Sometimes editors have to write. We have to write our biographies and copy for our websites. We have to write our annual reviews for our managers. We have to write cover letters to potential clients or employers. We have to write a difficult email to an author.
We are editors. We correct. We improve. Writing means taking off the editor hat. It means daydreaming instead of looking up rules and advice. Writing is often messy, where editing is analytical.
At times, writing can seem downright foreign.
In my Social Media for Editors course, students must write some of the hardest copy: promotional copy. Worse for the introverts in the group (many of us), it’s copy that promotes ourselves. Gasp! Talk about myself?
In the course, we talk a lot about how to turn off our inner editors. Some of the ideas are proven methods heralded by writing teachers. Some, I think, are particular to editors. Here are six of the most frequent suggestions my students offered for getting the messy writing process started.
- Pretend you’re talking to a friend. A casual conversation about the value of editing with someone you trust can be easier than a more formal conversation with a stranger.
- Write before you think about it. As soon as you sit at the keyboard or pick up a pen, start writing, even if it’s not about the current topic. Don’t let your brain think. Just get the words flowing.
- Give yourself a deadline. Set a timer and force yourself to write until the timer goes off. When the alarm sounds, reward yourself by stopping. Repeat until you have a draft.
- Handwrite it. Using a different medium can kick-start your creativity.
- Create a list. Write down the topic in detail, create a list of questions to answer, or list all the information you know. Put into words the thing you have to do, and then keep writing.
- Diagram your idea. Instead of words, try a flowchart or a mind map. Again, the change in medium can help you step outside of your head.
These methods won’t produce a perfect manuscript, but they can kick-start the writing process. Creating any sort of a draft gives you something to work with. You can then analyze what you have and determine what it needs. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to do your favorite task: editing.
What methods do you use to kick-start the writing process? Share them in the comments below!