I never write when I get a good idea. I only try to write when I find suitable resource to illustrate that idea. With proper resource, writing is fast and persuasive. Without resource, writing is a waste of time.
For about a year, I have had an idea to write an article about emails: what's the best way to start a conversation with someone you don't know. I knew how to explain it. But every time I set to writing that article, I stopped at the first example. It was too hard to create a believable letter to illustrate all of my ideas. I spent hours writing and editing, but never published any of those drafts.
Then one night I got an email from someone I didn't know. The moment I looked at it, I knew it was badly structured, without even reading. It looked like this:
Wow, I thought. I don't need to read it to see it's bad. How did I just learn that? Clearly, it looked messy and long. You don't write such things to people you don't know. Gotcha.
This letter illustrated what I had wanted to say for a long time. In 15 minutes I made a simple image to illustrate the principle:
I wrote two lines of text, threw in that image, and got myself a perfect article: it was short, clear and persuasive. The whole thing took 20 minutes to write.
My previous drafts had a good idea behind them, but no resource. There was no good example, no good illustration of my idea. Creating that illustration took time, and I never liked the result. Then suddenly a good example just kind of... floated by. So I grabbed it, and used it, and it was great.
Then I realized: I've been doing this for a long time:
As I edit articles at work, I collect elegant 'before — after' bits and use them in my editing courses.
I collect curious bits of text and layouts for my future projects and books.
People send me their ads for review. I use those ads as examples for my articles.
When I have a conflict with a client, it becomes a case study for my negotiations course.
This may seem counterintuitive, because normally you write towards a goal, not based on example. But writing towards a goal puts pressure on you, and to me writing is never better when under pressure.
Writing on resource feels better. Also, it's a hundred times faster.