Have you ever had a eureka moment? You know, one where you’ve been agonizing over something for a long time but could never come up with the answer? Then one day you figure it out and say something like “Holy sh*t! That’s really all I had to do?!”
I had one of those moments this past weekend. It was such a magical occurrence that I catapulted myself from a seated position on the couch and into the air for an enthusiastic, yet questionable-looking leprechaun kick. I’m glad you didn’t see me do it. I’m more glad you didn’t hear me test my vocal limits in the midst of frenzied excitement. Yeah, it’s everything you’re imagining right now. I was going absolutely f*cking crazy.
You’re probably wondering what the big deal was aren’t ‘cha? I’m gonna share, but I need to provide you with the backstory first. Otherwise, it’ll be like a rushed orgasm. It’ll still feel good, but it’s always better with the build up.
Over the last few months, it’s taken me longer and longer to write posts. And no, this isn’t a post where I talk about how writing isn’t fun anymore and nobody has standards and blah blah blah. It’s been quite the opposite. I have a list of 20-30 topics and I’m constantly reading writing sites to learn tips and tricks to push my content to the next level. I don’t know what happens when I get there. Maybe a samurai sword or a cake with a stripper in it. This sounds like a good thing right? I know. I thought so too, which is what made my writer’s quagmire (I realized I digressed) more perplexing.
Over the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I can create a more enjoyable reader experience — particularly on TRSJ, SBM, and now UPTOWN. I’ve accepted that I can’t force people to share my content. But I’ve been optimistic about the idea that if I rededicate myself to every site I write for, I’ll see an immediate improvement in the performance of my content.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t impact me at all to pour my heart and soul into a post and then see it get re-tweeted seven times and shared on Facebook four. Despite how much control they have over their thoughts and emotions, no writer scribing for a large audience likes to see that. You want your content to resonate and be passed along like the VHS in The Ring…sans the 7-day death notice. You don’t want your hours of effort to result in little more than a tree falling in an uninhabited forest.
And as I’ve shifted my focus to writing more powerful content, the time it’s taken me to write in general has skyrocketed.
Back when I first started writing, it would take me 45 minutes to write an article. I could begin at 11pm and have something (95%) proofread and ready to go by midnight. Even a year ago, I was probably spending no more than an hour and ten minutes on any particular piece. Pause.
But over the past few months, I’ve found that it’s taken me longer and longer to write. What used to take one hour now takes three. And as my free time continues to evaporate, so does my chance to pursue other opportunities. And once we get to talking about other opportunities, we’re talking about my ability to post other places and get closer to my goal of becoming a full-time writer. Time is really starting to become money.
So I tried taking it back to the basics. I thought about all the things I learned in school when it comes to writing: grammar, sentence structure, introductions, bodies, conclusions, and calls to action. I thought about what I’ve learned from writing sites and how I can apply as much of it as possible to my own stuff.
Contrary to what I expected, focusing on all these things made me worse off than where I began back in 2008.
Sometime in the last four to six months, I started agonizing over every word. I became hyper-cognizant of phrases that might turn readers away or post structures that statistically drew less reads. Paragraph formatting, usage of bolds and underlines, and white space were all tricks I’d read about and attempted in my work, but they didn’t yield any greater results other than a greater loss of time. That was up until this weekend when I had the breakthrough that has me feeling unbreakable.
I decided that I wasn’t gonna think once I started writing. As soon as I typed one sentence, I wasn’t allowed to stop, edit, or consider how a word or phrase might be interpreted. I shut down Twitter and instant messenger to eliminate my biggest distractions. I refused to let myself get stuck even if what I was saying in that paragraph didn’t make sense. I.Just.Wrote. And it turned out awesome.
It’s funny. The way that I was taught to write in school is exactly the thing that had been holding me back. But when I reminisce about my school daze, it was always the papers that I wrote at the last minute that got me the best grades. I spill my brain into the Word document then refine it with sweat trickling down my brow as the deadline approached.
I realized that what made those papers my best works wasn’t the fact I was deadline-oriented. It was that I didn’t think and instead just wrote. Editing was for when I had enough words on the paper to create a finished product. And like a block of ice, it was my job to chip away and craft my paper into something I could put my signature on.
The same process works for my writing today.
I was surprised at how little editing was needed when I finished the first article this past weekend. I looked at the clock just over an hour went by. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe I’d written and edited a post that quickly after starting to accept that I’d become the Sultan of Slowvakia.
Feeling a new level of mojo, I saved that post and moved on to the next using the same process. An hour and ten minutes later, that post was done. In just under three hours, I’d knocked out 2 posts and cut my process time in half — hence the leprechaun kick. Hence my eureka. Hence what I’m chatting with you about right now.
When it comes to something you really care about, it’s best to get all your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas out regardless of what you think the feedback may be. You can’t make anybody share your idea or vote it into the next round. However, you can make sure that whatever you present is a true representation of who you are and not what you think they need to see. If you edit or make changes for you, more than likely it’ll be appreciated by them. Give it a try and see what happens. Sometimes people just wanna hear your voice.
On My Irish Einstein,