Often, when I’m driving down the road, taking a shower, or just sitting on the couch, a thought will come to me in the form of a title. In my mind this title will have wrapped in it an entire series of thoughts and ideas, a mnemonic device of sorts that allows me to recall the ideas later when I can write them down.
As an example, the title of this very post is one that I jotted down while thinking about this idea a week or so ago.
The Chicken or the Egg?
I am a huge music fan, and play (at) many instruments as well as sing. Over the years I have written many songs, most of which have been lost to the wastebasket in old notebooks I have thrown away. Every time I had an idea for a song I would struggle with where to begin. Sometimes lines would come to mind and I would try to add to them later. Other times the idea would come in a title.
The fact that I rarely have finished a song I started writing can be attributed more to a lack of dogged perseverance than of anything else. I have always been a bit scatterbrained and fickle, wanting to do and try everything, but more often than not moving on to the next idea before accomplishing anything on the last.
Recently I have been wondering if this flighty characteristic has anything to do with the way I approach things.
Keep it Simple
I have been writing as a freelancer for roughly a year and a half, but only recently have I thought about the process I use to write, or if I actually use a specific process at all. This contemplation comes from two sources, I believe.
The first is using templates. As a freelancer, I do a lot of article and blog writing for clients. Most clients who outsource these pieces are looking for one thing – exposure. Online writing is different from print writing in many ways, but the primary difference is in format and visual aesthetics.
The average consumer of online writing has a short attention span and moves their mouse hand to click to the next site very quickly. In order to keep their attention, there is a fairly standard format that the majority of sites use. You’re looking at it now, in this post.
Heading-intro-subheading-short paragraphs-subheading-short paragraphs-conclusion with a call to action. Lots of white space. Word count, 400-600. It works.
Making a List, Checking it Daily
The second reason for the pondering of “how” is that I recently made a list, and it seems to be helping. A week or so ago I stopped long enough to write down (read: type on google docs) a list of titles that were floating through my head, and since then I’ve written articles from most of them.
Interestingly, I’ve been able to associate many of the titles (or variations of them) with widely varying subjects: stock trading, Christianity, social media, etc. The result of this exercise is that I have whipped through a much larger amount of writing, in a much shorter time, than ever before.
So here I am, relaying this experience in the hope that it will help others and, also, to get your opinions and thoughts. When you write, do you start with the title, or title the piece after you have written it? What is the process you use when coming up with ideas? Is it completely different from mine? Love to hear your thoughts.
(p.s. – word count at 596 before this p.s., including title. it’s habit now)