By 6 p.m., I’m a hot mess. I’m tired, my kids are hangry, I still have to make dinner and my husband won’t be home until much later … which means clean-up and bed-time are also all on me.
This is a bad hot mess. And we eat a lot of pizza.
But there are times when I’m a good hot mess – and it’s when I’m writing copy. Because with writing, it’s perfectly okay to be a hot mess while you’re writing your rough draft. For Pete’s sake, it’s called ROUGH.
Give yourself a break, already! You’re probably much better at writing than you think, but you’re stuck inside of some pretty detrimental thought cycles, like:
- You think you should be able to write exactly what you want in your first attempt, or;
- You feel like once you put something down on the page, you’re married to it, or;
- You feel like you have to start at the beginning, and end at the end. Holy pressure, Batman.
In this week’s Youtube video tutorial, I went through some pretty simple tips to break your writer’s block, including brainstorming and outlining. But the one tip you should seriously consider trying is the “Start Anywhere” strategy.
Who Told You To Start At The Beginning And End At The End?
Banish that thought asap! It’s not welcome here.
Because that’s a surefire way to stoke your frustrations and eat up way more of your time than writing ever should.
People don’t think in a straight line, especially if they’re working on something creative, like writing copy.
When I’m writing, my document is a good hot mess – full of abandoned half-thoughts and unfinished sentences, because I literally jump from one sentence to another as it pops into my head. I don’t delete – I just drop a few lines down from where I was and keep typing. I gotta let out whatever thought is pushing its way to the forefront of my brain.
If I hold that new thought off until I finish with the old one, I’ll forget it. Which is a travesty, because it’s usually a much better variation of what I was trying to write in the first place.
Does that make sense?
Now, it’s important to go back over your rough draft and re-structure it with that clear beginning, middle and end that your reader will need.
Clean Up Your Hot Mess And Make It A Masterpiece
No one wants to read a hot mess – so here’s how you take your best throughts and make them sing:
Find your lead.
In journalist-speak, the lead is the first sentence of your piece that’s meant to grab the reader’s attention and make them think, “what does she mean by that?” Or “oh, interesting, I want to know more.”For example, the subject line of this email serves as my “lead” – Do you swerve? Or keep it straight?
It’s directly related to my topic – swerving with your writing rather than following the straight beginning-middle-end formula – but it piques a lot more interest than something like, “Fight Writer’s Block.”
Typically, those more exciting ways of talking your topic evolve as you write your piece. Rarely does the awesome lead introduce itself as soon as you open up a blank word doc. It likes to be massaged and wooed. And I’m sorry, that’s a really weird visual.
Cut, paste, and connect.
After you’ve found your lead, you can usually cut-and-paste the rest of your paragraphs together. You’re looking for a flow, so make sure that each idea or paragraph builds on the one before.
You’re taking your reader on a journey – even if it’s an email – from some kind of point A to some kind of point B.
This is where you stop swerving, and hit that straight-away at top speed.Here’s where you also connect your ideas and thoughts with sub-headings, or transition sentences.
Read it out loud.
For crying out loud, you must read your copy out loud! It’s the best way to catch little mistakes and awkward sentences, and most importantly, you’ll be able to identify if any of your thoughts (ie, paragraphs or sentences) seem out of order and disrupt your flow. Do this every time you make even a small change – it’s worth it.
Any questions? Pop me a message!
Let me know if you try the “Start Anywhere” strategy and how it goes for you! This might be a whole new way of looking at writing and the outward “chaos” of the strategy might feel challenging at first. If your inner perfectionist rails against the experience the first time, do it again – it will get get easier, I promise.