How do you write?

I was recently asked – how do you write? This is my process:

It happens in a split second like flipping a switch. I go into automatic pilot. Words flow out of my fingers letter by letter onto keys. Somehow, perhaps by some sort of yet-to-be-discovered-magic, a story forms. My mind has taken in information and it spits out words and sentences without much conscious thought at all. Then I review and re-write.

This is how I write. When I journal and I am the sole audience, it’s how I do it. When under intense deadline pressure for news that will be read or heard by millions, it is the same process. It’s how I write when I write anything for any medium.

I review, no matter how tight the deadline is. I review, even if no one else will ever read it. I review to review. Then I have other people review too. Reviewing is about saying what you wanted to say, what you meant to say, to make sure the facts are straight and communicated as intended. Could it be better, clearer, more meaningful? Does it need more or less?  I suppose it is my right brain polishing my left brain’s work.

This is the process I use to take my mind’s ideas to turn them into something tangible. I need to get it all out, then craft it. But first I need the idea in my mind. Writing isn’t only about putting words on paper, on a screen, or spoken into the air. It’s about thinking and experiencing.

So before I get to the actual writing, I start with thinking and pondering, deadline or not. I may only have thirty seconds to think, I may have days, weeks, years. Whatever the case, I squeeze in thinking and a few other things that I lump together into a “research” phase before writing full force with my seemingly enchanted fingers.

Research can be doing, reading, talking, whatever. I send that info and feelings gained to the back of my mind to slosh around and see what sparks conscious thought.

I talk to myself about important points – what do I need to capture for readers/ listeners/ viewers to get the best picture of the story, what points do I want to make. It all comes down to story and audience – what is it all about, what am I trying to say or communicate, and who am I trying to talk to with the piece.

I generally will scribble notes down on paper, a napkin, on the back of a receipt, or on some device, depending where I am when my thoughts come together enough to start getting them out there to take action. It’s all top of mind ideas made concrete. Observations, news bits, and experiences that I believe need to be more. These notes are generally in the form of brief statements, questions, things I need to look up, names of people I need to talk with, and points that need to be made. What needs to be discovered?  Who will I discover it from? What do I want to say about it?

Then comes research reading and note taking, as needed, followed by notes on order. How will I start it out to grab attention and make it matter? How will it end and make it stick? What will make up the bulk of the middle, the substance? How long does my story need to be? How long should it be? What are the parameters? It’s not quite an outline and it’s nothing I’d share. At this point it’s a map made just for me.

Once all my questions are answered, I let my subconscious digitize all the info up there in the ol’ noggin. Zipping around the wires and neurons it becomes a story and leaves the grey matter for the world. I can spit it out right away, as in a breaking news situation, or I can keep it filed away in the world’s most misunderstood computer of the brain for as long as need be. Then I open the gate and let it all speed out through the tips of my fingers.

When it comes to getting the words out, I can write anywhere, any time, any place, with or without interruption. I block out noise if need be, but I much prefer uninterrupted silence. Complete silence. In the silence I can hear myself more clearly. I can add instant enhancements to the thoughts in between the mind and the fingers. Because of this, I prefer to write early in the morning or late at night. I get it all out there and let my eyes take the words back in, pass it through the brain filter again for review, next writing pass, a review pass, then it goes on to someone else to read. Then whatever needs to happen happens – it gets transformed into an article, a video, an assignment in this case, or maybe one day a book.

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