How to Begin the Writing Process

How to Begin the Writing Process

[ Differentiating between writing and editing ]

In Writing Your First Article, we took a look at a number of different elements pertaining to the task of writing. We dealt with how to overcome fear, the importance of making a plan and how to go about choosing topics that make the most sense for you.

Time and time again, when people talk to me about exploring writing to strengthen their personal brand or to share their views, they typically want guidance as to what to write on. To some extent, this is relevant. When you write for a particular publication, it is good to ensure what themes they tend to focus on and the readership they have so you can tailor something specific to that readership.

Those first few lines are the hardest to get through but if you consider this a process, you learn to embrace the discomfort that is very much a part of it.

However, it is also important to build up expertise in one or two particular areas. What areas might these be? They could either be areas that you are passionate about or that you have built expertise in. In that way, you avoid a situation where what you have to say is generic or too introductory in nature that it fails to provide significant value and fails to impress upon the reader.

The writing process can be very arduous, leaving you fearful of facing the blank page. Those first few lines are the hardest to get through but if you consider this a process, you learn to embrace the discomfort that is very much a part of it.

This is where you need to be clear about the distinction between writing and editing. The brain moves faster than the hand which means often, you are scrambling to get your thoughts down in as coherent a manner as you can. You may find that the ideas and themes may present themselves internally well but the minute you begin to get the words out on paper, these very same ideas appear disjointed, ordinary and lacking. This can be a huge hurdle to get through which is why you need to treat writing as a four-step process.

First, the brain dump

The idea here is to sit down and just write. Whether with a pen and paper or on your laptop, your aim is to put your ideas down as they come.

What do you do? You write without stopping. You write whatever comes into your mind. You keep the flow going by minimising any potential interruption. This is a process of creation. You have ideas and this is about bringing those ideas to others. You are emotionally invested in what you have to say, you have experiences you want to call to bear, you have opinions on other people’s opinions and on situations and developments as you see them. Your job at this point is to ensure that you get those ideas out clearly and sensibly.

The editor is there to enhance, to polish and to better.

What don’t you do? You don’t stop to read it. You don’t allow intervening thoughts to cause you to go back to earlier paragraphs to change things around or reword it.

Then, we begin to clean up

The editing process is something you do once you believe you have written all that you need to. Preferably, it is done at a later time as the creative act of writing can be exceptionally draining. Attempting to deal with the minutiae of every word and paragraph as well as the tone and structure of the piece calls for a different part of the brain.

The editing process calls for less investment in the piece because it is not a creative process. It is one driven by curiosity as to what is being said, how it is being delivered and how the editor should do justice to the piece without removing in any way or form, the voice of the writer. The editor is there to enhance, to polish and to better.

In essence, the writing and editing tasks require different sides of the brain. The left side of the brain performs tasks that are associated with logic, such as science and mathematics. On the other hand, the right side performs tasks that have more to do with creativity and the arts. The writing task is related more to creativity whereas the editing task is more logical. For this reason, switching between the two when writing an article can be very exhausting. Keeping these two tasks separate enables you to complete the job.

If you have the opportunity, it is better to focus on writing and employ someone to take care of the editing. The separation of tasks ensures balance and a more rounded perspective. But this is written on the assumption that when you are first starting out and feel capable of handling both writing and editing, you are handling both tasks.

Later, we mull over it

If you are not pressured by deadlines, ideally you allow yourself a day or two to let the piece just sit. You get on with other things and when you come back to it with fresh eyes, you very easily spot changes you want to make and corrections that need to be dealt with. You have the ability, being rested, to take a good look again at what you’ve developed and review these ideas well.

Finally, we polish

Once the rounds of edits have been done, it’s time for a final review. You take another look at your choice of words, a particular turn of phrase, how you’ve split the paragraphs for emphasis as well as your choice of typographical emphasis. This refers to your use of bold, italic and underline but also includes changes in font, font size and capitalisation.

Less is more.

If you decide to use bold, then stick with that and keep it to a minimum for true impact. Refrain from employing bold, italic and underline. Every emphasis is a call for your attention and it can be draining for the reader. Further, if many items deserve such emphasis, the frequency reduces its impact.

This is what I do when developing an article. I didn’t have this process right at the start, it is one I have come to, over the years and hopefully, you find some value in this. If you have other suggestions for improving the writing process, let me know.

If you like this post, I hope you will share it. If you need help with your writing, with getting published or with strengthening your brand, feel free to reach out. Let’s have a chat.

#writing #editing #makeithappen
Human-writing-on-notebook-52649 image courtesy unsplash.com via pexels.com

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