Writing is hard. It’s a big part of my job and I write a lot, and it’s still hard. Writer’s block is real, and sometimes that fear prevents us from even starting. Well, that and shiny things, because: hooray for procrastination. There are some tools I use that not only make the task of writing easier and the approach less daunting, they also help me write the best piece possible.
Start with an outline. Even for the most seasoned writer, a blank Word document is an awful reminder that you have a long way to go to get 500 words or more onto that paper. Repeating your creative writing class mantra: “introduction, body, body, body, conclusion,” likely doesn’t help either. An outline provides structure and organization of prose; it also keeps me from rambling. Once there is an order to my thoughts on paper, I can set out to write a finished piece. An outline also keeps me grounded; it’s hard enough for me to keep my car in my lane (ask the car’s assistant, whom I nicknamed Brenda Walsh that always yells when she thinks I’m leaving my lane – want a ride?), and just like Brenda, an outline yanks me back onto that well-organized writing path.
Tell a story, but be concise. Brevity is a function of communication and short sentences are easier to read. Get rid of filler words and overly complex descriptions. One of my favorite authors, Stephen King, sums it up best: “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” The question is, did he voraciously and exasperatingly convey this or did he just shout it?
Write your first draft, and then delete, delete, delete. If your first try is always perfect, then I’m not sure why you’re reading this, other than to laugh at me because my first drafts SUCK. (I see you.) The truth is, most first drafts require an extensive clean-up before you can even consider finalizing. You’ve passed the first hurdle just by writing, but GOOD writing is almost always REWRITING.
Drop your ego and find an honest friend. I recognize that I’m a good writer. I also know I’m an excellent editor and proofreader. But that doesn’t mean I should be editing and proofing my own work. Find someone you know who will give it to you straight and tell you what isn’t working and why. That someone should also offer alternative views, question your intention, and also make sure that the L is properly placed in public. (If you didn’t get that reference, call me the next time you need an editor).
Writing is a juxtaposition. It causes both release and anxiety. On my best days, I write quickly and it flows easily. On my worst days, I hum out loud to the beat of the cursor on the blank document. However, every day I start somewhere and I write something…and then delete it and start all over again.