A Handful of Thoughts On Writing

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Life has themes and seasons and writing has shown up as one of mine at the moment. Everywhere I turn, I hear about the writing process of online women I adore. I checked the mail yesterday and discovered a beautiful deck of Spark cards, designed to inspire creative thought for writers. When I pull an oracle card from my Life Purpose deck I get either ‘Author’ or ‘Writing.’ Sometimes I select one and the other falls out, when the angels are being particularly hilarious.

I’m feeling a pull to write more. To keep honing, learning, opening myself up. To explore, often, through the written word. And I know lots of you are too.

Quick insights on how I write:

1 // I’ll dive further into my creative process in a future post (promise), but the snappy version here is that for years I employed the Edit As I Go method, which occasionally worked well for me but more often than not, resulted in me taking twice as long to get a piece of work together because I’d be stuck on that damn first paragraph – always backtracking, polishing, cutting and pasting, controlling the flow of the story.

2 // These days, I’ve befriended what Anne Lamott calls the Shitty First Draft, and I’m learning to tame my desire to ‘polish up’ in favour of ‘letting ideas flow uncensored.’ It’s not completely structure-less writing because I always know the gist of what I intend to write about, but it is about letting my creative essence grab the reins and seeing where I end up. Then editing. I gotta say, it’s infinitely more fun.

So, are you hankering to express yourself creatively? Great news, because I have a handful of thoughts on the topic. Read on, sista… 

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Know you have a story to tell. You are living that story right now. 

Creation is vulnerable, and sometimes your heart will ache. If it does, let the words heal you. I want you to know that in the telling of your story – or should I say, stories, because every day we’re living them – you will be set free.

When it comes to your writing, it’s yours first and foremost, and ultimately it is up to you how deep/ light/ funny/ educational/ controversial/ poetic you go. Take comfort in that (aaaand… exhale) but also – here it comes – it would be remiss of me not to share that time and time again I hear, whether from clients or fellow online creators, that it’s the vulnerable stuff that garners the greatest connection. People want to feel like they’re not alone, and if you can be the lighthouse AND be open about the way you ‘do’ life, your audience will thank you for it.

Remember: we may not recall what someone said, but we always remember how they made us feel. 

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Set an intention. 

Following on from the above, if you’re a blogger writing a blog post, think about how you want your readers to feel after reading it.

Write it at the top of the page: “I want people to feel joyful!” “I want this article to make them cry – in a good way.” “I want my tribe to walk away feeling informed about X.”

When you read it back from start to finish, does it do that for you? 

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Write, not right. It doesn’t have to be perfect. 

I’ve started doing Morning Pages (a la The Artist’s Way) regularly, which involves pouring three pages of unedited, raw, messy, un-pruned thoughts into my journal every morning before I start work.

Some of these pages end up bearing nuggets I can use for blog posts, which is fantastic and frankly, appreciated, while others simply make sense of something I’ve been mulling over. Also appreciated. The rest of them, though? Pure fluff ‘n’ randomness. It doesn’t really matter which version they are, but the showing up, putting pen to paper and committing to the process does. Flexing the ol’ ‘write daily’ muscle is addictive.

Are you ready, right here and now, to take a vow that you’ll silence your inner critic, create with wild abandon, and then, only then, once you’ve got the ugly, disjointed, Year 1 English out on the page… get to the editing? Is that a HELL YES I hear? (whatever your answer, know that I’m just hearing yes right now). 

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Meditate on it. 

Clapped out creatively? Too overwhelmed to string a few words together and call it a sentence? Time to get still and wade into the beautiful, colourful, spirit-filled world of YOU.

The grand thing about meditation is that it allows you to tap directly into your soul power, especially in times of uncertainty and muck, so make it your mission to clear the decks and make space for new insights and ideas to bubble up. Ideas aren’t ‘out there.’ Go in.

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Edit, with glee. 

My favourite way to write a blog post is to shitty first draft it and polish just a little, leave it overnight, and come back the next day for the final cut, wax and shine.

Following that process* always makes me feel excited and competent, whereas rushing through and jerkily hitting Publish without so much as a proper proofread, leaves me feeling like the idea hasn’t had time to really percolate.

Hemingway said “Write drunk, edit sober.” I say “write recklessly, edit ruthlessly.” Preferably the next day.

* Update: Reading your lovely comments, I realised I wasn’t entirely clear here. SO with you on the punch-out-and-publish method – that’s me 90% of the time. But man does I feel virtuous the other 10% when I let a post marinate! 

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Read outside your niche. 

Or preferred genre/ style. If you’re a self-help book devotee (two hands in the air), bury your nose in a good fiction novel every once in a while and take note of the way the story is crafted.

What is it about the way the author writes that made you forget you were reading?

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And above all, don’t wait for the perfect conditions to start. Because, even if no one sees it, even if no one reads it, even if no one comments, retweets, likes/ shares/ shouts your brilliance from the rooftops, isn’t the most powerful fact that through the act of actually ‘doing the writing’ you have no choice but develop a deeper intimacy with yourself?

*****

I love hearing about how others approach their writing/ blogging, so tell me, how do YOU do it? Share below.

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39 Comments to “A Handful of Thoughts On Writing”

  1. Hi! I was just wondering about censorship? I wrote a scathing blog post about why I don’t like Bali and other asian countries and people closest to me said it’s something probably not appropriate. But I was trying to get at a point…

    I write what’s in my mind – at times, it might be nice and soft, other times it might be angry or something that bothers me (like in that post).

    I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, whether I should take down the post, but I think if I do, I’m not being really true?

    My friend said that I have to be careful of what I write as it might deter me from getting health coaching clients in the future, but I don’t want to hide who I am or censor myself to make everyone else feel comfortable…

  2. I have recently realized that writing is actually essential to my wellness. Like, along with all those other parts of being well – the physical, mental, emotional, social, & spiritual components etc – I think creativity is an integral piece of the (raspberry + raw cacao) pie. It definitely is for me. It’s pivotal to how I am feeling and functioning as a person, as a whole. As the amazing Brene Brown says, unused creativity is not benign. If I am not dedicating a portion of my time to creating – writing – I do not feel ‘well’ in myself.

    Also: I could write about writer’s block forever. Seriously. It is a subject that fascinates me. The irony of this also amuses me.

    Love this post. Happy-thank-you-more-please! xoxo!

    (PS – Sophie at Spark Yourself is luminous & lovely & doing great things.)

  3. Hi Angie, I think ultimately it comes back to your own intuition (how does it FEEL having it out there? Were you thinking of taking it down/ having second thoughts before anyone threw their opinions in the ring?) and the purpose behind writing the piece. Is it to inform? Vent? Shed light on an issue you’re passionate about?

    I’ve read many a passionate opinion piece on blogs that usually take a ‘lighter’ approach and I think they can work well if they’re written from the right place.

    Do a gut check and remember that you set the tone on your blog and it’s your place to express yourself however you feel like expressing yourself… but yes, perhaps that will lead to you attracting different clients (not something you can really predict until it happens).

    It could actually open you up to attracting more of your ‘right people.’ x

  4. Yes! I too have perfected the Shitty First Draft method. I just get it all down in writing while it’s on my mind. Then I come back and move bits around until it makes sense. It’s not always pretty, but it works! Thank you for sharing your insights. Writing can be tough, but these tips are fantastic!

  5. Tara: And they are always brilliant! x

    Jess: Did you just say raspberry and cacao pie?! Ha. I love how you’ve explained that, and PLEASE do write about the process girl, I could read your delicately-strung-together-brilliance forever and a day. x

  6. Vari: YES! That’s exactly it. And sometimes, you read it back and go “Did I even write that?” and you know you’ve hit T R U T H + wisdom. Kapow. x

  7. Jennifer: Totally hear you on the “it’s not always pretty” call. Thank god those drafts don’t make the light of day, eh?! x

  8. Delicious. And wonderfully resonate.

    As always, thank you for giving me exactly the words I needed to hear (or read!).

  9. Fantastic post Rach! It’s really interesting to read of the approach of others. I’ve already let you know that your writing from Italy was another world of awesomeness and it was clear your heart and mind were free for that creation. For me, I allow my writing to ebb and flow. When I don’t force it, I always know it’s only a matter of days before it comes bursting forth. Often some (what I hope/think) are great sparks come when I’m walking, showering or doing housework. This year my goal was also to just let some of those sparks slide by and not feel anxious about capturing and translating all of them into written pieces – this has served me well and aids in simplicity. For a very emotional/vulnerable post I tend to sit on it a while and only release it when I have settled with it myself and then don’t mind whatever the feedback is. For me, writing is as much about trying to connect, maybe help/inspire but is also very therapeutic in that the process of nutting it out for someone else to read also nuts it out for me. I love that feeling and have felt many things let go from my heart and mind when I hit publish.

  10. I love that you just published this today – this morning I had such difficulty getting words onto the page in front of me that I had to walk away and just do yoga and do a bit of wandering around the city to try and clear my head.. and then this! Now I love what I’ve got in front of me and can’t wait to see it out in the world tomorrow.

    I am also a shitty-first-draft-kinda-gal and I love seeing how going back to it later helps me uncover even more nuggets of wisdom I didn’t even know I had. Can’t wait for your creative process post! xx

  11. Fab blog Rachel. I follow a similar process – I always allow a day or two to pass before I publish, just to let things marinate.

    I have also gone back to paper and pen for my first draft as I can write a lot faster than I can type and just find it flows better.

    I LOVE the idea of setting an intention for my readers. I’m most definitely going to steal that hot tip! (thank you).

  12. Oh I love this!
    The last few weeks I have gotten back into writing first thing in the morning, cuppa in hand sun coming up, dog on my lap aaaaaand GO just scrawling whatever comes. Like you say Rach some of it is ” oh great there’s a blog” and a bunch is just emptying out so there is space for better ideas!!!

    I love Jess that you mentioned that Brene Brown quote about trapped creativity not being benign. I remember when I first saw that, it broke me into pieces.. such a beautiful but painful realisation moment that what comes through publishable or not is healing and to block that is to deny your light… just magic.

    Thanks for sharing gorgeous ladies
    x

  13. Thank you for your lovely words about the Spark Deck Rach – SO glad that you are enjoying them and hope it helps in releasing even more of those beautiful words of yours!

    For me, it’s all about the writing habit, and showing up every day to write. This means writing badly some days, or writing only a few days, but it definitely builds up that writing muscle you mentioned.

    Strangely enough, I have also discovered that listening to audio books helps me get in the flow of writing. It must be something about hearing the sentences of others form aloud in my head that then unblocks my own stories.

    Wonderful and thoughtful post x

    PS – Jess, I am glowing after your comment. You made my heart sing, thank you!

  14. This is really inspiring.

    I think we all have different ways of writing. Some of us are structures while for others of us, just putting words on a page loosely is relatively easy.

    I’ve found that I will always envy those who’s writing seems to come easily and naturally, but I also know that if I try too hard to force it then I’ll lose the voice that has developed through my writing.

    …long story short: writing is hard. In grade school we swore we would never write again if it wasn’t for a grade. now, it’s a release…. Crazy, this writing thing.

  15. Rach – once again a perfect post.
    I am like Tara – I am a write and publish kinda girl, but I think I mull over ideas in my head too much.
    I need to journal more so those ideas don’t get shoved out when another comes in.
    Thanks doll. You rock!

  16. I can’t tell you how excited this post made me! You already know how much I love your writing, and I’m very happy that you are feeling called to do more of it. I can’t wait to read your posts on your writing process!

    I’ve gone through a similar process as you – I used to be such a perfectionist about my early drafts, but now I’m trying just to bang it out and edit later. I’ve actually changed my whole daily routine to get more writing done – I’ve made writing my first priority of the day. I get up, do my meditation, then sit down for two or three hours and just write. After that I can exercise, shower, answer emails etc. It’s made me so much more productive, and I feel like I have a lot more time in the day because I’m no longer wasting time procrastinating to avoid writing (out of fear that I’m not ready yet).

    Big hugs lovely lady!

  17. Love this Rachel. Perfect timing for me. I seem to be in a creative slump. I also put together a first draft, get all my ideas out and then spend some time editing and I always leave it over night before the final wax n shine. :)

    Great Post. Thank you for sharing.
    Kristen xx

  18. The shitty first drafts “technique” is so freeing. I’ve finally learned to let go and be okay with all the crap that comes out first. It’s all about getting the words down, regardless of how awful they sound. I also like to keep in mind that sometimes it takes 3,4,5 pages to get to the good stuff. I just have to show up, start writing, and see what happens.

  19. For years like you I was obsessed with making each paragraph, heck even each sentence perfect before I moved on to the next one. I recently realised I was never going to achieve my dream of being an author by doing this. I have so many stories stored up in my mind but only a few dozen pages actually written. I am just now working on letting the story flow as it needs to, without thinking too much on what I’m actually writing :)

  20. Great tips! I’m more of an organic writer too. I need to feel inspired, so I write like crazy when I do. And then I go back and edit later.

  21. Talking about posts making people cry….whoa mama!

    Thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you, my dear.

    I’m a recovering “it must be perfect first time” writer and I am loving the process of writing in the flow, letting my words breathe and giving them a loving polish the day after. I’ve also realised that reading outside of the spirituality genre is vital, not only for my mind, but for my writing. I can appreciate what so many others give to the genre and it makes me hone my skills even more.

    I just absolutely love diving into words and your post has just reminded me of all the joy and expansion it gives me. It’s become like air to me, and I believe you to as well my lovely.

    Keep jiving with your words my darling- it really, really suits you!

    Katie xx

  22. I only just came across this post (hello crazy whirlwind of a year that is 2013!) and I am so pleased I did. As usual that sexy beast of a lady we call the Universe, decided to flaunt some of her bad ass magic and flirty synchronicity, and direct me to EXACTLY what I have been looking for. I am adoring the creative process of writing and I am so very grateful to have had this passion fuelled further by such an incredible post. EEEE! Thank you Rach xx

  23. Love it Rach & can totally relate to the edit as you go! Much saner to follow your lead & edit slightly once it’s complete, then fully the next day. Thanks for the tips Beautiful! Xx

  24. Hi Rach,
    It’s so interesting how we all write. I wrote a couple of posts on this myself and realised my fave soulful way to write is just free flowing with little structure…. I called it ‘intuitive writing’ .
    However, I also see the beauty in just a little preparation esp in certain posts. But I have to say I’m a ‘ cozy Sunday afternoon’ write from the heart and press publish excitedly girl really ????
    I do acknowledge that actually though whilst my intuitive writing works great for me mostly, a day to let the words settle and permeate … for a final
    Wax and polish before publishing would be better – also probably for me too – rather than acting from the adrenaline rush. Another blogging/life lesson! ????
    I had decided this was my new plan so your post is very synchronistic. Thanks.
    Love Carly xx

  25. Hi Rach,
    It’s so interesting how we all write. I wrote a couple of posts on this myself and realised my fave soulful way to write is just free flowing with little structure…. I called it ‘intuitive writing’ .
    However, I also see the beauty in just a little preparation esp in certain posts. But I have to say I’m a ‘ cozy Sunday afternoon’ write from the heart and press publish excitedly girl really ????
    I do acknowledge that actually though whilst my intuitive writing works great for me mostly, a day to let the words settle and permeate … for a final
    Wax and polish before publishing would be better – also probably for me too – rather than acting from the adrenaline rush. Another blogging/life lesson! ????
    I had decided this was my new plan so your post is very synchronistic. Thanks.
    Love Carly xx

  26. Hi Rach,
    It’s so interesting how we all write. I wrote a couple of posts on this myself and realised my fave soulful way to write is just free flowing with little structure…. I called it ‘intuitive writing’ .
    However, I also see the beauty in just a little preparation esp in certain posts. But I have to say I’m a ‘ cozy Sunday afternoon’ write from the heart and press publish excitedly girl really ????
    I do acknowledge that actually though whilst my intuitive writing works great for me mostly, a day to let the words settle and permeate … for a final
    Wax and polish before publishing would be better – also probably for me too – rather than acting from the adrenaline rush. Another blogging/life lesson! ???? so funny that how we blog parcelled with how we live life!?
    I had decided this was my new plan so your post is very synchronistic. Thanks.
    Love Carly xx

  27. Loved this. I’ve started out as an edit as I write kind of blogger and I’m now loving the idea of writing and leaving it overnight and then editing, so I’ll try that with the next one. In saying that, I’ve gone back and read over my first posts and I’m actually really surprised that i still love what I’ve written, and even though its not perfect or brilliant and I’ve really only just begun, I am still so proud that I actually started. Thank-you as you were a big part of the motivation for me to actually get going xx

  28. I am compelled to write in this moment in my life, but I have no idea if I am good at it or not. But a part of me inside is screaming to come out. I have to admit I get stuck on comparing and judging ;( Thank you for this post because whether anybody reads my post one day or not I will have a deeper connection with myself.

    Happy Writing,

    Karla Diana

  29. Thank you for this – I needed to read this today! I have been procrastinating with my blog for over a year now! Just because I couldn’t get the first post right. But after reading this, I just need to get it out there!

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