Many people think writers are wordsmithing wizards who can instantly summon the ideal phrase, conceive the perfect headline at the drop of a pen, and churn out any length of article on any topic from any perspective at the mere waving of their writing wand. It just comes natural for them.
They can’t. And it doesn’t.
The truth is, blog writing is as difficult for even the most accomplished and adept scribes than it is for everyone else. As German novelist and Nobel Literature Prize laureate Thomas Mann aptly stated, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
So how do writers make it look so easy and effortless with their vast volumes of compelling and engaging prose that keeps us coming back for more? One word: system. They’ve got one and they follow it. Just as you wouldn’t drive from Dallas to Denver without a roadmap or some form of navigational system, you don’t write blogs without a process in place either.
In the previous blogs of this series, we looked at authority—and found most of us already have enough to write competently and comprehensively—and we looked at content—and discovered we’ve probably got plenty to say on the topic on which we’re writing. The final challenge we face comes from a process perspective.
Consider these steps as you create your next blog and go from idea to execution with clearer direction, deeper thought development, and better results.
In this initial stage, the purpose is to conduct a massive thought dump of your great and maybe-not-so-great ideas, where literally anything that comes to mind is open for consideration. It’s an exercise of going from less to more in order to get information extracted from your head to the page. This will include already-held ideas, those you’re pursuing, as well as those you discover in your research.
At this point, you’re not trying to edit, analyze, organize, or refine ideas. Your purpose is to expose the raw amount of ideas from which you can draw. When you singularly focus on idea creation, you’ll be surprised later on how much extraordinary information comes from this ordinary process. For now, just get your ideas on paper; you can sort it out later.
Organizing and Outlining
Now that the brainstorming phase is complete (although you’re always open to new thoughts anywhere in the process), forget everything I just wrote about going from less to more because your next task is to gather up all the ideas you’ve accumulated and consolidate them as you look for common themes, a progressive line of thought, and elements that tend to lead to a more unified and comprehensive whole.
Sometimes it’s as simple (not easy) as writing down a title and then working through your introduction, key supporting points, and conclusion. To those who feel they don’t need this roadmap step, good luck when you find yourself three-fourths into your journey and headed in in the wrong direction.
If you look at what’s already transpired in our process, you’ll find that you haven’t done much seriously writing yet. That’s because it’s essential to generally know what you want to say before you attempt to say it. Here are a couple of quotes to prepare you for this stage: First from Hemingway: “The first draft of anything is sh#t!” And then from Sir Terrence Pratchett: “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” They’re both absolutely correct.
Like the brainstorming phase, the writing of your first draft is an exercise in simply getting your best effort on paper. It’s not often—actually, it’s never—pretty. In fact, this is one of the most difficult phases of writing because YOU PROBABLY WON’T BE ECSTATIC ABOUT THE RESULTS. And it’s the reason so few people ever finish blogs—they never really get started.
Knowing this ahead of time will help you curb your expectation of getting your draft perfect and complete on your first attempt. Instead, aim at completing a competent, comprehensive, and cohesive draft. The masterpiece will come later.
Creating and following a blog writing process won’t ensure perfection, but it will give you a much better sense of direction, purpose, and structure than blindly aiming at a target and hoping you get hit it.
Check out the next blog and the final stages of the blog writing process.
Jim Ramsbottom is ThinkWell's writer-in-residence. When he's not authoring blogs (for clients or himself), white papers, animation scripts, website copy, or marketing content, you can find him writing screenplays or re-watching “Breaking Bad.” He’s an ardent of the Hopi proverb: “He who tells the stories rules the world.”