Don’t Be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty: The Value of Brainstorming
If you’re like most writers, your love affair with words started long ago, maybe way back in grade school. Remember looking with wonder at your first reading book? Those pure white pages with their crisp, clean rows of print? Maybe you longed to be the architect of that same kind of perfection. Fast forward to today. Now you work at content writing, and that same perfectionism that makes you a conscientious, professional writer, sometimes gets in your way. If you’ve ever found yourself paralyzed by the tyranny of that blank, white text box, here are some tips to get your words flowing again.
Brain storm – Give yourself permission to get messy. Just start writing. Do not worry about form or punctuation. Do not even think about the finished product. Just write down every idea that comes into your head. If you know what you want to say, but can’t think exactly how to phrase it, just write down the rough idea. If you know there needs to be a segue between two concepts, but you don’t know quite what it is, just type “segue,” and keep writing. You can fill in the correct phrases later. The important thing is to keep moving. Once the words start flowing, you may even be surprised at just how neat and tidy they are. The very process of not worrying about form often frees the mind to use form perfectly.
Start in the middle … or the end – You know what the focus of your article needs to be; you even have a conclusion in mind. But that darned opening paragraph just won’t come together. Skip it. You do not need to write your article in order. In fact, focusing furiously on that opening paragraph can drive the other, more fully formed, parts of your article right out of your head. What a waste. Grab them while they’re fresh. Write down what you do have and don’t worry about what’s not there. Often, the very process of writing out the body of your article, for example, can add clarity to the problem of the opening. In fact, you may even find that by the time you’re finished writing what was already clear, the part that seemed to be a problem has come together, too, and is just waiting to be written down.
Let your mind wander – As strange as it sounds, your mind sometimes does its best work when you are not at the helm. If you find yourself stalled while writing, it may be time to lay down the reins. Take a good look at your project and form the problem into a single question. “What would be the best opener for this piece?” for example. Or, “What types of subheadings would be most relevant?” Then simply walk away. Keep yourself busy — it’s the best way to prevent yourself from actively thinking about your project. This is important. You want to leave your brain in charge. Go for a walk in the park, or fold some laundry. Anything that keeps you from thinking about your writing. But, be sure to keep a pen and paper handy. Once you have let go of the problem, you will be surprised at how quickly the solution pops into your mind — sometimes fully formed. You’ll want to be ready to write it down.
The important thing to remember is that everything you write is a work in progress until it is done. If perfection is your goal in your career of content writing, you may just need to throw perfection out the window to get there.
Kate C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.