My work, the things I comment on and explore are the collision points between work and life for the working professional. I started it March 31st 2015, approximately three years ago. I do this through my blog, my podcast, and one day through the book I intend to complete, which was the entire genesis of this whole effort. That means that the very core of this effort is all about what i’m doing right now, ie. writing. Writing is a creative endeavor that I never thought would be attractive to me. It’s becoming something of an obsession, which considering my personality is not all that surprising. Currently, i’m in the midst of a personal goal to have 104 articles completed for the blog and queued` for publication. 104, for a weekly publication puts me two years ahead. This will give me the ability to take a year or more off to just concentrate on finishing the book. It will also give me time to really consider how I wish to move forward with this blog.
One the the things that’s a bit out of the scope of my work is the process of writing. Writing, in and of itself, isn’t really a collision point, it’s more of a hobby or pastime. It really only fits if writing is for the purpose of a side business. It only becomes a collision point if you are doing it with the intent that i’m doing it for, to make some money. So in that way I can justify it as content for my readers and listeners. Writing can be a side business, and a side business is definitely a focus area for professionals.
Back to this article. Many authors have an article on writing, it’s almost inevitable that they do one. Now that i’ve done it for a while I understand why they are motivated to do it and why i’ve been itching to write an article on writing myself. Writing is powerful and life changing which makes for an interesting subject to explore. It’s been a journey and considering how I looked at writing in the past, how I currently look at it, it stands to reason that my perception on this art is going to change over time. I can see where one day I may want to revisit writing / creating which is why the title to this work is amended with Part I. I currently don’t have a part 2 planned but most likely will do one someday.
So what have I learned?
The first thing I learned is that it’s not easy. It’s like a job that you love but your tired at the end of the day because of the tremendous amount of mental energy that goes into it. It also takes time, and the time can slip from you. I’ll get involved in an article and my wife will call me down for dinner. I’ll yell out “Just a minute dear” figuring it’ll only take me a few minutes to come up with the last paragraph. I’ll finish writing what I intended to, in what to me seems like just a couple of minutes, and when I go downstairs I’ll find out it’s been forty minutes and not only is everyone done with the meal, but they have also cleaned up and are getting ready for bed.
It’s an organic process. I never really understood the idea of an organic process. What this term means to me, is that where you start and where you think your going to go with it sometimes doesn’t happen. Your narrative has a tendency to spiral in unexpected ways. This has to do with the minuta of the structure. You’ll make a point, and that point will lead you to another point, but you realize there is a third point that’s only tangentially related to the theme of the article but very closely related to the first point you made. The next thing you know the article has spiraled away in an unintended direction. A planned two page article about the challenges of retirement becomes a four page article about the challenges of dealing with elderly family members who refuse to accept their own mortality and therefore don’t have a will. The best part of this is that the article can be a surprise even to the person writing it. The worst part is that you create a disorganized mess.
Quality will be all over the place. Some of what you create will be shit. Some will be great. It’s all part of the creative process. No band ever had a greatest hits album as their first release. Also, some people will think some specific thing you have created is crap and others will say it’s the best ever. Sadly some of what I create could get much better with more editing time and focus, possibly if I had an editor. Unfortunately I don’t. I have one friend who is a writer but I only see his stuff once every month or two. He has advised me to reread everything I write several times as part of the editing process. Personally, i’d rather ship something that’s got some sparks of interesting concepts rather than nothing at all. That means it gets one, possibly two reads, and then I say to myself “good enough for government work” and i’m on to the next thing. When i’m worried that something is especially garbage, I remind myself that there are some who will think that it’s garbage, but there may be some who think it’s awesome. A point about the critics with the negative comments, there is even value in what they are saying. Remember they are sharing things about themselves when they criticize your work. They are saying ‘this is how I connected with it’. That tells you a bit more about your audience than you would have known otherwise, that will help you continue to hone your craft and target them if you desire to get a point across that they will understand.
Writing a bunch actually changes how you think. It forces you to organize your thoughts away from feelings into literal words. So if someone is mad at me I used to feel they were mad, now there are actual literal words that go through my head ‘She is clearly upset, what are the things I could have done differently?’ or ‘I may have missed something’. I remember the first time I realized I was thinking like I was composing an article. It blew me away that my mind had changed so much. Somewhat associated with changing the way you think, your new skill in composing will have applications in areas you didn’t expect. You could become much better at writing something for work or for a friend’s cover letter. Maybe your helping someone clarify their thoughts on a topic that’s very important to them. Writing is communicating, and by being a better writer you are going to communicate better and more effectively in more mediums, no matter if they are in your own mind or external to it.
Do you want to write or maybe be creative in some other way? Videos? Painting? There are some tricks i’ve learned and they are good for writing and in some cases for creative efforts beyond writing.
Change locations as needed. The simple act of changing locations can change your energy level and output. Sometimes a change of scenery is just the thing you need to get going again. I wish I could do this at work, just change offices every other day or so as the need stikes me. I feel like i’d be more productive if I were able to do that.
No matter if you are writing fiction, non-fiction, or a script, always read what you wrote out loud. I discovered this little trick, one I since learned which has been around forever, when I started the podcast. By narrating my Post of the Week, my readability of the articles went through the roof. I wish I knew it when I first started. God my writing was bad back then.
Jot down every idea you have immediately and flesh it out as much as time permits or you will forget it. This works for every single medium. Get the idea out and get as much of it down as you can no matter where you are. Ideas are like a funnel, or god help me, a production line. The more that goes in the top the more that’ll come out the bottom processed and ready for consumption. I’ve had bits of ideas that just haven’t fleshed out very well, but I’m still keeping them around to see if another spark gets that particular story or article moving along.
Don’t beat yourself up for the bad stuff. Any farmer will tell you that you need a ton of manure to grow a good crop. You should love the stumbles and failures. They really help ground the rest of the stuff and there is value in nearly everything you do, even if it’s just learning not to do that again.
If your doing regular writing, like a paper column or a blog, get ahead as much as possible. I talked earlier about my goal of 104 articles, but i’m sure that’s overkill for most. A few weeks or months should be good enough for anyone. Remember your audience doesn’t want to wait three months for inspiration to hit and six articles to come out all at once. Consistency keeps you a part of their regular routine. Also, if you write something that’s more topical you can simply move everything else up increasing your buffer. On that note, don’t forget to leverage ‘evergreen’ creative works. These are ones that are could have been written or created anytime with more topical stuff. It’s good to have both.
I made some suggestions, but there is only one strong piece of advice I would to recommend you do, no matter what it is you are trying to do be it business, a creative endeavor like writing, or anything else. The most important rule is to always take the advice of Dory from Finding Nemo. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. If your a novice writer, then write and keep writing. If you aren’t a writer, it’s definitely something to put on your bucket list if you have ever toyed with the idea. I can honestly say that it’s impactful enough that I would recommend anyone who wants to do it to make it a priority. Write an article a month, or write that book (or three b/c you won’t like the first one). The sooner you do it the sooner you’ll be happy you did!
Life is hard, life is short. Definitely do what you want, and if it’s writing, try it. Really try for an extended period and long enough so you have an extended body of work. You’ve got nothing to lose because even if you make a pile of crap, you still had the experience of making it and that’s more than the vast majority of people have had in their life not to mention it’ll help other things in your life grow.
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