Why does pressing send give me clarity about how to restructure, what to cut, and where to develop a piece of writing? I don’t know, but I’ve started using it to my advantage by adding more interaction and externalization into my writing process through engaging friends. It also helps to have a secret blog. Only a few people I know read or comment on it. Just the act of pressing “publish” brings me enough clarity to refine it. Because so much of the writing process happens in the mind, it can be hard to see and understand where I am in the process. This causes me to become lost and blocked. In this post, I am exploring the early stages of an idea.
When I engage my friends in early stage writing, I benefit from their reactions if they have time to share, but I notice this externalization step is not a request for line edits and critique. That comes later in the process. At the beginning, when an approach is taking hold, the people I love to talk to mostly respond with some form of, keep writing. Experiencing the connection with the person - and the context we share - helps me to access the bigger body of truth I am trying to find. My early stage writing usually doesn’t resemble the final product, especially when the topic is hard or personal. Sometimes I don’t even know what I am trying to say at the beginning, it’s just a feeling, and I change my mind as the idea unfolds. This open space to make mistakes and learn is critical.
For the next few months, I’m going to work with the process drafted here and see what I learn. I believe this is how I have been writing for a long time, but I did not previously recognize steps 1-4 as I do now.
Writing Process V1
1. RECEIVE: become inspired by an experience or observation
2. INTERACT: talk and listen, notice how this exists in the society
3. COMPOSE: start the work of expressing it in sentences
4. EXTERNALIZE: “press send” to a trusted person(s) with no expectation of feedback
5. DEVELOP: continue composing the concept
6. EXTERNALIZE: “press send” to a wider group of trusted people with no expectation of feedback
7. REFINE: clean up language variety and sequencing, narrow content, get an editor if needed, bring in feedback if needed
8. PUBLISH: make it available publicly
9. REFINE: tweak as required if there are any final sequence shifts
10. MOVE ON: promote and get busy on your next piece
This observation about the need for interaction and externalization in my early stages of the writing process removes the pressure to compose perfectly, because it adds iteration. In this reality, my task is to produce something with minimal refinement. So it’s always about circulating the idea, not holding back until it is clear. This opens space for vulnerability in my voice, and I work my way out to something for public consumption from there. I don’t share early stage writing with people who I feel guarded with - even if I love them. This is about being in touch with the people who just understand, and in their own way, even if they say nothing, I know they would always say keep writing. Period.
The early stage writing love fest is what helps me develop complex, even painful truths, into something I can share with ease. And it is truly amazing to reciprocate when people send me early concept drafts, and to watch their ideas evolve. When the right people bear witness, amazing things happen.