Since the last time I took a timed test was in my newswriting classes in journalism school, I started thinking about whether timing your writing would help you improve your craft--and I came up with four ways I'd suggest to the writers I'm coaching:
- To reduce excessive rewrites: If you're wasting time agonizing and rewriting your pieces over and over, you're missing the chance to write more, or get lunch, or practice. Forcing yourself to finish within a tight time limit might just be the rubric you need to push your piece forward. Better: Time yourself, and don't allow rewrites.
- To hone your decision-making: All writing (and editing) is a series of choices. Do you struggle with yours? When you time your writing, you can see how you make those choices--and where you run out of time. And if you focus on improving your time, you'll learn how to make those decisions faster and better.
- In case of emergency: It's a core skill, not a frill, to know how to write well on a deadline. Once a month, set what seems like an irrational deadline -- in minutes instead of months, or a half-day instead of two weeks, or three articles in the time of one. Then do it again, with less time. By the time the crisis rolls around, you'll be ready.
- To find out what you need to work on next: Your best-honed skills will stand up to a time test. Your weak spots will show. Track where you stumble in a timed writing test, then focus on shoring up that skill.
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