit something than it is to produce something. So write. Then come back later, a day later is ideal, but even an hour will do, and edit the writing.


Writing, like other disciplines, takes practice. Part of how I became a productive writer through the amount of writing I did during my doctoral studies. Having to write 10-20 pages, or more, a week, helped me know how to write efficiently. Since then, I make sure I write at any opportunity I have.

 Stay Focused

One of the drawbacks of writing on a computer is that there are constant distractions. Your email may beep with a new message, or a topic you are writing about my lead you down a Google rabbit hole. Do your best to tune out distractions. You do have the ability to turn off the email pop-ups and pings, so do so. If you want to Google (or library research) the latest idea for your writing, set a timer and return to the written page after a brief set period. Similarly, train your coworkers, children, spouses or housemates to not disturb you when you are writing. If you are unable to do this, leave the environment and find one where you will be left undisturbed.

 Good enough is good enough

“Do not let perfection be the enemy of good” (Voltaire). Writing can always be edited. Sometimes I read articles I published years ago and see elements or phrasing that I would like to revise. Resist this temptation. Writing is a process that will fill the space you allow. Be aware of when the revisions are giving you diminishing returns and let go (read my earlier blog about letting go here).

 Finally Self-Monitor Productivity

Sometimes I sit and stare at a blank page for 15 min, getting nowhere. Even when the deadline is pressing, I get up and do something else. It is easy to get caught in the trap of feeling that all you should be doing until this project is done is working on it. But that is not always realistic. Your brain needs a break. Your body needs a break. And sometimes the ideas will come to you when you are doing something else. Monitor your productivity, and if you really are stuck for 15 or 30 minutes, get up and do something else. Take a walk around the block, do your dishes, talk to a coworker. Then go back to the writing with a fresh perspective.

Dr. Rebecca Cory is an associate faculty member and the associate program director for higher education at City University of Seattle’s School of Applied Leadership.


Published December 12, 2014



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