Many people expect to write a perfect blog or article, without any method or process, and get frustrated when their work is not flawless on the first attempt.
But there are steps to good writing, and following these steps will help you overcome writer’s block and other hang-ups. Just because you imagined an award-winning book in your head doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to write it in one try.
My method includes four basic steps, each of which is owned by a different persona; I’ve used them to write novels, blogs, and much more.
THE FOUR PERSONAS OF WRITING
The Wild Man
The wild man is pure creativity, and the purpose is to get the words onto the page. When you’re in the wild man stage, you don’t care if what you write is a good idea or not. You don’t care about grammar, syntax, logic, or anything else. You don’t care if your mom or coworkers will enjoy what you write. You just spit the words out. Much of what you produce here will be nonsense, but that’s ok, because there are three other guys to help clean up your mess.
The architect is where creativity meets practicality, and the purpose is to turn the wild man’s gibberish into a readable story. In this stage you will mold all that messy nonsense into coherent paragraphs. You will think about the message of the writing, and how to convey all these ideas in a meaningful structure. Here you’re thinking about tone, genre, and style, as well as the overall idea of the story.
The builder stage is where you focus on grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Here, you will check the rules of how to quote a magazine article, fix comma splices, and make sure that you didn’t use a descriptive word twice in a paragraph. In the same way that a builder will have to make sure a structure is up to code, you will make sure that your writing follows all the rules.
The executioner stage is about cutting out the weak parts of your writing. Because the wild man, the architect, and the builder are there to produce; they don’t know how to delete. In those three personas, you might write thousands of pages, but no one will ever read them, because the writing is awful. In the executioner stage, you think about this article from a reader’s perspective, and cut out all the ideas that don’t serve the greater message.
(I chose the name ‘executioner’ because cutting out parts of your writing is hard. Really, REALLY hard. When you do a good job at cutting out parts of your beloved work, it’s supposed to feel like murder.)
The writing doesn’t end with the executioner. Once he’s cut out his pound of flesh, the writing starts all over again. It’s a cycle, not a straight line, and you can run through this cycle (if you’re a novelist) hundreds of times. I think that the wild man is more important early in the process, and I only use him in the first 10% of a project. After that I’m just cycling through the Architect, the Builder, and the Executioner. How you cycle through these entities is up to you and your own individual writing style.
The overall lesson
These personas are not friends. If you try to combine them you will never get any work done, because you will try to be creative, while fixing grammar, while considering the work from a reader’s perspective, while thinking about how to connect different ideas. The wild man will get tired of being censored by the executioner and the builder; eventually he’ll just stop producing ideas, and you’ll develop writer’s block.
So the next time you sit down to write something, let go of grammar, overarching ideas, as well as judgement of quality, and just write. Don’t try to achieve perfection on your first draft. Calmly move through the different personas, and after a few cycles you’ll be looking at something you can be proud of.
(Note: This layout of four personas is not my original idea. I don’t know who thought of it initially, but if you find that person’s name, I will give them credit.)
If you’re interested in checking out some of my fiction, please take a look at my novel: Among the Fallen.