My Writing Process

I’m a sucker for nerdy things. Big surprise there.

It used to be that I knew all the specs on computers and home electronics. I still want the latest tech with the biggest screens and loudest speakers. If only my budget met my dreams huh? 😉

In recent years I’ve come to love just about anything superhero related (as does everyone with an inner 10-year-old self). I think I have the MCU to thank for bringing that part of me back to life.

God made me a nerd and I’m okay with that. Being okay with that … I mean, truly owing it … is a battle that I’ve fought and won and embracing it makes me all the better.

Anyway, I digress.

One of the things that I love to nerd out about is a good process. How people do the things they do that help make them more successful in life and work. I can’t tell you how many “So-and-so’s Morning Routine” or “Do These 5 Things Before Bed to be More Productive the Next Day” articles I’ve read.

As a “on-the-side” writer (meaning so far I’m only doing this because I love it and I want to share my thoughts and hopefully help others … no one is paying me to do this yet), I also love to read about other writers “writing process.” I’m still figuring out this whole writing thing so I’m always interested in any tips, tricks, or interesting bits I think might help me become a better writer.

So this week I thought I’d take you on a very brief tour of my writing process, some things I think that make this routine in particular work for me, and how I think it could be a little better. Here we go.

What I Do

It’s funny, in the “funny means ironic” sense, that I don’t usually know what I’m going to write about on any given week before I actually sit down to write it. This blog post is a perfect example of that. I didn’t know before I began what the topic was going to be.

I don’t have an editorial calendar. I don’t even have a list of topics in any sort of order. Which seems weird for me because I’m generally a pretty organized person. I’m the guy that wants to know what’s happening before I make a decision to go do something. I don’t like surprise much. Generally speaking, I don’t like to just “wing” things. So you would think that I would have some sort of something set up to help me in my writing. But I don’t.

My blog posts happen pretty organically. They tend to be the result of a conversation that God and I have while I’m writing. I’ve written before about how my writing time is one of the times when I feel closest to God. I feel like I can hear His voice and He helps me process through things as I write about it. So many posts start out with “I don’t know what to write about today …” and then I just start writing about what I’m thinking about and as the conversation progresses we get to a topic that sticks and that becomes the post.

I also tend to write on the day the post is due. I sit down, knock it all out in one sitting and move on. I don’t usually even go back to old ideas and try to pick them back up again. I have about 40 or 50 documents with half started ideas or just one sentence descriptions of thoughts I had that I hardly ever look back on.

Once I’ve gotten to a point where there is a post written (I use the Ulysses app for my writing), I go back and get rid of most of the conversation that led me to the post. All that stuff is my conversation with God and isn’t meant for publishing anyway. Then I’ll give the post a once-over edit, making sure my grammar and spelling is as close to correct as I can. Then I get it ready for publishing.

My posts aren’t written in a CMS like Wordpress or anything. My blog is built on Gatsby and uses React. So my posts are literally Markdown files in code. So I copy over my post from Ulysses to Visual Studio Code and then run the code so that I can see it in a browser and read over it one more time. Things tend to look and feel different when you read it in context on the screen where it’s going to live. I will edit anything I see that looks funny or needs to change to make sense on screen.

Once that’s done I commit all my changes for the site to Github and Netlify takes over and deploys my site with the new post on it. Once it’s done, the site is live and my new post is ready for you to read!

What Works For Me

There are a couple of things that are really working for me with this current process.

First, and I didn’t mention it before, but I usually end up writing early-ish in the morning when no one else is awake. I’ve learned over time that I write best when it’s quiet and I can think. Reading is the same way. When it’s loud I get distracted. So I shut off all the stuff, get quiet, and write.

The other thing I love is the organic nature of my writing. I love being able to process through how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking about and meeting with God while I write.

I love these parts of my routine. I don’t see them ever changing.

Everything else is up for grabs.

What Could Be Better

I can think of at least a few things that I want to make better over time.

  • I think I could take some of the pressure off of the “what do I write today?” question if I were to create an editorial calendar to work off of. I don’t think it takes away from the “organic” nature of my writing if I already have a topic picked out for the day. I don’t think it means that God and I wouldn’t meet during my writing time or that our conversation would be any less relevant to my life. I think what it does mean is that He and I just got together and planned ahead a little. I do often feel the pressure of “Well today is Friday, I have to come up with something to write about for my blog.” This would definitely take the pressure off when it comes to having to come up with something to write about.
  • I would start writing earlier in the week. Writing on the day that something is due isn’t good in the long run. It means that every post gets less editing time than it should get. This means that every post could be written better, but I’m just not giving it the time it needs to become what it could be. Essentially I’m posting a first draft. And we all know that as writers we’re supposed to write crappy first drafts and make them better over time. I want to do more of that. I want to be more consistent in writing every day, not just on the day I need to post something. If I truly feel more connected to God when I write, why wouldn’t I do it every day? That seems like a no-brainer.
  • I would use a CMS or some mechanism other than Markdown files in a site that I have to actually compile and deploy every week. I think the big things here would be simplicity when it comes to posting and I could post in advance. The simplicity would be that I could potentially only have to just copy over a file and I’d be done. There would be no need for me to have to add a file to a site and then commit it to Github and get it to deploy before my post would be live. It just would be. Also, being able to write a post ahead of time and schedule it to go live when it needs to would be a big help. Then I wouldn’t have to make sure that I was around on a Friday to post. It would just happen when it was supposed to happen without me having to get involved. Any time that I have to get involved outside of actually writing the post is time that I’m a blocker to things getting done … and that won’t fly long term.

So there’s my process. It’s obviously not the best process out there, but it’s mine and it will definitely change over time. The magic isn’t necessarily in the process anyway. The magic is in the writing and meeting with God and hearing what He has to say about a topic as it relates to me. If God helps me figure out what I think about a certain topic then that’s a win. A win I get to share with you.

At the end of the day, my process probably shouldn’t be your process. You have to find what works for you. The process you use for anything in your life is a personal one. It’s individual to you. Chances are that what someone else does won’t work for you. Take what they do, learn from it, try to take bits and pieces you think will work and be okay with throwing the rest of it away. Just because you don’t write in the same way as Hemingway doesn’t mean that you can’t be just as effective an author. Just because your church doesn’t do things that same way as that one giant mega-church doesn’t mean that God won’t bless what you’re doing. You have to be you and do what works for you. Don’t try to be someone else.

Imitation might be the greatest form of flattery, but it’s the quickest way to failure.