Sometimes we give advice that we should follow ourselves, and that was me the other day.
One of my friends e-mailed me wanting to know my writing secret. Among other things, she said she was running out of ideas on which to write for her various blog projects. I had written two blog posts in under a hour.
And my advice? Don’t think, just write.
I don’t always follow it myself as I sit at the blinking cursor of a blank Word document with all of my ideas swirling in my head, but it’s advice that has been with me for years.
It’s advice I received from a journalism professor in my undergraduate years at American University, although I can’t remember which one since I had so many great instructors there. We were told how so many journalists, especially those starting out, will think too much about things like crafting the perfect lede. When you’re working on a deadline — and back then the deadlines weren’t nearly as fast as they are today — you can’t spend too much time worrying about your lede or nut graph or the ending. Don’t think, just write.
And when you write a great number of stories in a day — and I’ve written countless stories in one day — you can’t dwell. You need to finish and move on to the next thing. You learn to write things in your head as you’re reporting a story. You create a routine and a format of how your articles form. You don’t think, you just write it.
And that advice can hold true even for other writing, not just news writing. You create what I call “the dirty.” It’s that first draft that you don’t want the world to see. You puke your guts onto the page and get it out. Get it onto the page because you’re just going to go back and edit and tighten up the language. Even if you’re writing for news, your first draft might not be perfect. No one is perfect (although I like to think most of my copy is clean). Just get it on the page. That’s half the battle.
And it’s most certainly how I battle writers block. Don’t have an idea or inspiration? Just write. Don’t think. Yes, it might be awful, off topic or just boring, but you’re writing.
But if we writers overthought every word we were putting on the page, nothing would ever get accomplished. Just get it out.