When you’re productivity driven like I am, you might find it difficult to justify the time it takes to write. As irksome as it might be on our tight schedules, writing takes time and it takes work. Personally I find it very hard to estimate the time required for a writing project because completion time can vary so widely.

My college English Composition course had a description that basically promised to conquer all the problems of staring at an empty page and trying desperately to write. I wish it had, but there are still times when I find myself wondering how to get started. There are no hard and fast rules guaranteed to work for everyone in every situation, but I do have a few tips you might find helpful.

My first tip for writing a good piece is to know where you’re going. This is where college papers can be a bit of a mixed blessing. You usually have a relatively detailed assignment so you know where you’re supposed to go. The only problem is that sometimes you don’t want to go there, at least not before the deadline they gave you. Another upside of detailed assignment descriptions is that you have a benchmark to measure your success. It is usually pretty obvious when you’ve succeeded in meeting the qualifications for the piece.

A second way to write successfully, and quickly is to give yourself time. It never works to rush yourself and write the whole paper 3 hours before the deadline. Okay, it usually doesn’t work. One of my professors told me a story about how she scrapped the whole paper she was doing and wrote a new 40 page paper the day before the deadline. Personally I try to stay away from that, because I find it’s much more manageable to get started on the paper and take little bites as the deadline gets closer. When you sidestep the pressure of the ticking clock, it’s much easier to keep on track and write quality stuff.

Third, do your research. It’s really hard to write about something you don’t know about. A much easier way to tackle the writing is to read up on your subject before you get started. That way you don’t have to make things up as you go along, and of course you are able to seem more knowledgeable. The process doesn’t feel forced and things tend to flow much more coherently.

One of the biggest problems I have with writing is that sometimes I just don’t feel like it. The topic isn’t right or the time isn’t right. If it isn’t one, it’s usually the other. Now if you haven’t studied up on the subject and given yourself plenty of lead time, you can get into a real pickle as the clock runs out. By getting an early start I’m able to pick the times I write and stay with times when I feel inspired. That way I can do my best work, and as an added bonus, I usually work more quickly, which keeps the productivity side of me happy.

What are your favorite ways to make writing easier, quicker or more productive?