August 24th, 2011

How I Write

I don’t find a quiet room. I don’t grab a cup of tea. Instead, I cram. I think of an idea, I email it to myself to remember later, and I sit down to write when I have time.

Honestly, I’ve never understood the pains some people go to in order to write. The planning. The organizing. The ritual. I’m sure it’s important, and billions of best sellers prove that it’s working for someone, but it just doesn’t work for me.

There’s no routine, for me. This is how I write.

This Is How I Write

I start with an idea. The idea never comes when I want it to. It comes at a random time, and that’s why a routine doesn’t work.

Usually, I jot the idea down. I email it to myself. Then, I put it on my to-do list. If I don’t put it on my to-do list, the idea might as well have never happened.

Next: when I have time, I write.

That’s all.

I know, right? Because writing is this prickly, amorphous tangle of emotion and fear and all of that.

Truth is, I just write. I just start something. If I finish, I finish. If I don’t, I wait until the next day. The issue isn’t the process – it’s about getting over the blank page, starting to write a few words, and ending up on a roll.

The tools

Today is my first day using a traditional text editor to write a blog post. I’m using BBEdit, and I’ve imported my blog’s stylesheet so I can see how it looks in realtime. My goal is to take it one step further, implementing Gruber’s Markdown syntax to create a simple and effective process toward writing my posts in HTML, making transfer to this blog more logical.

Before this, I was an unabashed Microsoft Word fan. What changed? A need for simplicity, first off, and a need for something that I could transfer from site to site. The copy/paste/format/code routine seemed so archaic, as if I was still trying to start a fire with sparks and leaves while a butane lighter sat just inches away.

I jot ideas into Evernote, but typically I use email to remind myself. My to-do list is Things, which I love, and I sketch more complex ideas into a Moleskin.

I used to use ultra-fine Sharpie pens, but they bleed through my current knock-off Moleskin. So I’ve switched to Energel Liquid Gel Ink pens from Pentel. They’re great.

Why does this matter?

It doesn’t.

Seriously. This does not matter.

This routine is mine. It’s not even a routine. It’s barely a list of actionable steps – it’s more like a random list of unactionable drivel.

I write the way I write and you write the way you write. Creativity. Analysis. Creation of any kind. These are not things that can be summed up in a 15,000-hit eHow page, or on a search marketing blog, or even person to person.

I mentioned this in my methodology post over at Eating Elephant: you create your own system by trying and failing and adapting and trying again. Because what I do will not work for you. What you do will not work for me. All we can do with each other is make suggestions, push each other harder, and remember that nothing creative is done in terms of black and white.

By all means, try my method. Try lots of methods. And take the things that work forward to create your own method.


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