“What do you count as real writing?” I ask.
My new client lowers his eyes and clears his throat.
“Uh, I guess sitting alone and writing for several hours at one time?”
His fidgeting reminds me of so many students I’ve had in my quarter-century in the classroom.
“Have you ever sat alone and done anything for several hours at one time?” I ask playfully.
His eyes widen and he laughs.
I nod. “And yet this is your primary definition of ‘real writing’ — the standard by which you will judge yourself a success or a failure as a writer?”
He stares silently, as if he’s afraid to hope that maybe, just maybe, I will offer a revised definition that includes him in some small way.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” I say, “but you’re going to need an all-new definition of what counts as ‘real writing’.”
What Counts as “Real Writing”
Don’t get me wrong: for some writers, sitting down and writing for several hours at one time is the “real writing” that works for them.
But for others—especially Social Writers who are also verbal processors—isolation and sitting are torture.
Here are six practices that totally count as “real writing” even though they have bear no resemblance to sitting alone and writing for several hours at one time. They’ll help you write more words, more often, more consistently. And none of them require that you have a master plan.
(Note: #6 is my secret weapon. You’re welcome.)
1. Talk through your ideas, especially with a creative collaborator
If you’re a verbal processor, you need to talk in order to find out what you think. When you do this strategically with a collaborator who takes notes and asks clarifying questions, the end result can be a perfectly functional first draft.
2. Dictate, then transcribe, your thoughts
Don’t have anyone around to serve as your sounding board? No problem-O! Use a digital recorder, the voice recording software on your cell phone, or Voxer and talk to yourself. (Trust me: real writers talk to themselves. All. The. Time.) Later, transcribe the audio yourself or pay someone to do it for you. The end result is a perfectly functional first draft.
3. Do a Facebook Live and take notes
Have a topic you want to try out on an audience? Hop onto Facebook Live and talk it through for five or ten minutes. When you’re done, watch it and take notes. Read through the comments so you can answer any questions as you revise your perfectly functional first draft.
4. Jot ideas on a nightstand notepad
Keep a pad of paper and a pencil on your nightstand. When a fabulous idea strikes in the middle of the night, write it down. Build the habit, and you’ll soon be waking up to dozens of scribbled notes that you can type up and turn into a perfectly functional first draft.
5. Text back-and-forth with a friend
Or Skype chat. Or Facebook Messenger. Or Slack. Or whatever platform(s) you prefer. The point is simple: if you’re having an interesting conversation or debate or discussion, take the time to copy, cut, and paste it into a Word document. Include a link to the original convo. Name the file with keywords from the convo. Congratulations! You now have a perfectly functional first draft.
6. Capture ideas in the shower
Why our best ideas come to us when we’re in the shower is an unsolved mystery. But the problem of forgetting them before we reach for our towel is 100% preventable. Real writers use bathtub crayons to record those fleeting moments of genius. Later, they grab their paper and pencil (from their nightstand) or use their cell phone to snap quick photos. Then, they type up the ideas into a …
… perfectly functional first draft.
(Which I’ll define and discuss in a future blog post!)