“The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not.”
I stumbled upon this insight in Amy Poehler’s memoir, Yes Please, and it stuck with me. As writers, we love to act as if writing comes naturally; like we can sit down at any point of any given day and crank out life-changing sentences that move people to tears—or, as is the case for copywriters—words that move people to buy or engage with a certain product or service.
And sometimes that happens. But most the time, it doesn’t. Most of the time, the writing process is messy and inconsistent. It’s staring at a blank white page and a blinking cursor and frantically glancing at the clock to figure out just how much longer we can procrastinate until we miss our deadline.
I am a firm believer that to be good writers, we have to write a lot. Writing is just like anything else; with practice comes permanence, and the more we write, the better we get.
As we practice writing, the process usually looks something like this:
We begin by staring at a blank page. It’s one of the most intimidating, yet empowering, parts of the writing process. When thinking of how to begin, I have two cardinal rules:
Get it all out on paper.
There are no bad ideas.
We need to write down everything that pops into our heads, even the ideas we think are no good. From this brain dump, we are likely to find a theme with which to write our story, but we will also likely stumble upon topics to write about in the future.
Let it be messy. Let it be weird. Let it become whatever it becomes, and revise it later.
I really do think that all great writers procrastinate. In fact, there are theories that support this. Writers hold themselves to a higher standard, and — as proposed by Megan Mcardle of The Atlantic — “As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package.” We fear that our writing won’t be good enough, so we put it off until we absolutely can’t put it off any longer.
The inspiration is the moment we finally land on a good idea and suddenly know exactly the direction we want to take our writing. Usually, inspiration doesn’t strike when we want it to. It’s rare to be hit with a great idea while sitting at our desk at work. Rather, inspiration is likely to strike when we’re binge-watching our favorite Netflix show or taking a shower in the early morning. But whenever it hits, we finally experience the release we’ve been waiting for; we no longer have to delay, because now we have a solid idea to run with.
Once we’ve finally landed on a topic to write about and have mustered up the energy necessary to execute on the idea, the actual writing usually comes pretty easily. I tend to edit as I go, reading and rewriting sentences I’ve already written when I hit a wall. Others type everything they can possibly think to say and then revisit the piece at a later time. Most writers start with a rough draft (or two or three), and finish with a piece they’re [somewhat] happy with.
Whatever the process looks like for you, my final piece of advice is this: Keep writing.
Erika is a communicator, passionate about content creation and brand growth. She is fascinated by the power of words–the power they have to establish connections, change someone’s mind, and make meaningful impact where it matters most.