If you don’t have a writing process that you regularly practice, you will be challenged with consistently turning out quality content.
Do you start with an outline? Do you rewrite? How many times will you edit? These and many other considerations, such as your writing environment, will greatly enhance your writing productivity.
Whether you work from an outline or start with free-writing as I do, there has to be a well-defined method that guides your efforts – one that gets and keeps you on track until your writing objectives are accomplished.
Commit Your Process to Writing
There are as many processes as there are writers. So, the first step is to find yours, know it well, and work to make it better over time.
Your method for reliably creating at least competent writing are unique to you, which is why you should put it in writing to make it less random. That effort alone will serve you well even if you take it no further.
Every writer has had excruciating experiences with self-imposed or real deadlines because their writing was simply not working. Sometimes it is the material, others times the practice. When you get into those situations, the best way to get out of them is to check your process to learn what may be been skipped or compromised.
More often than not, writing challenges are the result of taking minor short-cuts that make a big difference. Unfortunately, they will go unnoticed until you commit to writing out the steps of your practice, testing them over time, and progressively refining your process with experience.
Study and Steal from Other Writers
No, I not advocating you steal material from other writers, just their methods for creating it. The related articles below will lead you to some resources where you can do exactly that.
To help you find your process, I’ll share my own. What you should note is that in addition to what you do, when, where, and how you do it are equally important.
My Writing Process
1. Journal First Thing in the Morning
When you wake up in the morning your mind should be relatively fresh, having just taken the evening to digest ideas through dreams or mental thrashing. Taking just 5-10 minutes to journal will capture key thoughts that can lead to exciting breakthroughs.
2. Meditate to Clear the Mind
Meditation for me is a process of sitting still to release thoughts, including those that I may have just been journaling about. Ideally, this is 30 minutes in duration. The result is often another breakthrough in the form of a resurfacing a lost idea. So, I keep note cards handy to capture a few key words.
3. Free Write to Liberate Ideas
After a little yoga, then exercise, I’m back at my desk to write. I will often wear headphones and listen to instrumental music or nature sounds that help me get lost inside of myself, what most people think of as being in the zone. I’m writing for content flow only, often generating enough for multiple articles in one sitting.
When I wrote my book I used this technique to write nearly every chapter in one sitting. They certainly needed a lot of work after that, but at the very least I had something to work with.
4. Print and Find the Structure
Now that I’m back in the real world, so to speak, I spell check that content, print it out, and try to find the structure – what it wants to be. Then I set it aside.
5. Let the Material Breathe
One of the critical steps in my process is letting the material breathe. I simply cannot sit down and write even a short article that I’ll be happy with all in the same day.
How does the material breathe? It’s in my mind while I’m interacting and engaging with people on the phone or in person. This is where I find the intersection of that content with stories and new ideas that make it come alive, effectively breathing life into it.
6. Write Until The Piece is Finished
Late afternoon and evening is when I take my rough work and complete it. The objective of this step is simple: Do not stop until it is finished. The time investment to this point dictates that a finished result is imperative.
This is the grind. It’s a discipline that I may never completely master, but it sure feels great when it is completed!
7. Edit for Clarity and Flow
There will always be editing, with different mediums calling for more or less. Since what I write here on this blog can always be edited, I tend to only lightly edit. Whereas articles and my weekly newsletter get more scrutiny.
That’s my process. I like to think of it as a three-tiered series of starts and stops, with a little editing to wrap it up.
How about you? What’s your writing process? Please share in a comment below.
Jeff is also the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business – (Wiley 2013)