We all want to get our message out as accurately and as artistically as possible. When we sit down to write we can experience one of two phenomenons. Either we have a whirlwind of ideas and have trouble settling on a starting point, or we have no ideas and no start point. Whatever your strategy is for handling that, bless you.
These tips are intended to help once you have started writing. Assuming you’ve gotten yourself started, these tips will help you keep writing, and prevent getting stuck or slowed down.
1. Don’t Edit Your First Draft
I don’t know about you, but this is something I struggled with for a long time without even realizing it. I would start writing something and after a few paragraphs I would start editing what I had written. I wanted to get those paragraphs perfect before I moved on. That’s a big no no. This includes any type of editing, i.e. grammatical, structural, punctuation or spelling.
There is a time for editing in the writing process and your first draft isn’t it. You will lose valuable time and productivity. In my experience I would naturally start editing when I found myself not knowing what to write next. I would go back and read what I had just written hoping the momentum would stimulate the next idea. So far that has never worked.
I suppose the only exception to this “don’t edit” rule would be if you wrote something which was making it difficult for you to follow through on. If you’re at the end of your paragraph, and you’re having a hard time seeing what’s next, maybe changing the way you ending your paragraph could help. Maybe the way you started your paragraph is real problem. The idea is to keep yourself writing, so make whatever adjustment you have to make.
2. Keep A Note With Your Main Idea or Purpose in Front of You
Unless you’re really focused and mentally disciplined, it’s easy to lose track sometimes. I have found that keeping my project’s main idea or purpose in front of me helps keep me focused, and it keeps my writing on purpose. Straying from your point is easy. If you’re like me, you can get carried away elaborating on something that you only meant to mention in passing.
One of my Biggest challenges in my early years was being able to stick to the point. By the fourth paragraph I couldn’t even remember what I was talking about. Keeping your main idea in front of you is a great way to check in as you’re writing to make sure that what you’re saying is always in alignment with what you meant to say.
3. Allow Yourself To Drift If It Happens
Sometimes even keeping your main idea in front of you won’t prevent you from drifting off a bit. A writer is supposed to write. As long as you’re putting ink to paper or electrons to white screens you’re doing what you’re supposed to. Ideally, every word we write would be exact and perfect, and our ideas would flow in perfect order never needing revision.
But that’s not how it works. The creative process is a little like our body. We consume food, the food goes through a process, our body gets what it needs and the rest is waste. Any creative process also has its own “metabolic waste”. Painting, arts & crafts, garment making, you name it. In some cases people have learned to reuse the waste material to create other materials.
That’s how I view drifting in my writing. Sometimes drifting is necessary to help me clarify an idea. Other times I find that what I wrote while drifting was great. Just not for that particular moment in the project. It is something for a later chapter. If I can’t rework it to use it on this project, maybe I can use it on the next project.
If you find yourself drifting, get back on track as soon as you can, but don’t be afraid to allow yourself to unravel the idea. You can never write too much. A singer can never sing too much, a painter could never paint too much. Enjoy the process.
-This is Life in the Leap