Dear Overwhelmed Writer,
You have a lot on your plate and got handed a writing project. It’s another article you got to write for your job.
You know you should get started but every time you think of the writing project you imagine it just disappearing.
Poof! It’s gone.
Fantasy fades, reality sets in and deadlines loom.
You want to get started but you can’t see the end of the project. You’re thinking of the unknowable end before you even start.
Don’t sweat as yet because there is a way through.
The solution is as simple as developing your writing process.
You say you know your process: start writing, write to the end, edit and submit.
Yet, you can’t get started.
Maybe, just maybe, you’re one like me who need to think through the entire project on paper first. Maybe you need a more clearly defined end and some points first before you start writing.
That’s where understanding and developing your writing process comes in.
Your writing process takes you from idea to done work to published work and from overwhelmed writer to a calm writer.
Your writing process will help you to birth an article from just an inkling of an idea, to think, to write and polish your writing.
Understanding your writing process will only serve you well. Here’s how.
1. Each stage of writing gives your brain one thing to focus on
Many types of activities go into getting to a done writing product. It is not just about “writing.” It also involves dreaming, reading, thinking, researching and evaluating.
Each step you take to a done product requires a different use of your brain power.
When you’re ideating, you’re creating the images of your end product. You’re dreaming.
When you’re drafting and polishing you are creating new words for the images you have in mind.
When you’re editing, your analytical brain takes over to help you clarify your thoughts, to delete words or paragraphs that don’t fit your logical flow.
Separating your writing into defined stages helps calm your overwhelmed writer’s brain.
First, each stage has a defined output and output quality. When you finish one stage, you know you are one step further to a good quality product.
You’re relieved that you’re done with a particular stage.
You and your brain could take a deep breath and exhale.
Then you can move onto the next stage.
2. Each stage can be scheduled
When you have stages to go through, you can track how long it takes you to finish each one.
You can use that information to better schedule your writing. Instead of giving yourself just one hour to ideate, the data on your ideation process says you really need three hours.
Maybe ideation and dreaming up your project help you to relax so you do 1 hour in the morning and 2 hours in the evening after meetings and rushed tasks.
As you develop your writing process, you will see which stage requires more time than others.
You will better be able to estimate how long each stage will take and the time frame you need to deliver an article.
3. Each stage requires an environment that either inspires you or puts you to work
Sometimes, as in my case, different types of writing require different environments.
When you’re dreaming up an idea and visualizing it, you find you work best in a nearby coffee joint with a warm cup of cappuccino, a notepad and a pencil.
Maybe what you need is an environment with a slower pace and time to help you channel your inner eyes to imagine and dream. For you, this environment might be a nook in your home or a bench in a park.
Maybe you prefer to research once per day with all research items batched together and that working in the living room is best for this activity.
My dear overwhelmed writer, you don’t have to be in one place to complete your work. You can choose an environment that supports the work of each stage.
4. Each stage and blocked schedule is an opportunity for deep focus and flow
The best thing about developing your writing process is the focus you can bring to each stage.
When you know what you want from each stage of writing, you can focus on using the required brain skills to create the product.
If you’re dreaming, you know the space and time you have is to help you create your vision of the work. You focus on giving physical dimensions to the intangible vision. You might sketch the images on paper, use mind maps, or simply describe your vision in words.
Also, you invite flow when you focus on a particular outcome and use the relevant skills for that outcome.
Time slows down and the words flow from through your fingers to your writing (or typing) pad. You feel content and at peace.
You may think flow can’t happen with serious forms of writing. But all you really need is a bit of time and space and a specific outcome to help you focus. I experience flow at least once a week with technical and academic writing.
There will be times you expect flow but it does not come.
First, don’t work with that expectation. You will distract yourself and kill your focus.
Second, work in brief sprints of 10 minutes to get started. In between the sprints, breathe, and don’t distract yourself with anything else.
Overwhelmed writer, now that you’re armed with why developing your writing process will help you, let’s see how you can do it.
How to develop your writing process
To start with, outline how you move from an idea and dreaming up its end form to submitting an article.
Then note the best times and locations you work for each stage.
If you have never done thought about your writing process before, the outline will be rough.
Then, with your current article, note how you work as you work through each stage on your outline.
But, describe those parts that have you confused or floundering. These parts require your attention to progress from confused or overwhelmed to working.
Maybe you tried to write a section but did not have research to support it so you got only one line out of yourself. In that case, you need to spend a bit more time on reading, researching and improving your outline until your outline is detailed enough to support writing.
As you write your current article, note the activities that supported your writing process and those that did not.
And note the time spent on each type of writing activity. You need this information to help you to better schedule yourself.
At the end of the writing your current article, you will have a firmer picture of how you work and your writing process.
Use each writing assignment as an opportunity to refine your writing process and to improve your document of how you work.
Each writing assignment will shed light on the individual stages that support your work.
Each writing product is a discovery process of how best you work and will move you from overwhelmed writer to a peaceful one.
Trial and error but many benefits
You might be tempted to shortcut this process of discovering your writing process. If you do, choose someone else’s process and try it. See how you respond.
Discovering your writing process is one of trial and error.
It will take several iterations.
But, the benefits of discovering your writing process are exactly what you want: to give up the overwhelmed writer’s hat and don the peaceful writer’s one.