I think the English Teacher part of me will never die. I remember digging my way out of stacks of essays and term papers when I taught high school English. I remember having the honor of reading students’ journals when they mustered up enough courage to let me peek in.
I naturally believe something very basic about writing – it’s an expression of the essence of who we are. It’s like walking around with our insides on our outsides. I find writing a bit different from just talking because it adds this extra layer of tangibility and permanence to our thoughts and ideas.
So, every time I get to encounter someone’s authentic writing, something inside me lights up. Someone had the courage to do the hard work of figuring out what they think, feel, or believe and to put it out there for someone to read. For some people it is an accomplishment in itself to just put pen to paper or fingers to keypad and write.
Recently, though, I’ve come to know many, many people who write as an integral part of their career. They are impressive because they have chosen to put themselves out there consistently and to commit to building a body of work that represents who they are, what they do, and what they believe.
For myself, I’ve always been one of those girls who liked to jot things down as a way to remember events or process my thoughts. I’ve journaled since the “Dear Diary” days when my mom would notate as I dictated. In the digital age, I’ve had a personal blog where I shared about family and my faith. And I’ve had more of a travel blog where I share where we’ve been. But writing for this site and business requires a different level of intentionality for me. And as I’ve worked with women who are consistently writing and using their website and blog as a way to grow their business, I get to appreciate the process even more.
How to Write
So, how do we write? How do we go about the whole process from brainstorming to publishing. Well, just like people’s fingerprint or signature, there is a unique process for everyone. It’s different from the 5 paragraph essay process that our 4th grade teacher’s walked through with us! But over time, with much repetition, I think most will find that a more predictable route ensues and the friction to create lessens. Here’s how I do it:
1. Choose What to Write About
There are an infinite amount of things I could write about. This will always be true. Sure, I have a general funnel of topics that fit into my scope, but really, it’s pretty broad. That might be overwhelming to some, and to myself sometimes. At the same time, there is sometimes this black hole that automatically appears for me when deciding what to write – when I try to force myself to – blank screen, blank ideas. So, what I’ve learned is that the most effective way to choose is to capitalize on an idea or topic that naturally comes up in conversation, in reading, or in life experiences. It helps to take action as close to the moment of inspiration as possible, even if it’s just jotting down the glimmer of a thought or idea in a note (digital or analog). Ideas are sometimes magical and can disappear in an instance if not captured!
2. Start Writing
I have these funny memories of my 4th grade English teachers telling us to just “write, write, write, keep writing, even if it doesn’t make sense,” just keep the stream of momentum from your brain to your pen. Well, I don’t know that that process always works for everyone, but I do think it is important to get that process started. Get the ideas into words and sentences. For myself, I tend to edit as I go. So, I might write a few sentences, then read over them, make changes, and when I pick up the flow again, I’ll continue. I repeat that multiple times. For my husband, it seems like the ideas just flow fluidly. He doesn’t stop to edit until he’s completed the whole piece. Everyone is different. So, find what works best for you.
3. Have a Point
Sometimes I start out with the specific point I’d like to make, but other times, I just have a general idea of a topic that I’d like to hash out in my thoughts, and so as I write, I find that the idea starts to move in a particular direction, ending up with a certain “point.” In the digital age, where we are becoming more “critical” of online writing, people do expect our ideas to have a point. A purpose. Clarity of thought. Otherwise, there’s not really a reason to publish them.
At some point, our “drafts” need to be published. I feel like there is always room for more editing, but for myself, when I can read through the article smoothly and feel like it ends with a sense of closure, I have to take the brave step and publish. It’s mostly exciting, and sometimes comes with relief after considering the amount of time to write, edit, and layout, but for me there’s always a pause of a second where I have to decide, “Yep, it’s ready. Just do it.” Tomorrow is another day and another opportunity to capture new ideas.
Since I am trying to grow something, my writing is a means to let people know what I am up to and to share information I hope they find helpful or inspiring. I utilize both email distribution and social media as ways to share my content with others. And many times I am able to share a specific article with a particular person, which makes it very personalized. “If you build it, they will come” is often a myth when people start to write online. Part of building “it” is making sure you actively reach out to those you’d like to come and see
Since I’m such a proponent of everyone’s uniqueness, I really love offering people the freedom to develop their own style in writing. As I help women start the journey, I don’t like to give them too many guidelines. I feel like they become too constraining. What happens over time, is that they gain confidence as it becomes easier, and certain patterns of writing begin. I love knowing that Seth Godin has a short, concise style in sharing one idea and that Leo Babauta will offer more exhaustive details of a subject or experience and that Ann Voscamp uses words as art and hits my heart in just one phrase sometimes.
Each of us will have our own style and attract those who resonate with not only what we have to say but also the way we say it.
So, what about you? What is your process for writing? How would you describe your “style”? Would love to hear. We can all learn from each other.