GIVEAWAY – 5 Ways You’re Killing Your Writing Flow – and How to Bring it Back to Life
It’s all about the Process, Man!
Keep reading to find out about the first GIVEAWAY contest I’ve ever done on Keyboards and Kickstands!
You all know how I feel about applying a Process to writing. I don’t think I need to hammer that anymore today, but if you somehow missed it – go read about the Writing Process here and here and then come back to see how you should manage the Drafting step, in particular.
What is Drafting?
This is the step that we all just sort of jump into, by instinct. It looks a lot like journalling, Morning Pages or any other type of free-writing exercise, but if you are writing with a purpose you can’t just sit down and GO without some effective Prewriting work.
Drafting should be like exhaling all of the air you’ve gathered during the Prewriting step. It should feel free of judgement and stress, and it should feel productive.
It is when you finally get to say what you planned out.
What ISN’T Drafting?
There are a whole bunch of things that need to just get out of the Drafting step altogether. These things make me MAD and SAD and they make your writing experience unhappy and unproductive, so CUT IT OUT ALREADY!
I’ll give you a list of 5 things that will kill your writing flow if you try to cram them into the Drafting step. Avoid these things like CRAZY, friends!
1. Spelling and Grammar DO NOT matter!!!
I used to teach kids to write whose minds were literally wired against writing. They struggled with spelling, grammar rules – even the deceptively simple act of printing letters on a page made these kids’ entire brains just freak out and try to escape their heads and run out the front door.
They were some of the most brilliant kids I’ve ever met. They were athletes, dancers, artists, chess champs phenomenal musicians. They had crazy-cool ideas, and creativity? You have no idea; they were brilliant. But getting those ideas and stories on to the page from their brilliant minds was straight up painful for them.
One of my faves (if anyone asks, I never had favourites. I loved all of my students the same. Jeeze!) was a fantastic singer; he was also a devastatingly terribly speller. Somehow, during the whole “Learning the Process” process, he developed this sing-song mantra for the Drafting step, and he would sing it out so beautifully that it made my weird, teacher heart swell 6 times its normal size with pride.
“Spelling and grammaaaaaaar DO NOT matterrrrrrrrrrrr”
I wish you could hear it. It’s beautiful – even if you aren’t a weird-o writing-teacher who gets a little bit too excited about the Writing Process.
Anyway – the thing you should take from this is that you will have time to check spelling and grammar later, but if you derail your train of thought to check how many F’s are in giraffe during the Drafting step, you will be left behind at the station, watching that train take off without you. You spelled giraffe correctly! Hooray! But you lost the beautiful thought surrounding the giraffe…Darn it!
2. Do NOT over edit your sentences as you go!
This is one of those things we try to cram in where it just doesn’t belong. You do NOT need to have perfect sentences during the Drafting step. I will be giving you some coaching tips on what kinds of sentences work best to convey different kinds of ideas, but not until we hit Revision.
Because that is when you should worry about it.
For now, if a sentence seems weird, or a word isn’t quite right, make a little editor’s note on it and MOVE ON! The train is leaving without you, sista. Get back on it!
Here are a few quick editing marks I use when I’m drafting (I write them and circle them over the line when I’m writing free hand, and I put them in CAPS or red when I’m typing):
WC = Word Choice. This word sort of means what I want it to, but I think it needs something extra. Thesaurus later.
AWK = Awkward. This piece feels weird, but I think I can reword it or rework the sentence structure later to make it work.
SP = Spelling. This is most definitely NOT how you spell jiraphe…I think there’s a g…and maybe two f’s? I’ll write it out phonetically for now and check the Dictionary later.
RES = Research. I think this statistic is vaguely right, but I can’t prove it and I don’t want to outright LIE to my readers, so I’ll do some research later to make sure and even grab a source to give myself some credibility.
You can use whatever notations that work for you – but these guys are a great start.
3. Don’t expect perfection!
Just don’t. Every now and then, I sit down and write something and it is just perfect the first time around. It’s like magic, and it makes me feel AWESOME! But it almost never happens.
IT ALMOST NEVER HAPPENS! And I’m writing all of the time. So if you do some kind of statistical probability thing, you’ll find that it is just not something you want to bet on happening for every blog post you write. Ok?
You have done your planning, and you know that your ideas are solid and laid out in the right order. You may even have a few quotes already from a guru in the field, but it still might take a few tries to get the words to cooperate with those ideas.
Give yourself a break. If it isn’t coming, stop hunching over your keyboard and do something active for 2 minutes. Do 60 jumping jacks in your office, or run a lap around your yard. Do push ups or your own version of flash dance.
Then take a drink of water and get back in the saddle/chair. Imagine a block of granite to a sculptor – they have to etch away the layers, bit by bit. The first time Michelango took a crack at David’s nose, it probably wasn’t perfect.
4. Don’t punish yourself with procrastination.
Putting writing off to the last minute will do all kinds of bad things to your creativity and it will definitely rev up the ole stress levels, so just cut it out.
If you could imagine a talking pot sitting here right now instead of me, and then imagine yourself to be a kettle – that would be fine.
I’m a procrastination MACHINE, and it hurts me more than any other thing in the world.
If you only have an hour left before your deadline, you aren’t likely to be able to follow any of this advice, and you will hate your life for the next hour. You will also hate yourself a bit every time you look at that piece of writing, because it won’t say what you want it to; it will feel like a shadow of what you pictured during the planning process.
5. Never EVER NEVER EVER start without an outline
This! This is the biggest thing ever. If you have been reading Keyboards and Kickstands for a while, you know I think Prewriting is THE JAM. If you are just joining me today for the first time, learn this one thing:
Never ever ever start a writing project without a thoughtful plan.
Just don’t do it, okay?
What should you be doing during the Drafting Step to bring your flow back to life?
Drafting should feel like a release – a relaxing and satisfying exhale after you’ve gathered in your breath for a long time. Just let it out, honey. You’ll feel better for it.
2. Find a physical comfort that makes writing feel like a pleasant ritual.
Make a cup of tea, stash a jar of liquorice beside your desk (guilty), make a healthy snack to nosh on while you write or cuddle up in a cozy blanket on a cold day. Make the process of Drafting one that you look forward to.
3. Make Free-writing a part of your scheduled day.
Even if you aren’t working on a project, you should be practising free-writing techniques every day. I will talk about this more in the coming weeks, but for now I’ll say this: when you are practising free-writing you should let yourself write whatever comes to mind. You should let it range wide and far into your imagination and you should practise not judging your words.
It’s not easy to let yourself off the perfection hook, so it’s something you have to practise often. It’s essential to the creation of a writing flow that can’t be broken by meanie-weinie self-talk.
If you have a good free-writing practice on the go, your Drafting step will feel so so good.
4. Read or consume beautiful words in some other mindful way
This could easily be Number 1 – 5. In order to be a good writer, you have to absorb good writing. The End.
To be fair, I’m a mega-reader. I did an extended degree in English Literature, and I loved every minute it: the massive books upon books of stories, poems and even literary criticism. I LOVE ME SOME WORDS! And I do feel like reading in particular will do more good for your writing skills than any other thing you could do, but the truth is that you can absorb great writing without reading books all day long – if you do it on purpose.
I’ve had students who say “I hate reading. I never will like it, and I never will do it”, and I always say “Yes you will, or you will never ever write powerfully” BOOM! That doesn’t go over happily all of the time, but I always follow it up by saying that you can get the benefit of reading in other ways.
You can read magazines about your niche, other blogs that you dig, even reading lyrics to your favourite songs as you listen to them can help your mind think more like a writer.
If you cannot stand the act of trailing your eyeballs across lines of words on a page (first of all – congrats on getting to the end of this post), then you can absorb great writers by listening to e-books or watching TED talks by great thinkers.
5. Find an inspiration muse
If I am having a hard time starting up the muse engines, I can almost always count on TED talks to get me revved up and ready to go. I have a few channels on TED.com that I love to go to for inspiration and mind-blowing, idea crashing muse caffeine.
I even have specific talks that I go back to time and time again, because they always bring the muse out in me.
Go forth, my friends, and find your muse! I have no doubt that your words will start a-flowing just as soon as you do.
I know that we all feel the need to get every single thing done at once, and it makes this whole Process thing difficult, BUT remember every thing has a season, my friends. If you allow yourself to do the steps, you will find that writing is so much more free and Drafting is actually fun (most of the time, anyway).
Trust me 🙂
Come back next Tuesday to learn more about Free-writing as a way to unlock your flow. It’s one of my favourite ways to wake up my writing.
OK!!!!!! You have been so patient. Now I’ll tell you about the GIVEAWAY that I promised 🙂
April Bowles Olin has offered (because she rocks your socks off) to give THREE copies of her book, Marketing for Creatives to my readers, so that even more of you can participate in this month’s Biz Book Club on July 24th!!
She’s pretty awesome.
Here are the rules:
1. Share this post on Social Media, along with a picture of you in your favourite writing spot, with your favourite writing snack (or sookie blanket). Make sure you use #KeyboardsandKickstands and link to this post, so I can find your beautiful faces!
2. Comment below and tell me something you do to bring your flow back to life, and let me know each of the places you have shared this post: Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, You name it!
3. If you write about it on your own blog, you’ll get an extra 5 entries! WooHoooo! Link to your blog post in the comments to get credit.
I will be drawing for three copies of April’s book next Monday and announcing it on my next Tuesday’s Tips post on July 8th, so get your entries out there by 5pm EST July 7th in order to be entered!
I’m excited!! My next post will be this Thursday, and it will be full of all kinds of fun extras, so c’mon back and see what’s new.
You mad? Excited? Have a perspective to share? Please do!
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and IG’d at
I would love to win this book and participate in the Biz Book Club!
I LOVE your spot! When I used to go camping all the time, the table, by the fire pit was my favourite journalling spot for sure. I once found a nice climbing tree to write in on Ocracoke Island, though I might have gotten stuck in it and required a little assistance getting down…
Good luck in the draw!
I’ve been writing a lot lately – and I mean a lot. There are times when I just don’t know what to write next. Something that’s really been helping me get that flow back is listening to podcasts of interviews with other writers. Hearing about their creative methods and the journey they took to get where they are today usually gets my creative juices flowing.
As to the sharing of your lovely post – I’ve tweeted, I’ve pinned, I’ve … facebook’ed? (All with hashtags). And I’ve given a shout out on my blog – http://bit.ly/fictionfridaywithak
The giveaway looks like it’d be a great book! 🙂
I can’t wait to get my hot little hands on your book. I’m with you there – feeling like being a part of a greater conversation makes me feel all kinds of muse-y. Writers and Company on CBC makes my fingers itch to type 🙂
Thanks for your entries. You would (will?) love the book. It has tons of really useful and practical advice, AND you can come (hopefully) and join in on our Book Club Party on here at the end of July.
PS – I’ve been meaning to say this for YEARS: Sorry about the red finger paint staining your white shirt when we were filming that Non-Shakespearian Renaissance/Chicago mobster movie. I remember promising that it was washable because it was *supposed* to be…and then it wasn’t. I have been carrying that weight on my shoulders forever! 😉
PPS – It was super fun filming that Non-Shakespearian Renaissance/Chicago mobster movie. We were awesome!
Haha, I don’t remember any red paint staining my shirt at all – but I’m sure it was to make the film better and completely worth it. Take that weight off your shoulders. All is forgiven!
And I haven’t heard of Writers and Company – I’ll have to check that out. Thanks!
Hhahaha! I am relieved 🙂 Eleanor Wachtel is the host – you will LOVE it 🙂
Finally did it! Tweeted (@sarahdshotts), Instagrammed (@sarahdshotts), Pinterest’d (@eilonwy), & FB’d.
Still working on today’s blog post, but planning to give you a shout out. When I get it done I’ll post the link. 🙂
Woohoo! That’s 5 more entries for you – 9 all told!
Hoooray! Thanks Sarah; you are officially entered 1, 2, 3, 4 times. Good luck 🙂
I love your writing space, by the way. Sitting outside has made my muse open up many a time too. It can be SO beautiful this time of year.
I’ve pinned (PhotosKeptAlive), tweeted (@PhotosKeptAlive) and shared on Facebook. I like to view instagram and read some creativity business books to get my flow going. Sometimes, just sitting down and writing will do it too. I’d love to learn from this book and am loving learning from you! Thanks so much!
Thank you Karen! I love instagram too, and you know I love me some books 😉 Good luck! You’re entered for 3 shares 🙂 If you get an instagram photo up too, you’ll get another entry.