The Writing Process
Recently, I have been introduced to the term reflection-in-action. Which, as one can draw from the name, means reflecting on something while in the process of doing it. Now of course this method can be used throughout basically anything that you are doing. And whether you have heard of it or not, the chances are incredibly high that you have been using it throughout your own writing process.
Noting down thoughts on writing might at first glance seem naively easy as a writer. However, the more one thinks about the own habits and behaviour during the individual writing process, the harder it gets to put it into words. (I realise the irony of it.) Here is a personal reflection on the most important steps in any writing process:
Just start. And dive in. The practice of thinking about the written word is part of my daily work as a copywriter and UX writer. But in my very own personal experience and method, I tend to start with it only after sentences have made it onto the blank page (digital or not) in front of me.
My fingers dance across the keyboard and my pen struggles to keep up. Writing can be the easiest part of this process. It’s where thoughts–any and all of them, and all without judgment–deserve a space on that page. The title (and subtitle) is either always the very first thing I write or the very last, meaning the red thread is either there from the start or it is an open-end creative situation. When starting a sentence, whether it’s within a digital product, an article, a short novel or that of a blog post, in most cases I don’t know where it is going until I get there. The metaphor alone and surprise factor of what you will find on that previously blank page in front of you is what I love most about the entire process. Sometimes, a text takes on a whole new course than initially anticipated. In this first step, my mind can switch off and I let my thoughts and creativity loose. However, even the very best writers only produce some rare masterpiece-sentences that remain exactly the way they were written throughout the entire process. Most sentences, very much so my own, receive some serious editing treatment.
Write without fear. Edit without mercy. Hi and welcome to the least fun part of writing and the one that takes the most time. Please make sure you switch that mind of yours on again. And patience.
If you–like me–have a soaring perfectionism, your editing game will need some work. With both advantages and disadvantages of this trait, I personally feel that it becomes gold in the writing profession and gives the much needed attention to detail. However, one of course needs to be able to reach the point of “it is good enough” and send it off to whichever set of eyes it was meant for. This takes years of training. Keep in mind that there is such a thing as over-editing, so make sure you know when to stop. Here are some editing tactics that I use:
- Binding sentences together. Thinking more than one sentence ahead at a time when writing is tricky, therefore, a sentence is written without necessarily knowing what the next one will look like or which message it will contain. Binding them together will make your text more cohesive.
- Trying to read it from a different perspective. Reading a passage for “the first time” will allow you to notice areas that still lack relevant information or are unclear. I go ahead and add short sentences to passages when I feel like either important information is missing or the impact gets lost.
- Rewriting, improving and rearranging sentences while still keeping the meaning. Because they just feel off.
- Deleting. A lot. Hitting that return button is also part of any writing processes. Editing is not solely about changing, but also about removing text segments. The shorter and more compact a text is, the more impactful it is. Think about how you can say something, with as little text as possible. And then shorten that.
An almost official and absolutely indispensable step of the writing process is that you doubt everything that you have just done. While, it will most definitely take up time, make sure to give it the least amount of it.
Is it done?
Is it good enough?
Am I sure nothing is missing?
Is that one phrase within the second sentence of the fifth paragraph really the best one?
These are only some of the uncountable questions that can pop into your head after you have placed that final full stop–all depending on what is at stake and the size of your work, of course. But let me tell you this from my own personal experience: You will never be done. And it can be done differently, or even better. The biggest challenge you have to tackle as a writer is fully accepting the lack of certainty of when it is good enough. I just tend to work around this: