I seem to fall into a trap as a writer again and again.
I sit down and try to cram multiple modes of creativity into one sitting. I sit and stare at a blank page trying to come up with ideas for what to write. Then, I jot down a quick outline or skip that step completely and start writing aimlessly.
Yet, I know that the most effective way to be prolific is to do each of these tasks separately.
Here is what I have learned about the creative process from successfully writing books and hundreds of articles (not to mention hundreds of worksheets, presentations, and videos):
When you sit down to write, have an outline to help you write as fast as possible.
Do not edit as you go, but instead write as fast as possible and go back and edit and correct the mistakes later.
Develop the outline after brainstorming every possible idea you can think of (especially bad ideas) and then organize them into a coherent structure.
Do research separate from all these tasks and preferably after an outline or a draft is complete so you know what you need to search for.
In short, keep each of these tasks separate and complete before starting the next task:
- Ideation – Brainstorm as many ideas as possible. Ignore structure. Don’t judge them as good or bad ideas. Use post it notes or a notepad or scrap paper. Combine multiple ideas to create new ideas.
- Outline – Add structure to the ideas. Add more detail individual ideas. The outline can be single lines or multiple sentences or paragraphs. The key is to create something that makes the actual writing go faster.
- Write – Using the outline, write a complete draft. Write quickly and ignore mistakes. The goal is to get to the end as fast as possible and then go back and correct later.
- Edit – Correct mistakes. Ask difficult questions to make it better. Rewrite sections that need to be replaced.
- Research – Fill in the gaps and uncertainties. Truthfully, the research can happen at any point during the process but not at the same time as any of the other tasks.
The key is speed. Set a timer when in each one of these modes. Don’t jump from one to the other until the timer is up. Separate each task between days if you have to.