Newfangled works with independent agencies to create lead development web platforms for their clients.

Newfangled works with independent agencies to create lead development web platforms for their clients.

Writing: Just Do It

at 11:15 am

Blogging for Newfangled is the first time I’ve been required to write since I graduated from college. As an English major, I wrote a lot, and I got pretty good at it. But I’ve been out of practice for two years now, and it’s been tough to get back on the horse.

Blogging is hard, especially when your posts are supposed to demonstrate expertise and thought leadership and all that fancy stuff. It’s intimidating, and frankly most of the time I’d rather do anything other than write a blog post. (If that's how you feel, too, see Chris Butler’s post, What Blogging Feels Like.) 

This blog post was particularly hard to write. I thought I knew what I wanted to write about, but I couldn’t seem to turn the idea into words on a page. I think I pulled up my draft at least once a day for a week and a half. I would stare at the mostly blank page, occasionally write something, and then usually immediately erase whatever I had just written. I had an idea, but no inspiration.

So today I decided to just start writing. I gave myself a challenge: start typing and don’t stop for five minutes. This technique is usually called freewriting. It was a tough five minutes, and at the end I mostly just had a jumble of semi-coherent thoughts, all of which were only tangentially related to what I thought I wanted to write about. But writing was starting to get easier. I kept it up, and slowly things started to come together. The beginning of my document was mostly filled with tentative sentences and thought fragments, but as the type traveled down the page, the thoughts were more cohesive, the sentences were stronger—there were even whole paragraphs.

As I was writing, I remembered what it was like back in college when I would write a paper. It always started the same way. I’d sit down one day and begin compiling a document of notes. Every day I’d keep adding to it, until it was just a mess of quotations and half-finished paragraphs and notes and fragments. And then one day I would make myself take one quotation or note or whatever and turn it into a full-fledged paragraph. It was always hard to start at first, but once I wrote that first real paragraph, it was hard to stop writing.

Sometimes inspiration doesn’t come before writing. Today I decided to start writing, without any real idea of what I would produce. The inspiration came during the process.

Even though I feel like I shouldn’t even put my fingers on the keyboard before I know exactly what I'm going to write about, sometimes I really do have to start writing something—anything—before I really know what I should be writing about.

Comments

Patience Nyange | August 31, 2011 10:08 AM
Lindsey, I feel you. For sure I do. I have been blogging almost a year now with 80 blog posts published and I look back and say it has not been easy. At times I feel so tired but still I find a lot of inspiration in knowing that someone is reading my posts. The more you do it, the easy it becomes. All the best!

Best Regards,

Patience
Steve Kieselstein | August 19, 2011 11:50 AM
Great post and great advice Lindsey. I am also a reformed English major, and though as a lawyer drafting has been a big part of my professional life for a long time, writing blog posts and newsletters is turning out to be a completely different animal.

I echo your praise of freewriting. A wonderful poetry professor (and poet) at Queens College, Marie Ponsot, taught it to me about 30+ years ago, and I later taught it to a local high school creative writing class as a student teacher. The transformation was almost exactly as you described: grumbles and discomfort to start, smoothing sentences and discovery of ideas and eloquence the group didn't even realize they had in them by the end.

I think I may have just found the perfect assignment for our next staff meeting. . ..
Noumaan Yaqoob | August 19, 2011 9:20 AM
It is particularly difficult if a person is blogging on a specific topic and he/she needs to stay focus. I have noticed that sometimes freewriting works well on niche blogs too, your loyal readers would forgive you for one or two incoherent posts. Another thing about freewriting is that sometimes it could help shape some powerful ideas emerging from unpolished thoughts.

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