How to Give Your Writing a Makeover in One Afternoon
How I lost my creative virginity in a coffee shop
Today I’m doing something I’ve never done before.
I’m writing in a coffee shop.
I know, it sounds so cliché.
The funny thing is I’m surrounded by a roomful of people with laptops in front of them and coffee cups beside them.
It’s like a premium, caffiene-fueled workspace. And as a bonus, I get three hours free WiFi.
What could be better?
You Can’t Do This Every Day
For me, the beauty of coming is here is that it’s new.
The experts tell you that you need a consistent place to put paws to the keyboard and pound out prose. There is value in that, but after a while that can lead to stale, boring writing.
What’s really at stake with consistency is your habits. Are you writing every day? Great. Are you writing in the same place? Super cool.
I write a lot. So I take a portable keyboard with me to make things faster and easier. In a sense, the keyboard and phone stand are my office.
What Habits Are You Locked Into?
We are creatures of habit.
Even our spontaneity can be a habit.
The truth is we can’t stand to go through life not knowing how our days will go. We eat the same breakfast, drive the same way to work, and talk to the same people. That’s great, but it’s limiting, too.
Disclaimer: I’m not telling you to abandon all your friends. If you like scrambled eggs and toast every morning, go for it. I’m just asking you to take an objective look at your routine.
Here are a few questions for your self-evaluation:
- Where do you write?
- What time do you write?
- Do you write every day or just when the spirit moves you?
- Do you use the same structure? How rigid is it?
- Do you read the same kind of books whenever you read?
Your answers will reveal your habits.
Now let’s shake things up.
Take a Risk
Going to the coffee shop wasn’t planned. I just decided to do it while I was out with the kids today. They had other things to do that didn’t involve me, so I leaped at the chance to write someplace new.
Even if it was in a place that seems like a cliché for writers.
First, I’ll show you what I learned. Afterward, I’ll challenge you to do something with it.
1) Write someplace unusual.
To me, writing in a noisy coffee shop is unusual.
I normally write in the predawn hours in my home office. I might have some ambient music playing in the background. I use a template to guide me so I can churn out something quickly and effectively.
Today I walked in here, with no plan, no quiet, and no clue as to how it would turn out.
This post is the fruit of that experience.
2) Throw out your template.
I’ll confess, I’m using a template to write this.
It’s a pretty free template, though. I answer five predetermined questions and fill in the blanks. Then the post writes itself as the words pour out like magic.
What if you just set a timer and write whatever comes to mind? No rules. No boundaries. Just spew out your soul on paper.
You might be surprised what’s inside you.
You might jump up and shout when you’re done.
If nothing else, you’ll break the mold that has reigned you in, and may be holding back your full genius.
So go ahead. Break that shell!
3) Treat writing like a visit to your favorite place in the world.
Do you have a favorite restaurant?
If it’s expensive, you probably don’t go there every week. It’s kind of like seeing cousins once you move away from your parents. It’s cool to catch up, hug each other, and cheer each other on.
But if you did it all the time, it would become passé.
Plan every so often to write in a different way. Challenge yourself to do the impossible. You don’t have to publish it.
It might just be the booster shot your writing needs.
4) Take a writing retreat.
In two weeks, I’m taking a week to do absolutely nothing but write, write, write.
The truth is I have a huge project I’m working on that I’d like to finish. The intense focus I’ll have that week should make it happen.
The good news is there’s a park nearby. I can walk there, bring my mobile office and write, and enjoy the beatiful spring weather we’re supposed to be having now.
I’ll also have access to a currently empty office at work so I can recharge my batteries.
I’ve done this once already, and let me tell you — it was one of the best experiences of my writing career.
5) Write raw and polish later.
I recently wrote about writing from your pain.
You do that because that’s the real you — the place you’ve sucked the marrow out of life, learned the most powerful lessons, and honed your greatest talent.
It’s also the place where you’ll find your inner genius.
Sure, reliving your past can hurt. Think of it as therapy.
What you share might be just the thing that will change someone’s life forever.
Are you willing to run from that?
6) Be daring and publish something you’re not sure you should.
This is risky.
Let me tell you how I approach it.
If I know I shouldn’t, I don’t.
If I’m not sure, I go ahead.
Sure, it might offend someone. It might ruffle someone’s feathers or rattle their cage.
The key is this: it will definitely get their attention.
That’s how you get your ideas to spread.
Touch something deep inside you and it will touch someone else who is willing to share.
7) Take one thing from your experience and apply it to your routine.
What did I learn today?
It’s okay to be uncomfortable.
I have to confess. I write a lot. I do at home in the morning. I do on my lunch break at work. I also write while I’m sitting on the sofa at night.
If there’s any secret to my productivity, that’s it.
It also means I like to shake things up from time to time.
In the morning I write what I planned.
At lunch, I catch up and plan ahead for the next day.
At night, I post to my journal and have no rules about how I write.
One thing you can do to shake things up is to have a place and time where you experiment. If you’re already doing that, please share one of your big wins in the comments!
When you occasionally throw out the rules, you’ll refine the rules you live by.
Now Go Shake Things Up
You just learned seven reasons you should challenge your core assumptions about your writing.
Let me challenge you to do something now.
- Read something you’d never read and then write what you thought about it.
- Take one of your most dearly held beliefs about how to write and do the opposite.
- Write at a different time and place one day this week.
- Scribble down something raw, emotional, and totally vulnerable — and send it to a trusted friend.
Pick one and let me know how it goes. My mission is to help you find your creative genius and give it a wide open door through which it can come out and shine for all the world to see!
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