"I know I have the ability to write well. But whenever I look back on what I've written, it sucks."
This comment came from a delegate on one of the IDM Digital Copywriting training courses recently. It struck a chord with me and the rest of the delegates.
In my 26 years of writing copy, I’ve thought about this issue a lot. And I've learnt a few things about what stops us getting our best work done.
First, though, here's what it's not.
It's not due to any external factors.
This is the first thing we do when we're not meeting our creative goals. We line up the reasons why 'some external factor' is stopping us: our work space, our schedule, other work commitments, etc.
This is outside-in thinking. It’s putting yourself and your creativity at the mercy of something outside you.
And it's almost never the real reason why your writing is suffering.
Instead, learn to approach your creative work inside-out. Ask yourself, what can you do to get the best out of yourself?
Here are some ways you can draw on your own powers of focus and motivation to ensure that your writing is the best it can be.
1. Prioritise your creativity
It’s so easy to hi-jack creativity with ‘work’ that’s not as important.
The worst culprit? Email.
If you’re like most people, you’ll start your day ploughing through emails. That’s responding to other people’s priorities.
As Lifehacker puts it, you go into reply mode.
For many creatives, the morning is the most productive part of the day. That’s when you have most productive energy. (If you’re different, apply this advice to your best time of day).
Don’t waste your creative energy on distractions. Save those for the afternoon, or whenever you’re tired and unproductive.
There is much debate over planning vs pantsing (flying by the seat of your pants) amongst writers.
I was a fully signed-up pantser myself. I wrote the first 55,000 words of the first draft of my novel manuscript that way.
And it sucked. Big time.
Don't get me wrong, that wasn't entirely wasted time. But I've since learnt a better way.
Spend a good amount of time writing down what you're going to write.
What's a good amount of time? Whatever's appropriate for what you’re writing.
I spent 3 months planning my novel after I realised pantsing wouldn't cut it. I'm really pleased I did, as this second draft is going much better.
For a blog post that you expect will take you half a day to write, perhaps spend an hour planning it.
Whatever works for you.
It may seem unnatural at first. But trust me, many people who aren't natural planners have found that it's the way to true writing productivity.
3. Find your creative place
For years, I wrote in our kitchen, after our second child took the ‘spare’ bedroom (so unthoughtful of him). This wasn't the easiest place to work in, but I soon learnt that you work with what you've got.
And you can turn anywhere into your creative place.
Try decorating your desk with images that inspire you. Line up the books that motivate you on a shelf nearby.
Or if that’s not working, go to a coffee shop where you love the vibe. If your workplace doesn’t allow for that, find a different space in the office.
Once you've found or made the right space, just being there will inspire you.
4. Get into the writing state... quickly
A lot of people tell me they need to get into the right state of mind for their creativity to flourish.
That kind of thinking can be a major cause of prevarication. You could spend hours, days or even weeks waiting for the right 'creative feeling'.
Find a trigger for your creativity that works fast. That might be your creative place (see point 3 above).
Or it might be a talisman, such as an object, cuddly toy, image or item of clothing.
When I’m writing I often listen to a unique Apple Music playlist that I compiled. It's reached the point where the opening notes of the first track snap me into the writing state straight away.
Get writing! So now you've dispensed with your creativity assassin, it's time to get to work. Put your creativity first and get writing now.
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