Do you hate writing?
If you do, you’re not alone. It’s the second most common thing that people say to me when I tell them what I do for a living.
(The first is: “What on earth is copywriting?”)
I totally get it. Some days I hate writing too. I stare at an empty page for hours and any words that manage to make it on there sound trite, dull or just plain dumb.
Most days, however, I love it. For me, there’s no better feeling than finding my writing flow – when the words come easy and fit together perfectly.
I firmly believe that everyone can learn to love to write, or at least learn to tolerate it.
So here’s how I go about the business of writing.
Give it a go and you might just surprise yourself with how much you enjoy it.
Get the environment right
I’m not one of those people who can write anywhere.
I need to be sitting at a desk in a nice calm environment with some ambient background music (because I’m an artist, alright).
Things that spoil my writing flow include:
- Too much movement around me (people, cars, cats, whatever)
- Being too cold (my fingers stop working)
- Being too hot (I get sleepy)
- Loud chewing (gross)
- My boyfriend playing videos on his phone at full volume (whyyyy do they do this??)
If any of these things are going on around me, I know I’m not going to be able to write at full capacity. So, if there are things like this that drive you crazy, eliminate them from your environment or you’re already on to a loser.
Do your research
It’s difficult to write about something that you don’t fully understand yourself. That’s why it’s well worth doing some thorough research before you start writing.
Make sure you have all of your facts straight and have read what has already been written on your chosen subject. Maybe even note down some quotes from credible sources to support your points (or to prove wrong, depending on your angle and disposition).
It might sound boring and time-consuming but I promise you it will make the writing process a hundred times easier.
Nail your structure
From doing your research, you’ve probably already got a half-formed idea in your head of what you’re going to say. Now you need to sort out the order that you’re going to make these points and note down some headings.
Don’t worry too much about the wording of your headings at this point, you can go back and fix these later. You just need to give an indication of what you’re going to write about in each section (so you remember what your plan is).
Under each heading write down the point you want to make in one sentence. Keep it as short and sharp as possible.
I find this helps me focus when I come to write my first draft and stops me waffling around all over the place.
Get the first draft down
Now it’s time to get down to some serious writing.
Work through each heading at a time, expanding the one sentence points you noted down earlier. Your aim is to flesh these points out into proper arguments.
Do this quickly. Don’t get hung up on finding the perfect turn of phrase or worry about your appalling spelling. Write as a stream of consciousness and don’t stop until you’ve reached the end.
Congratulations, you’ve got a first draft!
Let the dust settle
After this flurry of activity set your first draft to one side and let the dust settle. Ideally, you should leave it 24 hours before you think about it again, but I know better than most that this isn’t always possible.
At the very least, reward yourself with a tea break for your hard work so far. Then come back to your first draft with a fresh pair of eyes.
Edit in the awesome
Now it’s time to edit in the awesome. I didn’t invent this phrase, it’s something the great and mighty Joanna Wiebe from Copyhackers says a lot. But I like it, and I repeat it to myself often.
Take each sentence you’ve written and make it the best it can be. Check that you aren’t using any unnecessary words, that each sentence leads naturally to the next and that your writing feels crisp and clean.
At this stage, it’s also good to mop up any typos or grammar boo-boos. I use Grammarly, a free grammar checking app, to make sure that my writing is error-free.
If you get editor’s block at this point (totally a thing) and can’t work out how to make your writing flow, try reading it out loud. Sometimes hearing yourself say something can draw attention to the words that are snagging and how to fix them.
Pause before publishing
Again, if you can leave your writing 24 hours before making it public (publishing it on a website, sending it to your boss, etc.) then this is ideal.
At the very least, try to take a pause at this point and switch tasks for a while.
Let your writing breath for as long as your deadline allows and then come back to it for a few final read-overs.
Now’s the time to fix all those little niggles that you probably didn’t notice while you were editing. The typos that have somehow sneaked through and the sentences that still feel a little weird.
Once you’ve read your writing over a few times and there are no longer bits that make you grimace, you’ve got a final draft!
Now it’s time to give yourself a pat on the back, head down to the pub and reflect on how that really wasn’t as bad as you thought it was going to be.