Start Early and Think When You’re Not Thinking

start early

So you have a few days before your deadline. No need to get started yet. You have plenty of time to work out your ideas, write them down and polish, right?

Wrong. Get down to business early. Read your assignment and research at least a little. Then you can put it down and get to other things. The topic will rattle around in your head without you even thinking about it.

I’m not saying spend more time on the article. Just spend some now and some later. I’ll bet you end up spending fewer minutes actually at a desk reading and writing. You’ll be sorting facts, choosing what’s interesting and crafting the perfect first line in your spare time. Then when you do sit down to write, you’ll have a better idea of what to do.

I’ve been writing a lot about cars lately. Choosing the right few hundred words about a complex piece of technological machinery takes some noodle scratching. I have tons of facts and features to choose from. The key is determining what about this vehicle is noteworthy.

Taking my own advice, I’ll read a few things about the car as soon as I get the assignment. When I’m driving, showering or otherwise not thinking of much, the vehicle will swerve around my skull. Eventually something from the haystack of performance statistics, best-of-class features and shiny doohickies will stick out.

Although she believes the opposite, my wife is a great help. At random (to everyone but me) I’ll present the first lines to something I’m working on. Putting them into the air helps me get the tone and order correct.

I think the most valuable thing in the world is time, so it’s not about dollars to me, but dollars-per-hour. So it’s vital for freelance writers to keep track of the time we spend on projects. Yet I don’t count the thinking aloud I do while walking my dog. He also never charges a consulting fee, though he should.

Getting the project inside your head-space early enables this free and random ideation. Choose whatever method works for you. I like the same spiral notebooks I used in elementary school. I’ll scratch out a rough outline and leave it on the desk for later.

Brainstorming is another thing I learned about a century ago that still works. When you first get into your assignment, type or scribble everything you think without filtering anything. Nothing you write here is wrong. Set those notes aside for later. Mixed among all the gibberish will be some flecks of gold.

Or I’ll wander the web then email myself some links for later reference.

Also, you can’t predict the emergencies that could rob that free afternoon you thought you had.

Although procrastination is a joy and last minute rushes are exhilarating, consider getting an early start. The ideas will appear with less effort and desk-time.

Eighty S is a poet, fiction writer and freelance content creator who is almost as organized as he sounds.


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