I generally write about my own experiences, things that capture my interests, some solution to my personal problems, and anything that I get curious about. Since my area of work is related to young people, I have written a lot about young people and the issue they face in the past few years.
Sometimes, though, I confess that I also wait for the proverbial muse to come to me and inspire me to write. But if I waited for the muse to come every time I wrote, then I would have written only a couple of hundred words. And I would spend a lot of my time waiting and staring into space.
One of the best advice I heard about writing is “Get your butt on a chair, open your computer, and just start writing!”
It’s not romantic or profound, or earth-shaking. In fact, it is very practical and downright basic.
If you are a writer; if you want to be a writer, then you better start writing!
Here, I share some of my habits and processes in writing. It doesn’t matter if I’m working on a blog post, a poem, an essay, or even a work-related piece, this is the general process I follow.
Read a lot.
I read a lot of books. Even though I have been “reading” more audiobooks in the past few years, I still read at least 15 books a year. These books cover many different topics–history, politics, faith, humor, fiction, poetry, and many others. Check out my book stats on Goodreads here: (INSERT LINK).
I also read blogs and listen to podcast from around the world. These things help expand my knowledge and keep me interested about many things.
Every now and then, a dormant idea in my mind collides with another idea and so a writing topic is born. During those moments, I need to have my note-taking apps with me. I use OneNote and Google Docs. They are cool, useful tools for a writer. Before using these tools, I carried a small notebook with me, or I text those ideas to my own number.
I make sure to write down these ideas, because it’s so easy to lose them. If I don’t capture them, just a few minutes later, I would totally forget those ideas, no matter how good they may be.
My teachers in elementary, high school, and college taught me and my classmates the importance of outlining. You know, the one where you label main points with roman Numerals I, II, III, and so on.
But when I graduated in College and learned about mindmapping and brainstorming, I realized that it is better at capturing thoughts and ideas that at first glance might not be related with each other. It’s not as rigid as an outline is, but it is a great way to organize thoughts anyway.
Maybe the rigidity of an outline didn’t work for me. But at some point, ideas need to be organized in a hierarchical manner, especially if you are writing a book. For a book, my friend Rei and I have different processes, he would work on his outline first, then write. I write a lot, then I work on the structure, cutting a lot of words if necessary.
Whatever your process is, you need to write down your thoughts and ideas first before you can edit and polish it.
Writing can be exciting. But oftentimes, it can be taxing, grueling, and difficult. It’s important to stick to it even if you don’t feel like writing. That’s what differentiates the professional writer from those who are dabblers.
That feeling you get that seems to prevent you from writing? Steven Pressfield, author of the War of Art, calls it the resistance. It seeks to prevent you from doing your best work. But if you persevere and work at it, you get to hone your craft, and demonstrate your commitment to the craft of writing.
When I am working on a book, I also keep a Writer’s Journal, where I write my thoughts, ideas, emotions, and doubts about the project I am working on. It helps keep my sanity and captures my state of mind while working on my project.
I then edit the piece I write. My books have had editors, but even before sending it to my editor, I want to go through it and work at catching spelling and grammatical errors. This is not just good policy, it also shows that I respect my editor and that I am willing to put extra work to make their work and lives easier.
If it is a blog post, I hit the Publish button on WordPress. If it’s a magazine piece (I usually write for an Ilokano magazine), I send the piece by email. But whatever platform you’re publishing at, it’s also important to hit the publish button. I know that I still want to work on my piece, but at some point, I know that I have to call it quits and submit it for the world to see.