There are days when my head is full of ideas about things I want to do and places I want to go. Sometimes I find myself spinning! But, I always come back to what I love most, writing.
For me, writing is not a linear process, unless maybe I’m making up a dreaded grocery list or writing directions to the nearest alpaca farm. It’s an adventure that takes me in all different directions.
No matter where your writing is headed, you need a place to start. It’s important to understand who you’re writing for, what messages you want to communicate and why. Get those ideas down first. They’ll serve as guardrails to set the direction.
- What do you know about the topic you’re writing about?
- What do you want others to know?
- How do you want your readers to feel or act when they read what you’ve written?
From here, I find the easiest next step is to just start writing! Start dropping your thoughts and ideas onto your page. Don’t worry about the order or your sentence structure. I like to call this brain dumping. (Read my brain dumping blog.)
If you’re a more visual person, or you’re working with a team, a mind map might be an alternative for you. I’ve worked with colleagues who used a form of mind mapping to drive out sub ideas from one central idea. It’s a quick way to clarify concepts and uncover details that you may not have thought about. (You can find a number of mind mapping tools on the internet.)
Start with a series of random thoughts. One good thought (or one bad one) will always lead to another.
What you write doesn’t have to be full sentences. You’ve heard the saying ‘dance like no one is watching’? Well, I say write like no one is ever going to read it. Express yourself and embrace your writing style. Start with what you know and then take it from there no matter how crazy it gets.
That blank page or computer screen will soon fill up with words and ideas, ready to be connected.
Once you feel like you’ve written everything you’ve got (and yes, there will be more coming), it’s time to start reviewing.
- Take some of your incomplete sentences and turn them into sentences.
- Add more detail or description to better formulate your thoughts.
- Move the copy around so your story has a logical flow.
- Get rid of duplicate content and delete copy that’s no longer relevant.
While you’re doing this, more information will come to mind. Use these new thoughts to round out what you’ve already written, but remember to check back to the original purpose of your communication. Too much information could weaken the plot!
I once listened to an international speaker who described his speech writing process. Before he was happy with his final contest-winning speech, he presented it 55 times to gather feedback and ended up with 72 versions of his speech before he was done! A little much for what you might be writing, but it does underscore that reviewing and adjusting is key.
Once you feel like you’ve arrived at your writing destination, take a break. Come back and read it again later with a clear mind or get someone else to read it for a different perspective.
Whether you’re writing an announcement, a news release or a novel, you have to start somewhere. Now go do it!