Sometimes— and only very rarely, because I notice nobody really cares about writers (or maybe they just don’t care about me)— people ask what my process is for writing something.
I generally have a few ways of working and am not married to one particular method over another. Whatever happens to be working on that day, I go along with.
Most of the writing I’ve done on the web has been penned in a stream of consciousness. I literally just open a google doc and pretend I’m writing an email to someone. Sometimes I even write it in gmail in an email that is addressed to myself. It’s not very thought-out or even well-researched, for that matter. I find that when I pretend I have an audience of one person, my writing voice is much more honest and true to the way I speak. I happen to like the way I speak, so I often want to capture that vibe.
When I was in college I took a class called “Writing for Media,” which basically dealt with writing TV scripts and things of that nature. An exercise we did in that class focused on writing every thought that came in our heads, sans punctuation, for something like 30 minutes straight. The idea there was that the punctuation is needed only to make better sense of the words. The ideas, however, are what really matter.
So you just get the words out however you can, then go back and fix them up. If you have enough time, maybe you go in there and try to get real ‘wordy.’ I’m not a particularly big fan of super wordy writing— it always comes off like a writer trying to impress their writer pals— but ultimately I just try to make sure the sentences have a certain rhythm. I’m big on rhythm. I try to think of writing like music. You never want to be the drummer who can’t keep his/her time on stage. Not cool.
While the stream of consciousness method has its perks, there are downsides to it as well. Sometimes you’ll be sitting there for an hour just pouring out every nonsense idea you have, come back and look at it after grabbing a cup of tea and realize you still haven’t gotten out what it is you think you have to say. This is probably a step below writer’s block.
That’s when you have to zoom out of the picture and literally just go for a walk or something. Sit on a bench. Ride the train. Treat yourself to dinner. Whatever it is you need to do to be alone with your thoughts, do that. But make sure you’re away from the computer or whatever it is you write on.
I think one of the reasons why people find it so difficult to write is because they have difficulty thinking. They’re sitting down hoping to dream up the words as they go along, laboriously typing sentence after sentence, sometimes starting over and over and over again. It’s an endless cycle that will just leave you frustrated. Instead, try to sit there and synthesize your thoughts without writing them. This is VERY hard to do in this day and age, with so many distractions vying for our attention. But if you take an hour away from the computer and just try to think about what it is you want to say— work out all the kinks in your head beforehand— I guarantee you that you’ll find your words hitting the page that much easier.
Like I said, this is difficult. So you may want to take out your phone, open up the voice recorder on it, then just talk out loud about how you feel about whatever it is you want to write. I’m not sure why more people don’t use voice memos for writing, but I find them to be a handy tool. Sometimes it’s easier to say what you’re thinking than write it. So just say it, then go back and use what you said to flesh out what you want to say in written form. Heck, you may even find that you just want to transcribe what you said. There’s nothing wrong with that.