It used to take me forever to finish writing an article
Ok, maybe not forever, but it sure felt like it.
Conservatively, it’d take me at least 2 weeks to finish an article though.
Yeah, you read that right – 14 days to do something that even mediocre writers can get done in a couple hours.
The sad part is, I’m not talking about monster 5,000 word essays either.
It took me that long just to write a simple 800-1000 word article.
That was before I learned the power of writing constraints
Writing constraints are just self-imposed limitations on your articles.
They’re kind of like guardrails for your writing – they help keep you on track until you get to your destination.
And they’re a great tool for helping you finish your articles faster.
Adding constraints to my writing process helped me go from writing one article every two weeks to being able to publish an article a day.
There are a bunch of constraints you can use, but I keep coming back to the same three most of the time.
The first is a time constraint
Every serious journalist works under a deadline.
That’s because their editors know if they didn’t give them a deadline, nothing would ever get published.
It’s called Parkinson’s Law – “work expands to fill the time allotted to it.”
However long you give yourself to complete an article, that’s how long it’s going to take you.
Personally, if I don’t set a deadline I’ll never finish the article.
I’ll just keep re-thinking, re-writing and polishing it until it’s “perfect” – which it never is.
But knowing that, ready or not, tomorrow at 9am the article is getting published, gets me to quit screwing around and start writing.
Not only do I use a deadline, but I also use a timer when I write.
That’s how bad it is, I need TWO time constraints to get anything done!
The second is an outline constraint
It’s easy to get carried away when you’re outlining an article.
One idea leads to another, which leads to another, and leads to another…
It doesn’t take long before you have this monster outline sitting in front of you and any motivation you had to write is shattered.
That’s where having an outline constraint helps – it keeps your outline from bloating out of control.
Every article I write, I limit myself to one main point – a single message.
And under that main point I only allow myself 3 “sub-points” to reinforce the main point I’m writing about.
Having those constraints keeps my outline in check, gives my article some structure and makes it easier to start writing.
The third is a word constraint
The same way you can get carried away with outlining, it’s easy for the length of your articles to get out of control too.
That’s because we typically know a lot about the topic we’re writing about.
And we have a tendency to try to jam everything we know into that single article. As if it’s the last one we’re ever going to write.
The thing is, we’re writing an article, not a book.
Establishing a word count before you start writing helps you get to the point faster and keeps your article from expanding out of control.
I used constraints to write this article
I wanted to write about a single point – constraints help you write faster.
When I started outlining, I limited it to 3 constraints I use to write faster.
There are dozens of constraints I could write about, but I capped it at 3.
Then I gave myself 750 words to work with. If I can’t say what I need to say in 750 words, I’m rambling too much.
Finally, I used a timer. I gave myself 90 minutes to write. Another 15 minutes to edit. Then I hit publish and moved on with my day.
If it weren’t for those constraints, I’d still be outlining an article called “52 Constraints That’ll Help You Write Faster”.
And it might get published next month. Or the month after that…
The only reason you’re reading this right now is because I used constraints.
Try setting constraints when you write your next article
Establish a deadline to have your article finished by.
Limit your outline to a few main points.
And stick to a reasonable word count.
Having a few constraints in place will make writing that article so much easier, faster and less overwhelming.