Writing is hard

Writing is hard. Especially if you start thinking. Never stop to think about what to write (unless you must), it will ruin the flow. Never stop to correct yourself, to judge or run a spellcheck. Don’t do that; that’s what editing is for.

I’ve read the same tips again and again: Write first, edit later. The first draft is for you, the second is for everyone else (or just an editor or a confidante). Don’t interrupt the flow. If you need to look something up, place a marker in the text and look it up later.

That’s why I love to journal using pen and paper. You only have one direction: forward. Get the words down on the page in the order they appear in your head and move on with your day.

Breaking the flow has been one of my biggest issues when it comes to writing, both at school and later in life. I always ended up fiddling with the text before I got all the ideas out of my head. Looking up words, finding reference material (blog posts, news articles), checking facts. Don’t do that either. Checking facts is a part of the editing process.

In school I could spend half an hour playing with WordArt (remember WordArt?) for the title alone. The title can wait, you may want to change it anyway.

Another mistake I’ve made is installing a SEO plugin for WordPress and trying to make it happy. It has tips that make sense for readability: Use active words instead of passive. However, most of the tips are there to transform your style into something it’s not – someone else’s.

Add an image. Add a key phrase. Repeat the phase repeatedly throughout the text. Shorten your paragraphs. Add subheadings. Add more outbound links (but don’t forget internal links!).

Forget about SEO. That’s not part of the game, if it is: you’re not writing for yourself anymore. Don’t let anyone dictate your style; find your own voice. If you need pointers on style: read a book, then read some more.

Once you run out of steam; you’re most likely done. Take a break. If nothing new pops up in your head, you can start the editing process. If you thought writing was hard, wait till you start editing. Editing is hard.

5 thoughts on “Writing is hard

  1. This is 💯 true. Most of the time the SEO plug-ins and grammar tools even though want to correct you, ultimately you end up writing something that doesn’t convey what you want your readers to know

    1. This is one style of writing. I’m a professional writer and don’t write like this post suggests. I’m never afraid of stopping or breaking the flow. I often make the intro perfect (final form) and then write the rest of the document. That helps me be certain about what I’m intending to write. The rest of the document often fills out very quickly with the confidence and clarity of a fully formed introduction.

  2. Paraphrased idea from a book called *Several short sentences about writing* : writers work hard and re-work almost every word to achieve what readers experience as flow.

  3. I really enjoy writing on pen and paper too. You nailed it—it’s a different experience. Unfortunately I also really like being able to organize and search my thoughts, which is harder to do in a non-digital medium. I’m building digital tools for journal writing at https://www.indelibleapp.com to try and bring some of the flavor of pen-and-paper writing to an app. Nailing the UX has taken a good amount of experimentation, but it’s starting to get there!

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