How I Write

Dec 27, 2021 in Work

TL;DR A cup of hot tea. One hour on the timer. No distractions. No expectations. Separated writing and editing. That's how I write.

In February 2021, I took the How to Write Better class by Joshua Fields Millburn. Before that, my writing process was pretty simple. I would open my iPad and write for some minutes and be done with. This I still do daily, but for journaling or quick thoughts.

Throughout the class, I changed my routine. Joshua asks you to keep your ass in the chair for an hour each day.

I was already a morning person, working out and having a coffee then. What Joshua demanded was another hour of writing done in the morning. I decided to get up at 5 AM each morning and write for a full hour.

The timing has changed. Other than that, the process is the same. My alarm goes off between 05:30 and 06:00 AM. I go downstairs, make myself a cup of tea and go to my desk. All that without the help of my phone.

The first hour of the day is crucial. It sets the tone for the rest of the day. I like to do that without being hammered by email or social media.

Get your thoughts out of the way

Still in a dreamy state, I sit down with my beverage and start to journal. I try not to talk to anyone as well, as this keeps me in this state longer.

The journaling helps to get the brain sorted. Things I have dreamed about, things that are likely coming up today, things that could go wrong.

All that goes into my journal to be out of the way for writing. This may take from 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the day. It's always worth it.

After this morning journaling, the "real" writing happens. That's either something like a blog post, or what I call sense-making.

Sense-making is what I do with Obsidian. It's where I flesh out next steps for a project, work on article ideas, or next steps for my entire life. In the past 2 months, I have spent the majority of my writing time in there. I was documenting my values and principles and everything that makes me "me". It is the foundation I talked about in "Welcome 2.0".

When I open up Ulysses, it will be published, like this post. I like to keep things separate, as it helps me with the state of mind that I have in each app.

Obsidian is where I write for me. Ulysses is where I write for you.

This is part one, where the words come together, where the article is composed. What changed through the writing class was the focus on writing, and rewriting. This step Joshua calls Jam Session Writing. Sit down like a musician would do and jam.

Don't write AND edit. Don't focus on getting it in a perfect shape. Don't focus on the outcome. Let the words flow. You can edit later. You can delete stuff later. Screw errors. Don't fix mistakes. Keep writing. Keep going. It works.

At some point, I am done with writing, and the article needs polishing. Before the writing course, I would run a grammar check and hit publish.

Good Writing is Rewriting

Now I know that good writing is rewriting. As Joshua calls it, discovering the beauty in the banality. Or panning for gold. This takes even more time. About two-thirds of the time.

This is what makes the differences between okay-ish articles and great articles. You know the phrase, "I would have written a shorter email, if I had more time?"

I usually let a day or two pass, between writing and editing.

The editing part consists of a few steps. Reading it out aloud is the first of them, to see if the words have a good rhythm. This I do multiple times until I get it right.

I would put the article away for a day or two, to get some distance. I have enough stuff to work on in that time. After two days, I have often forgotten what the details are. That's the perfect time to read and see if it makes sense as a reader.

Sometimes, I will delete whole paragraphs or even rewrite the whole article. Sometimes, it's just some sentences that need change. Sometimes, the articles get trimmed down from 1000 words to 400.

When this is also done, it's time for the final grammar check. Ulysses has a built-in Review mode. It's pretty nice.

Since a week, I also paste my text into the Hemingway App, to review the sentence structure (thx, Kahlil).

Looks good? Then it's time to publish it and be done with it.

This sounds like a huge, detailed process, but it isn't. When I am in my routine, this is natural and doesn't need any planning or preparation. Except the mentioned hot beverage.

If you are interested in more stories and the nerdy details, make sure to follow me on Twitter.