I am doing a lot more writing these days. Blog posts, video scripts, working on a couple books, etc, etc. Along the way I experience what’s probably true for every writer. Sometimes thoughts flow quickly and smoothly. At other times it feels like crawling through the mud.
If you are a leader, you are in the communication business.
Whether you are putting words onto a page to be read by others or preparing a presentation, crafting your thoughts into a meaningful package—aka. the process of writing—does not come from winging it.
There is no secret that will ever make writing a snap. I expect there will always be days when every word is a chore. But, I recently reviewed a breakthrough I had a few years ago during a writing retreat. Maybe you might find this timely as well.
My Writing Process
The context for this breakthrough was a two-week writing retreat while I was working on a book. I was grinding. I was stuck. Concepts seemed to swim in chaos and words landed like lead balloons. Then one morning, I woke up with an "a-ha" that broke the log jam. I realized I have a specific process for writing that releases my best energies when I follow it. I also knew that when I don’t follow my own process—my situation on this retreat—I get stuck and can’t write my way out of the proverbial paper bag.
My process is not based on any research and to be honest, I don’t care. This is what works for me. And, I can't help but wonder if it might be helpful for you, too. The chart above lays it all out. You don't need to look for any hidden secrets or complex instructions. Everything is right there. Just follow it step by step.
So, in that spirit, I offer my self-directed memo on, "How not to be an idiot when writing."
MEMO TO MYSELF: WRITING
No matter what type of writing I am doing, don’t wing it! These steps of my process are how I work best, so trust them and follow them.
If I am Stuck, it is likely for one of these three reasons...
I am trying to write (step 5) when steps 1-4 are barely vague ideas.
Confession: You’d think I’d learn, but I make this mistake all the time. I get stoked on a big idea, convince myself I know what I want to say, and start writing without a roadmap. It's a guaranteed short cut for getting stuck in the mud.
I am trying to edit while I’m writing.
I know better. This is such a textbook mistake. Writing is a creative act. Editing is an analytical one. When I write, I need to let ideas flow, let initial word choices suffice, and use place holders when I’m not sure what comes next. The moment I start to edit, writing comes to a halt.
I am rambling instead of driving toward tighter focus on the big idea.
Of necessity, writing is a solitary act that takes place on the fringe of deep weeds. In those weeds it is easy to lose my bearings. The one thing more than any other that helps me avoid getting sucked in is clarity about the problem I am writing to help people solve.
Still stuck? Get out of the box.
Sooner or later you will hit the wall with writers block or whatever stuckness feels like to you. When that happens, don’t freak out. Return to the process to see if you missed any steps. Then do something to mix things up.
Creativity and macro-level thinking happen best for me with pen and paper. I generally get fresh energy when I’m brainstorming with post-it notes or other analog tools. There is something about working with a keyboard and staring at the box in front of me that stifles my creative juices.
So, get away from the box. Get up and walk away from the computer. Go work offsite. Use different tools to help you think. Take a walk.
Your Turn: What is Your Process?
My writing process may or may not be helpful to you. So, build on it, change the sequence, add other steps, see what works for you. If you communicate with words very often, I dare you to figure out what your personal creative process looks like.
Give it a try and send me your comments.
How does this work for you?
What other things have you learned about your best writing process?