By: Marilyn L. Davis
“All the ideas in the universe can be described by words. Therefore, if you simply take all the words and rearrange them randomly enough times, you’re bound to hit upon at least a few great ideas eventually.
Sausage donkey swallows flying guillotine, my love assembly line.” ― Jarod Kintz, The Days of Yay are Here! Wake Me Up When They’re Over
Convoluted or a Cohesive Blog Post?
For each of us, including Kintz, there’s a process for writing. I’m not sure that I can fully appreciate his method, but I appreciate the humor. So, beyond stringing random words together, what are some better ways to get to a finished post? First, decide why you’re writing. Is it to educate, entertain or enchant?
When you know your motive for writing, it helps you frame each post.
However, regardless of the motive for writing, each writer I’ve ever known has ideas and images crowding their mind and they simply must get them recorded. If you carry a notebook, pad, or laptop, you can capture those ideas and words that fly through your thoughts, your observations, your feelings at the sight, or your pain and joy in the remembering. Expanding on these seemingly random words, thoughts or feelings, that’s how we create a blog post.
I have a special traveling idea notebook, only used for observations and ideas, and I record them when I have them. I know that memory is funny; it is fluid and like all fluids can wash away my thoughts.
Short-term memory only holds about seven pieces of information and that information fades quickly; sometimes in as little as 15-30 seconds.
Obviously, that’s not long enough to retain all of the ideas that come to us, so writing them down is important. Whether it’s inspiring enough to be included in your finished piece is unimportant.
Your job as a writer is to build upon the ideas that have merit, but you won’t have material to work with if you don’t record those random thoughts. One way to build upon the word or thought is to Brainstorm. We usually think of brainstorming in groups.
However, there is solitary brainstorming and house cleaning rolled into one.
Idea + Association
Questions About the Idea
Some people find this easier if they have categories for brainstorming, similar to having other people prompt or spark imagination in the typical group brainstorming. If you’re brainstorming by yourself, simply answer these questions to get you started on your blog post.
- What do you know about this topic?
- Why are you focused on this idea or topic?
- Where did this idea come from – a look, smell, a passing remark at Starbucks?
- Did you read a passage from a book that jiggled and nudged a memory for you?
- What are your thoughts, feelings and attitudes about the topic?
- What are the pros and cons of writing yet another piece about this topic?
Brainstorm for five to ten minutes; scribble away and jot it down. At this point, do not edit or judge the writing, and don’t go back and correct spelling or grammar. I know it can be distracting – all those red underlined words or the annoying green grammar alerts.
Learn to ignore these disruptions in the process if you are brainstorming on a laptop or desktop, or just turn off these features; they will hinder the process of free association.
Association into A Post
Free writing is your first attempt at your article. You have your brainstorming ideas and a general sense of what you want to write about; now it’s time to begin putting your ideas to paper.
Time yourself for five to ten minutes; writing without editing or stopping.
Whether you call this free writing or your first draft; it’s going to be disjointed, messy, and full of drivel. You may end up throwing out more than you keep and you will definitely have to revise whatever you do keep, but you may end up with an excellent piece from this. And striving for our best writing with every piece should become a goal if you want to attract and keep readers.
Most people today read multiple articles specific to their interests, or for research. They do not have the time or the inclination to read every single thought or feeling that you have on your subject or topic. They want quality articles about their interests.
Looping helps cull the valuable for an article from the rest that might work elsewhere. This process helps you remove those parts that might have merit elsewhere, just not in your current article.
After all, it does not matter if you have a killer end sentence if no one reads it; save it for another article if it’s not germane to your writing.
Another consideration is word count; some sites restrict article length, so some material may not make a final cut. We use what has merit, and save the rest for a prompt or portions for another piece. We use those other disconnected parts from one article in another which may develop into a series or even the book. Taking those parts and clustering, gives you an opportunity to think tangentially.
While tangential thinking is considered a thought disorder, it can work to a writer’s advantage. For instance, I’m cleaning a wooden table, then I’m asking myself what kind of wood is it, then I look out the window and see a maple tree, not the same type of wood as the table, but the leaves are turning, and I remember gathering maple syrup with my aunt and that one thought prompts a short story.
Association Run Amuck?
But what happens if you get side-tracked or stuck in the middle of the process? If you are stuck, look around the room, focus on the taste of your coffee, think about why this is an important message that you want to deliver.
Each of us has a way of distracting to gain focus. Use what works for you. I will sometimes play an utterly mindless game of Charm King and match three for five minutes, and somehow, this rearranges the messages in my head and I can resume writing. Other times, I want to stay on task, so I will go back to the source, that traveling notebook and remember what inspired me to write this.
Use some of these methods to join those random words into a cohesive article and let me know how they work for you.