There’s no secret sauce when it comes to writing. Any writer can tell you writing is a labor of love – or rather, consistency.
When I started working at FlowReader, blogging was new territory for me. Although I’d been writing for years, I didn’t have a clear idea of what it would be like to create posts on a regular basis.
Churning out ideas week after week was tricky enough, but writing them down often left my brain spinning as I tried to transform my thoughts into something worth reading.
It was a constant challenge to keep up with my goals, and if I’m being perfectly honest, there are still days I feel like ripping out my hair and screaming.
But a deadline waits for no one.
To help myself avoid a painfully empty page and complete deadline panic, I started developing a process to help me write better and more consistently.
Here are 6 basic steps from my writing process. Hopefully, there’s a few things in here that you’ll find helpful.
1) Create a writing environment.
One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that you need a good workspace if you want to get anything done. Studies have even shown a link between optimizing your workspace and how productive you are.
Creating an environment that’s optimized to get you writing is also a great way to train your brain to get in the zone to write, the same way a daily routine can help boost your creativity.
Since I tend to change up where I work, my writing environment is not necessarily a physical place. Instead, I make sure to create my space with certain components that I can implement no matter where I am.
My environment ingredients include:
- A clean space to write
- Low background noise (if there’s no natural noise, I use Coffeetivity)
- Soft music
- Turning off notifications on my laptop or phone
- No social networks
The elements of your writing space will probably be different than mine, but I suggest finding ways to cut out any distractions that could slow you down.
2) Write down your ideas.
Even though, I carry a notebook around for jotting down random scribbles about my day, I initially made a habit of relying on my memory to store my ideas for blog posts.
Ideas have a way of showing up when you least expect them: in the shower, while you’re out with friends, or as you’re falling asleep at night. They also tend to disappear as quickly as they come.
Don’t let them get away!
Make sure to store your ideas (no matter how half-baked they are) in a way that’s easy for you to access and browse. I use a Trello board to keep track of all my ideas, as well as posts that are in progress or finished.
I also have an ongoing list on my phone for ideas that strike when I’m not near my computer, so I can add the ones I like to my board. I prefer not to use the Trello iOS app on my phone to keep my ideas organized.
Here are 3 other things I’ve found helpful for coming up with ideas:
- Browsing similar blogs or websites to get inspiration for topics.
- Read as much as you can! (It’s also a great way to find relevant research.)
- Notice problems and learning experiences in your own life.
Whatever method you choose, make sure you take notes on anything that grabs your attention. You can go through them later and decide if it’s something your readers might find interesting.
3) Schedule your writing.
In order to write consistently, you have to make time in your schedule. Although this is an obvious step, it’s not always easy to make it happen.
Juggling a job, your family, and friends is enough to overload your schedule without trying to squeeze in other activities.
And even though my work makes it easier for me to write, I still schedule a time.
In addition to FlowReader’s blog, I manage another project blog, maintain our social communities, create copy, and help out with customer support. I have to manage my time carefully each week to get everything done.
Scheduling a specific time helps you write consistently and keeps you from falling behind on other work.
I make my writing a priority, but at the same time, I also make sure to balance it with my other responsibilities by setting a time limit.
Plus, if you simply tell yourself you’re planning to write, you’ll find that other things have a way of sneaking their way into your schedule.
At the moment, I research 2 afternoons a week, write for one full day and edit the day my post is due. However, my goal is eventually to write for 30 minutes every day and free up space for more editing and research in my schedule.
Here’s my basic rule of thumb when it comes to scheduling: Don’t miss your writing times!
4) Take a few minutes to outline.
Another thing that can slow you down and give you a creative block is writing blind.
Personally, I tend to stall when I don’t have a clear plan of how I’m going to get from idea to finished post.
Adding a few minutes to your writing process to spend outlining a post is one of the best ways I’ve found to avoid getting stuck. Having a list keeps me focused and also helps motivate me to move onto the next point even if I’m running out of juice.
I like to write down a short list on a piece of paper, which usually looks a little something like this:
- Start / Problem
- 3 – 5 main points
- End / Solution
In addition to keeping you on topic, a rough outline of your sections will help you write posts more quickly.
5) Start writing.
For me, getting started is always the worst.
When I was in college, it was not uncommon to find me staring at a blank screen repeatedly writing and deleting my first sentence. After hours of frustration, I would go into panic mode and start putting something down on the page.
And you know what? The words always came. I just had to take the first leap.
Here’s what I learned from that experience: Don’t overthink it – just start.
When I started blogging, I spent hours agonizing over every word and worrying about mistakes. I realized something had to change if I wanted to keep up with the rest of my duties.
I decided to take a page from my college handbook and just go for it. It helped me a lot!
The thing about first drafts is…they’re first drafts. They shouldn’t be perfect.
Ernest Hemingway really hit the nail on the head when he said:
“The first draft of anything is shit.”
The best thing you can do when you’re struggling with a post is to start writing. Don’t think about what it looks like, how it reads, or what everyone will think – just get your ideas down on the page.
6) Edit, edit, edit.
Once my draft is written, I go back and edit. This is often easier for me than writing a draft. Once the pressure of finishing a draft is off of me, it’s easier for me to see what areas need improvement.
I read my entire piece back through from start to finish and correct. I remove redundant sentences, change anecdotes, fix grammar and punctuation mistakes, and fill in any gaps in my content.
After I’ve gone through my piece 3 to 5 times, I start trimming.
Here’s what I try to keep in mind when I refine:
- Keep it simple.
- Cut words that don’t belong.
- If it doesn’t add value, get rid of it.
The last thing I do is read my post out loud. Reading aloud helps you catch any final mistakes and see places where your writing could flow better.
Bonus Tip: Take a breather.
In general, it’s important to take breaks during your work day. When I write, I often find taking a moment to step away helps me refocus. I like to do yoga, meditate, or even, clean my kitchen. Giving myself a break to do one of these things leaves me feeling refreshed so I can continue writing with a clear mind.
What’s your writing process? How has it helped you write better?
Image Credit: Ant Smith