We all have those moments when an idea literally careens into the forefront of our minds. It is absolutely wonderful and we just have to put it down. We write on a scrap of paper, on a napkin, or make a quick note on our phones. The anxiety to preserve these precious thoughts say one thing. That such moments are rare and must be taken advantage of.
Waiting for inspiration while writing is normal. It is a safe option when you do not rely on words to put food on your table or to satisfy clients. If your favorite past time is writing and not a full-time job, then you will be just fine.
However, waiting for inspiration is not always possible. For people that write for a living, there is a chance that inspiration will fail you when you have to produce content. It definitely failed me many times when I only wrote if an idea came to me. On days that I did not feel creative in any way, I did not write a thing. My blog posts were irregular and unplanned.
Two books changed my perspective on writing. They were Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and The Art of Creativity Thinking by John Adair. From these authors, I learned that rare moments of inspiration, on their own, cannot determine when we write.
Imagine having to meet up with a deadline for an article. You might not have been able to come up with squat but you still have to write. Not only would you seem less credible if you do not deliver, but your employers also stand to lose too. And guess who is going to be losing even more after that? You!
To avoid these situations I have developed some steps that help me. Although this may prove helpful, there is no method for this and you can come up with your own.
When given a topic to write on, I research. By reading on things associated with what I am to write on, I make myself grow accustomed to the terms and lingua of the topic. As writers, (especially content writers) we are expected to understand the subject matter fully and write extensively well. No one wants to read an article about black holes and see a wrong fact because you did not crosscheck what the term Spaghettification means.
2. Let your subconscious do the work.
Try to move on to other things. This is only possible when you have a few hours to spare before writing. If I am to write an article about horses or a YouTube script about rockets, after reading on the topics, I find something else to do. This is not procrastinating. I am letting my subconscious mind process what I have learned. In doing so I wrap my head around an idea that is forming unbeknownst to me.
The best thing about this step is that most of the time you come up with really great stuff without even thinking about it. Usually, a line in the first paragraph appears out of nowhere and boom, the entire article evolves.
On closer inspection, it really does not come out of “nowhere”. Your mind has been working, connecting dots, and forming ideas.
3. Create an outline.
As much as you want to do free handwriting, it is important to know the road you are traveling on to arrive at your destination. Having an outline helps direct thoughts and helps articulate what you are in order to create a flow of thought. That way you won’t jump from making one point to another and get confused.
If you have read enough, you would have realized that some writers seem to be all over the place. Maybe that is because they are. They do not create an outline to work with and just write as it comes. That’s great for an article or piece of content that you alone are meant to read. But for your readers, there has to be coherent content coming out of the pages to them. The good old’ introduction, body, and conclusion always works. It is basically a skeleton that you flesh out and dress up just how you want.
4. Start writing.
This is the difficult part. Why should you even start writing when you do not know what to write? It is necessary to begin in order to finish. Even if it feels like you pause after every 4 words, keep writing it. The first draft is what it is. The first draft. No one is asking you to deliver a first-class word changing body of text in the rough draft. All you are asked to do is to begin.
Typing the first word sets me on a roll and the words just come. It works easily with fiction writing for me but for non-fiction writing, I write and rewrite until I arrive at what I need to produce.
Another thing that could help is writing regularly. At least every day. This is not easy but Stephen King recommends establishing a regular regimen. Try out 500 words a day at a time. For me, I write whatever comes to mind, even blankness. Even if it is one letter. Write it and keep going.
5. Stop overthinking.
When you set out to write, it is easy to overthink. In my case, my mind is usually over the place trying to get everything right and in place. Well, that is not your job, at least not yet. Write it out first. Leave it for a little while and revisit it later. Edit it objectively.
Doing this has helped me move from griping about writing to actually writing.
6. Revise the first draft.
Go over what you’ve written. When doing this, new ideas will come to you and you will need to take old things out. In the end, you will be left with a much better piece.
At this stage, you will be left with something that you can submit. Yes, there was no light bulb above your head and you did not run to start pounding away at the typewriter but you got the job done and that’s all that matters.
Bonus tip. Read more. It helps broaden your perspective and is a great cheat sheet for avoiding writing mistakes. If you read a lot of articles, you are sure to notice the bad ones and the goods ones. From these, you can stop doing all the things you have been doing wrong and start doing the things you should be doing right.
Read more books on writing. A lot of them are bulky and will cause you to weep with boredom but in the end, you will know where to put a semi-colon and how to avoid using boring adjectives.