Writing is a creative process, no matter what type of writer you are. Unfortunately, creativity often alludes writers when they need it most.
Though I would love for my creativity to hit just before I sit down to write, that pressure often makes my creativity run away in fear. Then it will only return when I’m calm and relaxed again. (Mine likes to visit me in the shower or when I’m driving, with no paper or pen in sight…)
I was reminded of the allusive nature of my creativity just the other day, when reading a new blog from Copyblogger, whose blog and e-newsletter I highly recommend as a resource for all writers.
The blog, “Forget Your Muse,” asserted that writers should never sit around waiting for their muse to hit. Instead, they should trust their process, both the act of sitting down to write — even without inspiration — and the methodology of researching a topic in order to channel inspiration.
Impactful writers have a process. And if you don’t have one yet, you’re missing out on your potential.
Ernest Hemingway stopped writing when he still knew what would happen next, when his creativity was still there. He said, “You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.” John Steinbeck wrote “freely and as rapidly as possible.” He didn’t believe in re-writing or correcting until the whole work was done. Ray Bradbury approached novels as a combination of short stories. He wrote one short story every week because “it’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”
As someone who writes for a living, my process always begins with research. It’s rare that inspiration for one of the numerous blogs, e-newsletters, columns or even social media posts I have to write in a given day hits me as soon as I’m assigned the work. It’s usually a painstaking effort to learn and begin writing about a topic I often feel no inspiration for, but that process has taught me resiliency.
If I’m struggling to find even a spark of inspiration after I research a topic, I’ll create an outline. Typically, about halfway through the outline, I’ll know exactly what I want to say and how I plan to say it. Then I’ll ditch the outline and get started. And even after all of that, some days I still don’t know what to write. It’s those days that I just start writing — something, anything — and heavily self-edit several times along the way. While it’s not the most efficient process, it works as a last resort.
Though processes vary for every writer, yours should focus on how you find your creativity, inspiration or muse, whatever you call it. I prefer to coax mine with research in my professional writing. I often find inspiration for my personal writing through the books, articles and blogs I’ve read. My experiences and travels inform my personal writing as well.
If you don’t have a tried and true writing process yet, figure out what makes your brain start churning. Think about how it is that you usually get started, and if you have several methods, which one works best. Or maybe like me, you have a different process depending on the type of writing. That’s okay, too.
I don’t promise that your writing process will always be easy. But, if you stick with it, your process will help you create a piece of writing you’re proud to call your own.