Behind the writing scenes

In my book club, we were talking about people not being aware of their own strengths, or downplaying them.

I mentioned that this was the theme of a blog post that I’ve been trying to write, but it’s resisting being written, so it’s not publishable yet.

One of the ladies requested I write about the process of writing. How does something resist being written?

For this post, I’m just going to talk about blog posts and newsletters, as my process for them is the same and they’re stored together.

I have one document in Mellel with all of my blog posts and newsletter writings for the calendar year broken into three sections: published, ready to publish, and incomplete.

The section of incomplete work is an attic of ideas, ranging from a few words capturing an idea to “fully written but not quite right” pieces.

The one we talked about at book club has been written for a long time, but it doesn’t flow quite right and abruptly stops at the end. 

I believe the concept is an important one to share and that some readers will start to shift their mindset for the better after reading it, so I keep returning to it. I open it, read it, try to rewrite some of it, and it resists. I can’t get it right. I move on to something else for the day. The process repeats.

I know from experience that at some point, I’ll figure out how to work that piece so it’s publishable. Since the content is evergreen, it doesn’t matter if it takes a while. Other pieces are more timely and after not working for a while, they are no longer useful.

The process of writing about it has sparked some new ideas how to write it. You never know where help is going to come from.

As I write this, I have 34 entries in the incomplete section, including this one; 33 of them are partially or wholly written pieces. One is a seven-page list of ideas.

When I sit down to write, I start with an idea I already have in my head, if I have one. Ideas are fickle and will run away if you don’t tend to them when they demand it. For example, I took a break from this piece to get down my ideas about the other one that I’ve been stuck on. By the time I’m done this one, those thoughts will be long gone if I don’t write them down immediately.

If it’s time to write and I don’t have an idea, I skim through the incompletes and see if one captures my attention. If yes, I work on it. If no, I go to the list and see what speaks to me from there. On hard writing days, I work on three or four of the incomplete pieces, leaving them still incomplete before finding something that works. On easy writing days, I sit down with an idea and just write it, and while I’m writing, I think of another idea and I write that one, too. Occasionally a third.

Most days are somewhere in between.

How do I decide when something is ready? It needs to:

  • stay on the topic
  • read smoothly 
  • be interesting (at least to me)
  • have a conclusion/question/call to action 
  • not be too ranty (it’s easy to rant and that’s not the voice I want overall)

I rarely write and publish on the same day, and I never write and publish immediately. Everything sits for at least half a day (ideally a day or more) before I look at it with fresh eyes and edit. After editing, I decide if it goes in the ready section or stays in incomplete. 

Even things ready to publish get read again when it’s time to move them. In writing, there’s a definite aspect of “good enough,” because it can always be tweaked. 

“Is it good enough?” is not always easy to answer, and when I’m not sure, I usually default to no. But I do take the opportunity to make it a little better before sharing it, even if Yesterday Heat thought it was good enough.

Creating a schedule for myself—I post on Tuesdays and Thursdays and my newsletter is sent on Fridays—keeps me accountable to my audience and to myself, and it keeps me writing on days when writing is hard. (Because no matter how good you are or how much you enjoy it, it’s always hard sometimes.)

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