My dear friend Dana Isaacson, senior editor and writer, formerly at Randon House in New York City, asked if I would write a short piece for Career Authors … this is my post.
If you write or aspire to write more, I hope this helps you define your own best process – for sitting down, doing the work, and getting your brilliant (and not-so-brilliant) thoughts on a page.
Years ago, I took a writing course at the University of British Columbia. Our first assignment was to write a short essay on how we write best. The act of writing this one paper has served my writing more than anything else I have ever done.
When I position writing as a choice, I will often choose to do it. This is true of writing and everything else in my life. The moment I feel I must do something, I will resist it at all costs. I must want to do it.
I often ask myself, “What would make me want to write today?”
The answer usually motivates me to sit at my desk, the first necessary step.
Take the plunge. I simply dive in and attempt to capture my current thinking, ideas and feelings. I feel free to explore my mind and just record whatever oddball thing I find. When I approach a blank page in this way, the heaviness of worrying about how my writing will sound—or if I even have any business writing at all—diminishes.
I write best when my first goal is to create a messy canvas: several pages filled with my latest thoughts, feelings and ideas. Once I have done this mind dump, I feel better. The blank-page stage is over, and I am reminded that I actually do have thoughts and ideas—some that may even be interesting or valuable to others.
Time away from my first messy canvas is critical: a day is ideal, but an hour yoga class is a close second. Time away not only gives me perspective, enabling me to read the canvas with fresh eyes, but it is also at this stage that I become most motivated to write.
I now have something to work with; I almost can’t wait sit back down and continue.
My favorite part of writing is the process of reading my work aloud and editing it, working it over and over again. It consumes my attention so much that I am no longer aware of myself or time. This is a form of meditation I enjoy immensely.
Once I have done as much as I feel I can with a piece of writing, I send it to Marian Buechert. Marian is my editor and someone I trust. I can send Marian a very rough draft, one I am certain others would mock and that I know she will not. She always has a kind word to say and is able to offer concrete feedback on everything from incorrect grammar to telling me—in the kindest way—that what I have written makes absolutely no sense. She never makes me feel ashamed or embarrassed. And in fact, her words always leave me feeling encouraged that I have a rough diamond of an idea and to keep working on polishing it.
After a second set of eyes has reviewed my work, I gain more confidence about it.
I am again motivated to sit down and re-work my writing; this time to incorporate the feedback Marian has offered. With further time away from my writing, and a second opinion, I feel ready to take more risks, sometimes even disregarding some of Marian’s suggestions and concerns. At this stage, I am often so eager for others to read my work that I have to be careful to ensure a final set of eyes sees it before I release it.
I am now at my absolute favorite stage of writing: sending my baby out into the big world to do what it was created for: to improve the life of at least one other human being!
Susanne Biro is coach to C-suite and executive level leaders. She is also an author, program designer, master facilitator, Forbes & CEO Magazine contributing writer and TEDx speaker. For close to two decades, Susanne has worked internationally with senior-level leaders in some of the world’s best companies. Whether coaching one-on-one or authoring, designing, and delivering leadership programs, her passion is the same: to help leaders reach their next level of personal, professional, and leadership mastery.
Susanne can be reached at 604.864.5408 or via email at email@example.com