As writers and creative types, we all have techniques to get in gear and move our work along. When I write and coach other writers, I approach the early stages of writing as an opportunity to generate great material. I describe the approach as, “Make a mess…then clean it up.”
The “make a mess” part is fun, liberating, and can generate a considerable volume of usable material. I encourage clients to “write for the trash,” i.e., with complete abandon. This process removes our inner judges and leaves us with piles of material to sift through.
Cleaning up our messy writing is a chance to find gems in the trash. By being thoughtful about reviewing our work and having a system to organize it as we clean, it’s possible to find all sorts of things we can use in a variety of current and future projects.
Routines tend to get a bad rap. They’re stuffy, uptight, unforgiving, and only for the most anal types who wear suits to work and get huffy when things don’t go exactly as planned. But in reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
When you design your routine the right way, and take into account your personal style and needs, you can actually boost your creativity and become even more inspired (and say hello to your muse whenever you want).
If your personal brand of writing isn’t creative writing (say, if you’re a copywriter or a journalist), molding your schedule around creativity may seem a bit frivolous. But even the most factual, reality-based writing is still creative at its heart; you need to find a unique, personable way to educate, inform, or reach people using only words, which is an art form in itself.
If you’re a creative writer, you may think that scheduling your creativity is the perfect way to kill it — but that’s true only if you try to force it into a schedule that works against it, not with it. Or you may feel guilty for making getting inspired such a priority. But when writing is your passion (and especially if it’s your career), then your creativity deserves care, focus, and commitment — and the right routine will give it just that.
What sets you apart from the fellow writer at Starbucks who is also nursing a cup of joe for six hours in the name of free wi-fi?
Your hustle, industry connections, bylines in fancy places, or superior Moleskine notebook, you might think. Sure, all those things factor into the grand scheme of the #writinglife, but there’s one important piece that you might forget to include: your voice.
Like DNA, your writing voice makes the words you’ve click-clacked out at two in the morning or scribbled into a notebook on a bumpy bus ride connect specifically to you. With any luck, it resonates with your desired audience, brings them to your website, or makes them start buying your books, and BAM! — you become a thought leader, successful businesswoman, or published author.
Contrary to our sincere hopes for ourselves and others, we humans are not rational creatures.
At times, this can be an infuriating reality to encounter.
We’re surrounded by evidence that people don’t act rationally: You were the best person for the job, but they hired the dropkick loser who interviewed after you. You loved them to bits, and you’re awesome, but they dumped you anyway. You know you’ll lose your job if you call in sick yet again, but you do it anyway. You had one paper left to finish your degree, but you just kind of forgot about it. Etcetera, etcetera, et-traumatic-cetera. Our real lives are messy, irrational places.
I don’t know where I got the idea that everybody (including me) is meant to act in a rational manner (although admittedly, it would be convenient, albeit boring). Nevertheless, the expectation seems to be there.