How to Write an Article in 20 Minutes


Jim Estill

Believe it or not, it only takes me 20 minutes to write a 400-500 word article. This article (which I wrote in 20 minutes) explains some of the tricks I use to accomplish this.

Blogging gives me a daily deadline, and I don’t really want to spend more than 20 minutes each day on blogging. Many of my blog entries are actually less than 500 words so take me less time.

Taking up blogging got me to start thinking seriously about writing quickly, and you may be facing a blogging time-crunch as well. So here are my 8 tips for writing an article in 20 minutes or less.

  1. I start with a list of ideas and concepts I want to cover. Usually I write this list in point form. For me, I do this the old fashioned way, with a pen and paper.
  2. I often “incubate” an article for a few days (this does not count in the 20 minutes). What I do is start roughing out some topic ideas then leave it. Because I have thought about it, ideas tend to come to me that I frequently add to my points. Of course I always carry a notebook for ideas.
  3. I often need to reduce the number of ideas that I cover. Sometimes they do not fit with the angle of the article or do not flow with the other ideas. Sometimes I have to give up a point to write a good article.
  4. Never save a good idea. When I know I have many article deadlines to meet, it is tempting to “save” a few good ideas for later. New ideas will always come so always give your best ideas.
  5. Develop tricks to get past writers block. One way I do this is ”warm up” writing. I just sit down and write for 5 minutes. This tends to help subsequent writing to flow. Another way I do this is to go for a walk, cycle or a run (although sometimes I think I might use this to procrastinate a bit too). Another trick I use is to make a game out of the deadline – say I will do it by X o’ clock. Perhaps I am simple but this motivates me.
  6. Come back to it later. My best articles are written partly, revisited a few times, then finished. I spend the same 20 minutes, though only 5-7 minutes per session. Of course if the ideas are flowing well, I do keep writing.
  7. I often write 3-4 articles at the same time. Spending 5 minutes on one, 7 on another etc. When I am really in writing flow, this works well.
  8. One trick is using bullet points or numbered points as in this article. People seem to like this technique and it helps articles flow for me.

So if I can write so quickly, why don’t I write a few articles each day? Apart from the fact that I have a very full time job, writing is the easy part; coming up with the ideas is the tough part.

Ideas anyone?

About the Author: Jim Estill is the CEO of Canadian computer product company SYNNEX and the author of the Time Leadership blog and book.

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