I’m in Laos working on a book about EQ for fathers. This will be my 5th book! And, in some ways, it’s the easiest – not because it’s the 5th, I think, but because fatherhood has been such a big theme in my blogging the last 13 years. Sue McNamara, from our Singapore office, asked me if I had any tips for writing. So, borrowing on Anabel’s recent them of lists of six, here are six “hard won” tips for writing.
1. Get words on the page.
It doesn’t matter if they’re right or good or perfect — the enemy of the writer is a blank page. Write to me, your child, to your dear Aunt Sally – just write. Electrons are free. You’ll edit later (see point 6).
In fact, my experience is that the best writing is unlabored. It’s less formal. More zippy. Real. You.
2. Capture the idea and fill it in later.
Thoughts are faster than typing – so throw an idea down when you have it, flesh it out later. Type in all caps, MORE ABOUT XXX LATER…
3. Stop with an idea of what’s next.
Don’t end your session at the end — end just before, so you start your next session with something! See point 1!! My preference is to try to finish a thought, it feels complete. But then, when I sit down for my next session, I’m at a blank place. If I force myself to stop, sometimes in the middle of a sentence, then ____.
4. There is NEVER a perfect time or enough time.
The easiest thing in the world is to find a reason not to write. Here in Laos I’ve dedicated time, but: The chair isn’t comfortable. It’s too hot or too noisy. I can’t do my usual take a little walk (I can take a sauna for free though).
If you have 5 min, write 1 idea.
5. Shift gears.
If you sit for hours writing, I doubt you’ll write much the next day. Your brain and body need stimulus and energy. Walk. Swim. Eat a delicious lunch. You can “write in your head” then sit and write. For me, 45 in is a nice “block” – sometimes I set a timer and “make” myself write for 45 min (even if it’s trash, see #1) then “make” myself stop and move.
Since we study emotional intelligence, we all know that emotions are a huge driver of performance. What can you do to promote a useful set of emotions? If you don’t have them, can you “artificially” create them? Bad Mood is a great excuse, so remember, mood is a choice.
6. Editing is your friend.
Some of you will remember “back in the day” when we used paper or typewriters. I remember the terrible pain of having to do a second draft and re-typing a whole paper. Ugh. Thankfully, on the computer editing is a piece of cake. You can save multiple versions, move whole sections, reorder, reword, insert… In editing, I like to:
- Replace boring words with zingy ones – look for the trite phrases and reform them
- Increase brevity – take out the trash
- Strengthen my voice – does it sound like me? My unique contribution?
- Make it parallel – the old subject-verb agreement etc.
- Correct errors – to many two count.
I don’t know who told me this, but many years ago someone said, “The difference between a writer and a non-writer? A writer writes.” Sometimes it’s a delight, sometimes it’s sheer agony, but get words on the page.