“When Henry texted his girlfriend, Charlotte, at 3 a.m., she got furious.” More about this couple later. They’re characters from a short writing assignment.
Here’s the best writing advice I ever got—whether writing for business or pleasure: “All writing is re-writing.”
You have to tolerate a bad first draft so that you can revise it, sometimes again and again, until you finally get something good.
The first draft is the tough part. Why? Because while you’re writing it, your inner editor keeps pointing out how bad it is: grammatically incorrect, misspelled, just plain awful.
Then you’re blocked.
Instead, write first, edit later.
How? Set a time limit, e.g. 5-15 minutes, and then keep your pen moving, or let your fingers fly across the keyboard.
Jot down whatever comes to mind, without pausing. This technique, called “free-writing,” catapults you past your inner editor.
Back to Henry and Charlotte. Last week I went to a writing class. The teacher picked a random topic, “farm stand.” Then she said, “write.”
I wrote . . . The farm stand was filled with rotten fruit. The apples were mushy, the strawberries moldy, the bananas blackened.
And yet, everything was selling like crazy, which puzzled Henry, a first-time visitor. Feeling insecure, Henry bought a bunch of bad bananas and some appalling strawberries.
“I’ll just throw everything in a smoothie,” he thought. Later, that became Henry’s dinner. He added some milk which, unfortunately, had tiptoed past its sell-by date.
Then he went to bed.
At 3 a.m. Henry woke up nauseous. He decided to text his girlfriend, Charlotte, who was often up at strange hours.
“I’m thinking of you,” he wrote. “And feeling very nauseous.”
Charlotte took the text the wrong way. “What a horrible thing to say,” she thought. “I make him sick???”
She texted back, “Henry, your text was putrid. We’re done.”
Henry slept poorly that night. He had an upset stomach, and a broken heart . . .
What will become of Henry and Charlotte? Who knows. But this draft, revised a few times since the class, beats my first draft—because, unlike Henry’s bananas, writing improves with time.
Tip: Create first, edit later.
A STORY that WORKS . . . is not made up. It’s something that actually happened to you, recent or long ago, that you can use to get heard & get remembered.
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P.P.S. For more writing (& speaking) advice: You’ve Got 8 Seconds, the #1 Amazon Best Seller in business communication, Kindle edition (as of 5/22/19). Also available in print and audio.
© Copyright 2019 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
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PAUL HELLMAN consults & speaks internationally on how to make your point—fast, focused, powerful. For more info: please call 508-879-0934 or email firstname.lastname@example.org