Recently on Instagram I posted about feeling on fire creatively after getting to write some articles that made me really proud. Talking about it prompted a couple of questions about writing, and more specifically – the process of writing.
I thought about it, and while I’m not sure I have a particular ‘process’ when it comes to writing, I thought it may be interesting to note down how I go from idea to content, and ways I re-fill my creative cup when I lose my mojo (because I am feeling that hard right now!).
I write in a few different formats, but mainly: Blogs, articles, flash fiction and short fiction.
Let’s start with blogs…
When I started Blue Jay of Happiness, I knew I wanted to focus on three topics (or, if you want to be fancy, three ‘content pillars’). These were: health, happiness and hope. Having these three topics really helps when it comes to idea generation as I flit between the three and have a good idea of what fits where.
When ideas come up I note them down, picking the topic area. Before I actually start writing, I’ll think a little more about the structure. Typically there’ll be an introduction/overview of what I’m talking about, the meaty bit, a take-away and a sign-off.
Sometimes I’ll think about headings within the piece (for example, in this blog I know I want to talk about the four different types of writing I do and my process for each).
Then, I’ll just start writing. If I’m looking at a planned blog idea, but can’t get excited or don’t feel inspired, I swap it out for another one. Sometimes I’ll just ditch the plan all together and write something a little more raw.
This blog wasn’t one I had planned – but when a couple of people said they would like to read it, I thought – hey, great idea!
That’s pretty much it for the blog writing process. If you struggle to come up with ideas I would always recommend coming back to what you’re passionate about, because that really comes through in your writing. You can also pick one or two readers/followers and think about what blog they would love to read right now. I’ve done this before and it really helps!
If I’m writing an article for Happiful, there’s quite a bit more preparation involved. The ideas come up in a similar way (and it feels even easier now my specialty in the magazine is self-care) but they need to be talked through with the editorial team before I can start writing.
Once it’s been agreed I’ll write something, I’ll start researching and planning. I’ll plan the piece in much more detail than a blog and think about any additional resources I may need – this could be a quote from someone, photos or advice from an expert. Reaching out for these is always first on the list, then when they’re in I can start.
Just like in blogs, I find having a structure is key (and the more planned these are, the easier it is to write). Of course once I’ve written the piece, it’s time to go back and edit. I don’t tend to do a lot of editing to be honest, usually it’s about cutting down to fit the word limit!
I’ll always get a colleague to read through it, not only for typos and errors but to help with wording and if I’m struggling with something.
I have no idea if I’m using this term correctly, but I consider my monthly mindscapes here ‘flash fiction’ as they are usually less than 1000 words and not always a full story. These are much more… organic.
I’ll start by looking through Instagram to find an image I like and want to use as my creative prompt (you could use words, prompt dice or find a site with writing prompts). Once I’ve found a picture I spend some time looking at it and see if anything comes.
If an idea doesn’t spark, I’ll start my search again.
I find these pieces work best when I can instantly think of something. It may just be a character, a theme or even an environment, whatever it is I try and link it to a theme I cover on the blog. Then, I pretty much just start writing. I love describing scenes and avoiding too much dialogue. My aim is always to put the reader in the middle of it all – in the scene and in the mind of the character.
I rarely edit these and they come out easily – I think because I know they’re short, raw and mainly for my own fun!
Now, I’ll admit, I haven’t written a short story in a very long time. When I was at uni, I loved writing short stories. I’m not sure I would ever have the patience or attention span to write a novel, and the closest I ever got was a novella about a girl who was in love with her best friend.
Back then, my process was kind of a mix of all the above. It starts with an idea – a storyline, a character, a place. I would think about the story I wanted to tell and then develop the characters more. Next, I would give some thought to their back-story; why they think the way they do, why they wear their hair a certain way. Getting to know your characters inside and out is so important.
Then I would think about the story itself and plan how it would go. Sometimes it’s fun to think about twists and turns or how you want it to end. I would often leave my stories up in the air at the end, forcing the reader to come to their own conclusion.
I would like to get back into short story writing at some point, but right now I feel I’m getting enough out of blogs, articles and flash fiction.
How I fill my creative cup
While I’m lucky enough to not suffer badly from writers block, I definitely have moments where I feel empty, like I don’t have anything left to give. This actually happened last weekend, which is why there was no post on Sunday.
I couldn’t bring myself to open my laptop and I couldn’t get excited about any of the blogs I had planned.
So instead I decided to re-fill my cup. Take some time off writing and give myself a little headspace. Here are some things that help me re-fill my cup (and yes, this is the take-away section of the blog!!).
- Practise some yoga
- Get outside and go for a walk
- Read a book / magazine
- Listen to music
- Spend time with friends / family
- Watch a movie
- Listen to a podcast
Nothing groundbreaking, but a few ideas if you find yourself stuck. Often when we’re blocked, we’re just in need of a bit of self-care.
Would love to hear other people’s writing processes so if you do write (whether it’s books, blogs or instagram captions) let me know how you do it.
The next Blue Jay Monthly Musings newsletter will be coming your way on Sunday (doh, there’s a writing medium I forgot!) and this month it’s all about balance. Something, to be honest, I’ve been struggling a little with.
So as with all things I struggle with, I want to delve a little deeper into it, share what helps and find other resources. If you’re not signed up already and this sounds interesting to you, subscribe below (you’ll also get a little welcome present).
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