Los Angeles, CA

How to Write Like Your Hair is on Fire

Ryan Porter


Photo by Nijwam Swargiary on Unsplash

Write better blog posts, faster

One of my best friends is on the frontlines in Oregon. He’s fighting the fires that are ravaging the west coast. He’s been gone for the past few months, and he needs all the thanks in the world for his services.

These fires are getting out of control. I’m not here to go off about climate change, but the fires are on my mind. I live in Los Angeles, and our air quality has been severely affected by the smoke.

As a result, I’ve been stuck inside all weekend with nothing to do but stare at my fantasy football lineups and write blog posts.

Though I had extra time, I didn’t feel motivated to write much this weekend. This is a feeling we can all relate to. For many, writing is more of a painful task than it is a fun hobby. Though I like to write, some days it just feels like a chore.

Unbore the writing chore

With the fires on my mind, I racked my brain for ways to trick myself into writing. I thought, “what if my hair was on fire, and the only way to put it out is to write a blog as fast as possible.”

I thought of different ways to tap into my speedy potential. I wanted to find the right balance between writing quickly, but also coherently. There’s no use in writing gibberish my readers can’t read.

I locked in. I spent an entire afternoon glued to my computer screen. I wrote until I could feel the heat rising from my keyboard.

Funny enough, even after going into a flow state and typing without remorse, the words I wrote still made sense. I actually maintained a high level of thinking.

Your mindset, environment, and execution all have to be tuned to the same chord. Here’s how to do it.

Write like you have nothing to lose

We all want to be viral authors on the Internet. We want to type the best content as fast as we can. We also want to get our work out there for the world to see. The problem is that we worry too much about the outcome.

What happens if I spend three hours on a piece and it doesn’t get picked up by a publisher?

It is unfortunate when you spend time on a story, crafted specifically for a certain publisher, and they reject it. I’ve been there. Actually, I’ve been there many times. It happens more often than not, but the important lesson is to not worry about it.

In reality, the only things you have to lose are a few hours of your time. Take the failure as a lesson learned. You can still publish your story to your own profile. You can even do a little digging and send the story to a smaller publisher that is eager for content.

Don’t keep snacks at your desk

I sat down to write. I cracked my knuckles, stretched my neck, and took a bite out of my protein bar. I typed some, and then I took another bite from the bar.

Woops. What was I thinking?

I broke my cardinal rule. I forgot to clear my desk of my most infamous distraction: a snack.

Fuel up before sitting down to write.

Like a buzzing cellphone, snacks are a major distraction. You’ll constantly be tempted to take your mind from your writing and to the snack.

You’ll find that 25-minute writing sessions turn to hour-long ones, and you’ll only have accomplished half the work you set out to do.

I suggest you incentivize your writing sessions instead. This way, you’ll be more motivated to get through the sessions, and you can treat yourself to a snack after you get some real work done.

Drink caffeine

I generally limit my coffee intake, but I’m still caffeine dependent. I opt for multiple cups of tea throughout the day so that I’m consistently buzzed.

Obviously, you don’t have to drink caffeine. I just think that, for the majority of the adult population, caffeine stimulates our mind. Coffee is overkill. It jolts my brain a little too much. It makes me feel anxious.

Green and black teas are strong enough to wake me up in the morning, but not so strong that I get stressed about every sound I hear.

Caffeine can have a positive effect on our alertness. It can help us tap into our creative potential. Most importantly, it helps us stay focused on the job at hand.

Would you rather write with an apathetic mindset, or would you rather be absolutely jazzed to get some work done? A little caffeine can go a long way.

Listen to the right music

Raise your hand if you miss sitting inside your local coffeeshop. It really is a vibe, isn’t it? It’s not the same sitting outside. It’s tough to focus with people walking past us and cars roaring down the street.

I miss the sweet, roasted aroma of coffee as I type away from a comfy couch. I’m always so focused becasue I’m away from home. It’s nice to switch things up. Also, the music is always on point.

I miss it so much that I made a playlist with my favorite coffeeshop tunes. Now, I can write to the same lo-fi beats from home. I can retain some remnant of how the world used to be. Most importantly, this type of music helps me focus on my writing.

According to Cambridge Brain Sciences, certain music helps us focus better than others.

“It turns out memory performance was best while listening to low arousal, negative music, and worst for high arousal negative music.”

The important thing is to figure out what type of music works best for you. For many, silence is the best focus companion. I totally get that. It wasn’t until after college that I realzed I like to listen to music while I work. I used to dread writing long papers, but now I look forward to the task.

Bonus: Binaural beats

What in the world are binaural beats? The first time I heard about them, I thought they would sound like some hypnotizing metronome. In reality, they are the number one reason why I am able to achieve the flow state.

Binaural beats are songs that repeat the same cadence over a period of time. Usually they are deep, melodic orchestra pieces that put you in a trance-like state. The music helps you focus. There aren’t any lyrics, so you’re never distracted from your writing. The music is basically just background noise.

This is the track I listen to when I want to get my best writing done. It’s hard to explain why, but my writing sessions go by incredibly fast when I put my headphones in and listen to it. Recently, I listened to this 3-hour one without even realizing it.

In that time, I was able to write and edit an entire 8-minute read called You Should Post Your Own Photos on Medium. Not only did the beats help me write the post, but it kept me focused when I looked for the photos I wanted to include.

Never look back

When typing your first draft, don’t worry about what you’re writing. Don’t double check your sentences yet. Just type. You’re going to take forever to write your article. In my opinion, it’s better to make a bunch of little mistakes and edit them later. Here why:

  • Faster work-flow — Just type away and don’t worry about the consequences. You’ll finish your work much faster than anticipated. If you type like you have nothing to lose, then you free your mind of any potential stress.
  • You’ll say exactly what you mean — When you achieve the flow state, your writing reflects exactly what is in your head. There’s no doublethink. There’s hardly any thinking at all. You already know what you want to say, so you don’t let your mind get in the way of it.
  • An editing round is more efficient — You’re more likely to catch mistakes of you come back to a story later. If you’re of the writing mindset, you’ll just get in the way of yourself if you try and edit at the same time. Write your story one round, and then come back for another round of editing.

Wrap up

If your goal is to become a writer, you may have heard that you need to write everyday. I’m not sure if this is the best strategy for everyone. There certainly are ways to motivate yourself to write everyday, but it’s more important to be an efficient writer during your writing sessions.

When writing sounds like a chore, and I want to get my writing done quickly, I keep a few things in mind:

  • I don’t worry about the outcomes
  • I stay away from food
  • I drink caffeine to stay alert
  • I pick the right music
  • I separate my writing and my editing

There are so many levels to writing. I think of new ways to motivate myself everyday, and that’s the point. We’re capable of writing new content because we find new ways to motivate ourselves.

Variety is the spice of life. Adding new spices to a dish results in new masterpieces. Whether they are hits or duds, we don’t worry about the results until we are done.

Writing is supposed to be fun, but it’s not always going to be. What separates good writers from the great ones is the ability to write when it’s hard.

Write like your hair is on fire. Use that fire to create something awesome. You could whip up a post in 45 minutes, without even trying too hard, and it could go viral. You’ll never know until you try.

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I write about startup culture, productivity, and life's moments. My goal is to serve as a teacher for the next generation of content creators.

Los Angeles, CA

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