“The hard part is getting to the top of page one.”
— Tom Stoppard, Academy Award- and Tony Award-winning playwright
Many obstacles to good writing — writer’s block, procrastination, formulaic thinking — actually stem from a bad writing process. Understand more about how your brain tackles a creative job, and you might come up with a better approach to writing.
The creative process has five steps:
- Forage, or gather information. This is the “feed your brain” step of the process. Here’s where you conduct background research and interview sources for the raw material that will become your story.
- Analyze that information by focusing, sifting and organizing it to see how the pieces fit together. (Many writers think they don’t have time to outline their stories. In fact, you’re more likely to waste time if you don’t start with a solid structure.)
- Incubate, or let the information simmer. We often try to skip this essential step.
- Break through, or get to the “Ah-ha!” This is where you come up with answers to questions like “What should I use for my lead?”, and “How am I going to organize this thing?”
- Knuckle down, or take Ernest Hemingway’s advice and “apply the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair.” In other words, turn your great idea into a great story.
Using these steps — in this order — can help you write better, easier and faster.
Would you like to learn more ways to improve your writing? If so, please join me in Washington, D.C., at PRSA’s May 13 workshop, Writing That Sells.
You’ll learn how to:
- Think Like a Reader. Put yourself in your audience members’ heads so you can make your copy valuable, interesting and relevant.
- Make Your Copy More Creative. Steal techniques from fiction writers to make your nonfiction writing more dramatic and compelling.
- Cut Through the Clutter. Master a seven-step system for making every piece you write easier to read and understand.
- Rev Up Readership. Draw people into your copy, make your copy more accessible — even reach readers who won’t read.
Ann Wylie is president of Wylie Communications, a writing, training and consulting firm. She works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out. For PRSA, she presents programs like “Writing That Sells — Products, Services and Ideas” in on-site sessions across the country. Wylie is the author of RevUpReadership.com, a toolbox for writers, and Wylie’s Writing Tips, a free e-zine. She has earned more than 60 awards, including two IABC Gold Quills, for her work.
Join Ann for her for her seminar “Writing That Sells — Products, Services and Ideas” on Friday, May 13 in Washington, D.C.
Good point, Stacy! I sometimes try to “power through,” too, even though I know it’s not productive. And I should take a tip from your students: Sleep helps!