Getting into the groove of writing is crucial to creating great work. Unfortunately, the stream of words can be easily interrupted by a tip-of-the-tongue moment, the need to clarify a detail, or the impulse to conduct some further research. This shifts us out of the writing mode, which was so difficult to switch on, and could potentially lead to a vortex of procrastination.

Instead of doing that, use a placeholder and mark where you needed to conduct research or find a specific word. Then, move past it, and continue writing as if that previous thought was complete. Journalist and science fiction author Cory Doctorow shares his specific technique in a 2009 interview with Locus Mag:

Researching isn’t writing and vice-versa. When you come to a factual matter that you could google in a matter of seconds, don’t. Don’t give in and look up the length of the Brooklyn Bridge, the population of Rhode Island, or the distance to the Sun. That way lies distraction — an endless click-trance that will turn your 20 minutes of composing into a half-day’s idyll through the web. Instead, do what journalists do: type “TK” where your fact should go, as in “The Brooklyn bridge, all TK feet of it, sailed into the air like a kite.” “TK” appears in very few English words (the one I get tripped up on is “Atkins”) so a quick search through your document for “TK” will tell you whether you have any fact-checking to do afterwards. And your editor and copyeditor will recognize it if you miss it and bring it to your attention.

Bestselling authors Tim Ferriss and Neil Strauss both advocate this tactic in their conversation.

  • markwguay

    So helpful for young writers, especially because it’s so easy to get caught up in a Google roller-coaster of web-searching.

  • Caelan Huntress

    Good tip. TY for the TK.

  • Web Outsourcing Gateway

    Nice way to improve an article without the hassle of forgetting what you tend to write, nice thought! thanks.

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