Since the majority of my working day is now consumed with the task of writing, I’m constantly looking for ways to streamline the process. If I can get quality results in a shorter amount of time, I can spend the rest of each day doing other things that I love.
Unfortunately, my creative mind doesn’t always want me to have spare time to read, chill with friends, or go and watch a movie. It makes me rely on idea files I keep tucked away whenever something pops into my head or if I have abused that resource already, I can spend over an hour mind-mapping ideas just to have content to write.
Even once we know what to write however, it can be hard to actually get going. Removing all distractions and getting in the writing zone is not an easy task. Especially if we haven’t even decided on an article outline or sufficient title. In the past I would put off writing until I knew exactly what I was going to say, so I could be as productive as possible in front of my computer. Now, I’m completely the opposite.
Instead of waiting for ideas to come to me or the perfect structure in my head, I now just write. Time and time again, this has proven to be more effective for me than any other process. I may not be making much sense when I write and I almost certainly won’t stop with a copy fit enough to publish, but I will have something. And that’s all that matters.
A workshop I attended recently cemented this idea. I was surrounded my award winning financial journalists, newly signed authors and seasoned writing professionals and they all had the same thing to say: just write. Stop waiting for your environment to be perfect and half of the words to be in your head, just write whatever comes to mind.
With so many words going down on the page, it can be tempting to make changes as you go along. I ask you to at least try not to do this and see how things go. If you need to make a huge change that you think you might forget in a few minutes then go ahead, but for everything else, let it go. It can be hard enough to get into the writing flow, so for heaven’s sake don’t lose it because you missed a punctuation mark or you spot a slight grammatical error.
Of course, the finished result will be far from desirable. And that’s OK. Something on the page which is messy and needs cleaned up is far, far better than having nothing at all. I’m actually cringing at half of the things I’ve wrote so far in this draft but thankfully, you probably won’t get to read them.
Once you actually start writing things down, the structure tends to create itself. You may have an extra point to make in an earlier paragraph or realise a certain sentence does not fit in with the article. If that is the case, then add or subtract where necessary.
A great quote that really drives this point home comes via Mark Twain:
“I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.”
Once you’ve “babbled” on and said what you need to say, you can work on making your points in fewer words. You can remove repetition and just focus on the message that you want to get across.
Next month marks the launch of another excellent project for future novelists, Nanowrimo. The aim of the project is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. This year, it is taking place in November. 2008 saw over 100,000 entries with over 15,000 making the actual 50,000 word limit necessary. Nanowrimo is unique because its focus is more on quantity than quality. That’s right; quality comes last. Like many of the points here, Nanowrimo is based around actually getting the words out there rather than stressing about the small stuff.
Sure, it’s important to focus on structure and details now and then, but you can only do so much in your head until you actually have to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
So, the next time you’re stuck for ideas or feel you need to brainstorm before you get going, turn off that incessant mind chatter – and just write. Trust me, it’s the greatest realization you’ll have.
Glen is the author of ViperChill, a blog on Viral Marketing. His aim is to help people build remarkable websites that others naturally want to talk about.
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