Although everyone can write, many people don’t enjoy it.
You might be one of them. You might get frustrated because the concept in your head doesn’t translate to words on the page. This often happens when you write before you’re ready. When I do this, I end up throwing away a lot of paper.
Writing springs from ideas. Ideas are like pebbles – they don’t amount to much until you polish them. When you get an idea, be patient. Let it tumble around in your brain. After a while, the rough edges will wear away. You’ll be excited about polishing your idea. That’s the time to write.
This writing method takes about an hour. You don’t have to do it all in one sitting, though. You can do 15 minutes here and there. You can easily fit it into your schedule. (If the truth be told, it might take you a bit more than an hour – but not much.)
7 steps to help you quickly get from an initial idea to a published article:
1. Write longhand. Writing freehand turns off your self-editor. Your self-editor is that little voice in your head that says, “that doesn’t make sense,” and “your spelling sucks.” (We all have an editor in our heads. Editors are useful for editing, but they tend to stifle creativity.) Writing with pen and paper makes it harder to correct things. So your self-editor shuts up. They don’t like messes. And first drafts are always a mess.
2. Draft quickly. Set a buzzer for 15 minutes. This challenges your brain to beat the buzzer. Then write. Don’t worry about structure, spelling, or anything your high school English teacher taught you. Just get your idea on paper.
3. Walk away. Take a 3 minute break. Get a drink. Walk around your office. Chat up the receptionist – but just for 3 minutes. Taking a break from writing will help you see holes in your logic. It will give you a fresh perspective.
4. Edit. Set a buzzer again. Type your article into a word processor. (If you’re a slow typist this might take more than 15 minutes) As you type, you’ll start to edit. That’s okay. Go ahead and rearrange paragraphs. Add to them. Delete them. Let your self-editor get ahold of your idea.
5. Breathe. Take another 3 minute break. This will, once again, refresh your brain.
6. Polish. Set a buzzer for 15 more minutes. (I know setting a buzzer is annoying. It makes you work faster; and you won’t know how quick writing can be if you don’t time it.) Go through your article a third time. Make sure your idea is clear. Check to see that each paragraph leads into the next. Proofread for typos.
7. Craft a Headline. You have 9 minutes left. Spend this full 9 minutes thinking about a headline. A headline is the first thing people read. If someone doesn’t like your headline, she won’t read your article. The only job of a headline is to get your audience to read the first sentence of your article.
There you have it: 7 Steps from Idea to Publish. It’s simple, but not easy.
BONUS: As a writer, I’ve learned quite a few tricks and tips. Here’s 3 secret tips I’m giving you as a bonus:
Secret #1: Keep an Idea File. Before you start writing, you’ve got to have an idea. Ideas usually pop into your head at the most inconvenient times – as you fall asleep, or in the shower, or while driving your car. Create a way to capture these ideas. (I use the “record” feature on my phone. Then I type my ideas into a word document where I can expand them.)
Secret #2: Mindmap. Before putting an idea on paper, mindmap it. Take a piece of blank paper and draw a circle in the middle. Write your topic inside the circle. Set your buzzer for 5 minutes and draw offshoots from your topic. Some of these will become your subheads or main points. I do this step very first, before writing.
Secret #3: Write headlines first. After mindmapping, and before the initial burst of writing, spend about 10 minutes writing headlines. Just write anything that comes to mind. The first headline you write will sound great. Push beyond it. As you continue to jot headline ideas down, you will develop a theme for your article. Having a theme adds cohesion to your writing. After you’ve come up with your headline, write the subheads. Then fill in the rest.
Hopefully these tips will make writing more fun. They will turn your idea pebbles into polished articles that rock. And remember, all rocks (and articles) have slight imperfections. If I stressed about making my writing perfect, I’d never hit “publish.” As Seth Godin said, “The only purpose of starting is to finish, and while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship.” (Linchpin, p103).