How to Write Clearly If You Are an Intuitive Thinker.
This five step system is for anyone who “writes to think.”
Here’s a working theory about intuitive people.
It’s not that us intuitives have different brain wiring that gives us special ESP-like abilities. Everyone has some intuition: a sense, without explicit analysis or reasoning, about the future.
That future could include some world event like who wins an election or the results of your next action.
(And vice versa, we’re all capable of analytical reasoning)
The working theory on intuition is that intuitive people are wired to be more curious about their intuitions. So, characterizing people as intuitive refers to their habit of noticing and acting on intuition.
Writing is a case study of how intuitive thinkers work. They start with a vague idea. And then, over the course of several drafts, sometimes that idea turns into something interesting. But you don’t know, at the beginning, exactly where your writing is going.
Hopefully the following will resonate with some of you other intuitive writers — I experience intuitive thinking as poor impulse control. A thought occurs and then I become uncontrollably curious to follow the thread of that thought until it’s concrete.
So, if any of this sounds like you, here is the writing system that takes an intuitive thought and turns it into a clear, crisp, effective piece of writing.
For the first draft focus on getting your thoughts out of your head. Just write and don’t let your fingers stop moving. The result should be a shitty first draft. This is the trust your intuition phase. Any editing is premature.
The second draft is for articulation. Start from scratch and rewrite the best parts of the first draft in a form that people could understand.
If your first draft was truly shitty, then you’ll be thankful to start from scratch. I often keep the two posts side by side so that I can copy and paste a few gems over (usually less than 5% of the first draft).
The third draft is for positioning. Consider what purpose or impact you want. This is the draft where you delete half of what you’ve already written.
There’s a Neil Strauss quote that roughly lines up:
“First draft is for you. Second for the reader. Third for the hater.”
It’s not so much that your writing is going to have trolls, but that now is the time to get analytical and strategic. Not only do I delete large sections, but I also add a lot of new text to frame what I’ve written.
At the end of this draft, you’ll experience a revelation, “Ah! This is where my intuition was leading me. Thank you intuition.”
The fourth draft is for polish, spell check, and grammar.
I track my most common writing weaknesses. Specifically, I look for the phrase “I think” and for unclear pronouns and antecedents. Because the writing starts off as intuitive, there are often many pronouns that seemed clear when I was writing but are much less clear for a new reader.
I use Grammarly to help with my spelling and grammar.
The fifth draft is just rewriting the title until you think people will read what you wrote.
I’m a recent convert to this. The title is everything.
Half of my popular writing on Medium are things that took less than half an hour to write, but for which I took the time to write a strong title.
For example, this is my eighth most read post ever and was originally just a Quora answer. The content is good, but the title is why people read it: One Trick to Beat Procrastination Forever.
Wait, you think revising your titles for the purpose of manipulating gullible readers into clicking on your post is scammy? Let me give you an alternative viewpoint:
Marketing is the moral obligation of all product people (including writers). You’ve created something great and people need to hear about it.
I use this Headline Analyzer tool to test out different headlines.
For what it’s worth, here are the titles that I entered into the Headline Analyzer for this post starting with “Five Step System for Intuitive Writing” and ending with the current title, “How to Write Clearly if You Are an Intuitive Thinker.”