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I’ve been writing a long time and have noted a common misconception amongst writers, readers, and most laypeople.
It seems many folks think writers pull words from the ether… a vast pool of creative inspiration… and create stories, articles, sales letters, queries and such out of thin air.
Yeah… no. From my experience, that’s not how it works.
In my career, and I’ve been at this since ’95, writing isn’t a magical sentence generator. It’s more like an assembler of thoughts, much like digging your hand into a pail of Legos, pulling out a bunch, and constructing something as simple as a little vehicle or as complicated as a hopped up jalopy.
If you’re “doing” this job correctly, everything you need to write is already there, ready to assemble. All you have to construct it.
Here’s how it works: When I’m out shopping, I’m watching, observing human behavior. When I’m walking the dogs, I’m mentally organizing my major points. When I’m in a crowd, I’m on the fringes… watching. Rarely a waking moment passes that something isn’t brewing in the old noggin.
If I can’t write, that means I’m not pondering my project enough. I need to read more. I have to focus on my subject and allow it to brew. It means I haven’t given my topic the flexibility to properly roll around in my head. It means I’ve lost my core message, my Polaris, and need to return to it so I can zero in on what I want to say.
That’s why, as a freelancer, you never have to sit down and stare at the bank white page. If you’re doing this, you’re working backwards and making this job far more difficult.
The creative part of this job is conducted far away from the computer. Your best writing occurs during your research time, your off time, when you’re living your life. Your mind should fill with ideas, the points you want to cover in your next writing session. That way, when you sit, all you need to do is grab each “Lego” thought, and assemble it on the page.
It’s during this process that you get to pull out all the cool tools of the craft: word choice, similes, metaphors, etc. You get to let loose and write the thoughts that have already germinated in your mind.
I think this is what makes writing different than many careers: You never leave this job. Ideas pop at the most inopportune times. Every conversation can become fodder for the latest project. The whole world is your oyster when you’re gathering information… and the world contains a LOT of information. It’s easy to get overwhelmed as one writing project blossoms into the next.
But once you’ve gathered your thoughts, arranged them, refiled information you can use later, it’s only then that you’re ready to allow the magic to leap from your mind onto the page.
But to attempt to write by pulling words out of thin air? Nah. We’re not writers as much as we’re Lego experts. If this concept offends, you should check out some of the masterpieces created by the Lego Masters. They’re amazing.
This little thought trick revolutionized the way I write. Gone are the days of white-page anxiety. The pressure to “write pretty” evaporated. Clarity trumped everything else.
Best of all, writing, particularly researching, became fun again.
Give it a try.
P.S. Hate staring at the blank, white page? Click the link below. We’re talking three volumes of hard core freelance information in one handy download.
Writing Etc./Filbert Publishing News – May 14, 2013
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