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How to write efficiently. Practice ‘bad writing’

“Bad writing precedes good writing,” Janet Hulstrand writes. She advices to not waste time trying to avoid bad writing. Anything you write up can be changed. Just get started and go from there.

Let’s take this further. Writing problems are almost always made worse by cognitive overload, an unrealistic plan, trying to do too much at once, or ‘perfectionism.’ You can read up more about this here and here. It’s not helpful to tell students to ‘just start’ and ‘go do it’ when it is obvious that they can’t manage on their own. Fortunately, simple but effective strategies exist to make you unstuck. One little, but efficient, exercise is to practice ‘bad writing.’ Jot ideas, comments and critique on a page without even thinking about how it looks. This is surprisingly difficult at first. Some people freeze after even a couple of words. They become introspective. When anxiety, frustration and self-doubt take over, nothing works any longer.

Efficient writers have no trouble jotting words down at lightning speed. They know that the result will only barely resemble a ‘text.’ But it gives them something to work with. It makes them think. The chaos on the page helps to order the thoughts in their mind. The ‘trick’ is a bit of a learning process: try to write without evaluating yourself. Practising ‘bad writing’ is a way of dealing with mental barriers. It makes the task of ordering your thoughts and expressing yourself less hard because it decreases reflexivity and self-censorship. Practicing ‘bad writing’ will not only make you a better writer, it will help you think better. It is really of no use to push it when you are stuck. You push yourself into a corner where there is no efficiency left. Take a break instead. Do something you like. Try not to think about your work. When you feel up to it, try to jot some comments on a piece of paper. 

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