1. Toggle people’s brains. You do that with your questions. With your odd, unexpected juxtapositions of words. With your sentences and phrases that are so ‘out there’ that they take people with them. As Ned Flanders once said, ‘Well sir, as far as melon ballers go, that’s a noodle scratcher!’ Hopefully, your readers are thinking that same idea. That you’ve rocked their worlds. Turned their brains upside down. Stretched their minds like a bar of Laffy Taffy, never quite returning to their original size. It’s part of the job description. How are you toggling people?
2. Watch yourself write. Because you weren’t looking for the formula of how you writing the first time, you need to go back and figure out what you did. What your thought processes, questions and assumptions were. That way you can perfect your process it and repeat it. So, regularly back away from your creative journey and revisit the progression of your ideas. Here’s how: (1) TRACK the experiences or moments that inspired your original idea, (2) THINK about the questions you asked yourself, didn’t ask yourself or should have asked yourself during the writing process, (3) NOTE each moment of resistance, how it made you feel and what steps you took to overcome it, (4) REVISIT tangible records of the progression of your idea. Lay them all out in front of you and then travel back in time. See what comes up the second time. Perhaps a few new patterns will emerge. This process will teach you invaluable lessons about how you think, create and write. Are you stepping back from what you do to study what you do?
3. Write because you can’t (not) write. Not because of the money. Not because of the fame. Not because chicks dig writers. And not because you want to ‘have written.’ Write because you have something that needs to be said. Write because there is some lie you want to expose. Write because there is something you’ve gone through that people need to hear about and learn from. What must you write about or you shall die?
4. Write things that make no sense, then improve them. Remember: There will be more. Who cares if your first draft is completely wonky? What matters is that you write that ‘one true thing’ down the moment it comes up. What matters is that you honor whatever surfaces. And what matters is that you trust your inner resources, having faith that the idea will make sense when you’re ready to learn it. Are you willing to write gibberish now for jackpots later?
5. Write what you know about, run into, have a passion for and obsess over. Do this, and I promise you two things: (1) You will never run out of material, (2) Writing will be easy. Otherwise your work is going to be boring to write and laborious to read. Zoinks! What percentage of your writing is infused with your passion?
6. Writer’s Block is a lie. Doesn’t exist. It’s nothing by comfy little excuse touted by undisciplined, mediocre writers who sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. Here’s the reality: Writing is an extension of thinking. So, next time you experience ‘Writer’s Block,’ recognize that what you’re really experiencing is ‘Thinker’s Block.’ Lesson learned: If you want to write more, think more. If you want to write better, think better. People who bitch about Writer’s Block are either: (1) lazy, (2) boring, (3) stupid, or (4) terrible listeners. Remember: Creativity is nothing but active listening. If you can’t find anything to write about, you’re not a writer. Period. What did you write today?
7. Writing is a little like eating. During my brother’s wedding, my parents’ friend Ed told me, ‘Scott, eventually you get to a point when it’s not about the food, but who’s at the table.’ Great point. And similarly, the more you learn to trust your inner voice, you care less about grammar, punctuation and structure, and the more you care about being courageous enough slice open a vein and bleed your truth all over the page. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if your writing is good – it matters if your writing is your truth. It doesn’t matter if your writing is popular – it matters if your writing disturbs people into action. Look, you’re not going to win a Pulitzer. Let go of the need to be ‘good at writing.’ Instead, invest your time and energy in making your pen a lightning rod for channeling honesty. People will notice. Does your writing have to be good?
8. Writing is like camping. Because you never put your ideas back the same way you found them. Your goal is to train yourself to pick up a thought or idea and then play with it until it’s bigger, better, sharper, and more useful. How much better will the literary campsite be when you’re done with it?
9. Writing makes everything you do BETTER and EASIER. Go back and read that sentence four more times. It changed my life, it changed my clients’ lives, and it will change your life, as long as you’re willing to accept it. Because that’s not an opinion. That is a truth. Because writing helps you make sense of the changes in your life. Writing helps people adopt a piece of you into their world. With the exception of Bikram Yoga, I can’t think of anything healthier in the world that writing. What does writing do for you?
10. Writing stuff down isn’t enough. You know my mantra: ‘If you don’t write it down, it never happened.’ And that may be true. And writing (still) may be the basis of all wealth. But there’s more to it than that. Writing is about three things: Content Generation, Content Management and Content Delivery. And if you don’t have a customized system for plucking, organizing and deploying your ideas, you lose. As George Carlin – the master of Content Management – once said, ‘Good ideas don’t mean anything if you can’t find them again.’ Remember: Your brain is a moron. Do you have a paper memory?
11. Yes, it IS possible to have too many ideas. Ironically, this becomes a barrier to creativity because eventually, you won’t be able to keep anything in your head straight. Sure, resisting the urge to evaluate, appraise and assign value to every idea is important during the initial creative process. In the beginning stages, the goal is to prevent Premature Cognitive Commitment, thus keeping your options open. Eventually, however, there comes a point in the idea process where you’ve got to stop creating and start judging. Do you have too many ideas?
12. Your everyday life is what people relate to. Finally, the more specific you are, the more relatable you are. Take Dave Berry, for example. Back in his heyday of writing a syndicated humor column, his funniest pieces were the ones about mundane events like his kids, his house and his hometown. Here’s a one-liner I just randomly Googled that proves this point: ‘My teenage son, Rob, says the only time he ever wraps a gift is, quote, ‘if it’s such a poor gift that I don’t want to be there when the person opens it.’’ Ha! Love it. And nobody else in the world could be so funny talking about something so boring. Think it’s a coincidence Dave won a Pulitzer? Think it’s a coincidence Dave wrote twenty bestsellers? Think it’s a coincidence Dave gets $50,000 per keynote speech? Nope. How will you leverage the ordinary in your writing to make history?