Academic writing is an art in itself. I started my academic journey by studying journalism, where writing is done through a couple of formulas (simply said, the first sentence is the most important and has all the vital information and every next sentence is slightly less important and explains an aspect of the vital information). Sentences are supposed to be short and clear. In news writing, other than with more poetic forms of writing where a sentence can –like this one- go in three different directions before it’s pulled back, a sentence can’t be too confusing, have too many parts, or different meanings.
My first academic papers were a disaster because of those reasons. I wrote like a journalist (and not even a good one), whereas my peers who had more experience in writing papers made a lot of ‘mistakes’. Their sentences were too long, their words too expensive, and the build-up for their arguments too evident and formulaic. It took me longer than I’m willing to admit for me to learn from my lessons. I still try to write clear, but I’ve learned that longer sentences cut into different sections aren’t frowned upon as much. I also learned that a lot of my peers could write a lot faster. Because of this, I began to think that I’m too bad and better to buy essay online cheap, so as not to lag behind the rest. But I decided to gather my thoughts and decided that it was unnecessary to get up, you need to believe in yourself, and try to become better.
HOW TO LEARN FROM OTHER FORMS OF WRITING
I still did learn from my other writing experiences. I’ve dabbled with writing novels and read a thousand books on how to write a novel, how to build a solid structure (prompting the idea for my e-book) and my favorite, how to write faster. My favorite in the last category was a classic in the ‘writing fast genre’ by Rachel Aaron: 2K to 10K – how to write faster, write better, and write more of what you love. Although I think her third promise might be a stretch when it comes to writing a paper, there are some lessons from her fiction writing book that will teach you how to write a paper faster, and maybe even better.
RACHEL AARON’S PRINCIPLES OF WRITING FASTER, BETTER, AND WHAT YOU LOVE
Just like Aaron gives us three promises in the title of her book, she has three premises that form the basics of her productivity increase: knowledge, time, enthusiasm. I’ll briefly note what each of those mean, and then relate them to the art of academic writing and to show you how to write a paper faster.
According to the most-cited article on how to write a paper (23 citations according to Google Scholar), “when you can’t write, it is because you don’t know what you want to say” (Ashby, 2004). Rachel Aaron comes to the same conclusion. She notes how she would always open her laptop, start to write, and wait until she got stuck. One day, she closed her laptop in frustration and jotted down notes in a notebook. Since then, she has made this a habit. Before she starts writing, she dedicates five minutes of writing down (by hand) what she is going to write. This increased her daily word count from 2,000 to 5,000.
This is easy to relate to, but critically important. I wrote an entire book on how to structure your paper and how to know exactly what to write, how much to write of it, and where to put it, but your brain needs a refresher every time you sit down. Writing longhand will activate the parts of your brain that help you write as well. Every time you start to work on your paper, get the agenda for your writing block down on paper.
The second point is finding out where to find the height of your productivity. Maybe you’re more productive in the morning, or maybe your writing gets easier in the afternoon or evenings. I had a girlfriend who hated going past 10pm, but would get up at 4am to work on her paper to crank it out (about the time where I turned off the lights if I had to finish something). You probably already know your personal preference, but let’s go beyond that.
Try finding out locations where you work better. Coffee shops, libraries or empty office spaces are places where some people get much more productive. Taking a walk often gets your creativity going and helps you make connections while you’re away from your work (Charles Darwin famously walked to work out ideas). Try walking before you sit down to write, or as a break to let your thoughts get a broader perspective. If you decide to work at another location, try walking there, and use the creative ideas you get from working back home to write down some notes for the next day.
The above are all examples, but they all illuminate a vital practice: find the times and corresponding locations and habits at those times that help you work better. Every time I am deliberate about my habits, I work faster. Every time I decide to cut out my creativity walk to save some time, I pay for it in productivity (winning no time in the end). Measure your productivity at different times and places, analyze what works for you, and guard your peak times carefully.
The third point seems really specific to writing fiction. Aaron argues that if you don’t like what you’re writing, you’ll never really be productive. This makes sense. We’ve probably all had papers or homework that we preferred over other things, and cranking them out was a lot easier than the worst parts. I am fairly sure that I hated math because I always did it when my best energy was burned up on going beyond on the ‘fun’ stuff.
Sometimes it’s not easy to get excited about papers. They’re assigned to you, you can potentially fail them, and you have to fit them into a schedule that’s full with things that scream louder or involve friends and/or alcohol. But looking at the positive sides can help. You can get excited about doing great on an assignment, and maybe about finding a great case study. If all else fails, get excited about doing things well and in time, so you don’t have to worry about having to write your paper. Take pride in your ability to function well and sit down in the spirit of getting things done. Combined with the other two principles, it’s bound to help you write better papers.
Those are the three basics as told by Rachel Aaron, specifically altered to show you how to write a paper faster. You’ll notice that there are no real shortcuts. You’re still doing the work, but you’re enabling yourself to do it better and have more control over your writing. If that’s what you’re looking for, also take a look at my e-book. In it, I explain the five sections every paper has, and what to write in each of them. Writing a paper becomes a (rather dry) game of Mad Lips with the techniques I show you. If you liked this post, sign up for my newsletter below, and you’ll get similar advice right in your inbox.