How To Write

1. Get down all of your thoughts, as fast as you can. Write in all caps if you have to. Punctuate! Underline. Scribble it on the coffee receipt, the bank statement. Get it down, in as much detail as time allots. Save it. Keep it.
2. Find it a few days later, in the bottom of your trench or in an email sent to yourself, from yourself. Scratch your head. Attempt to decipher the person you were the moment you wrote it. Try to remember where you were; what was happening. Fail completely.
3. Recognize that you’re a different person today. Crumple it. Start over.
4. Write down something else, something you see that needs to change; something that you’re learning about or struggling with or figuring out or attempting to understand.
5. Ask questions. Answer those questions. Create theories. Explain yourself. Use a metaphor, something to grab onto. Try a smell, or a sight, or a sound. Make it personal. Avoid the temptation to delete a metaphor that you think doesn’t make sense to anyone other than yourself. (Someone else gets it. Someone else gets you.)
6. Finish writing furiously. Wring it out, every last word.
7. Save it. Read it. Slowly. Slower. Take a walk; come back. Edit the unnecessary.
8. Delete “you.” Replace with “us.”
9. Delete “me.” Replace with “we.”
10. Save. Publish. Pray.
11. Repeat.

Image Credit: Erika Raxworthy

  • This is awesome, Erin. I may use this as inspiration for my students to remind them that writing is a process and first drafts (quoting Ernest Hemingway) “are shit”. At least, first drafts take work, anyway.

    And I also love that you highlighted the very personal nature of writing – that our ideas from yesterday have already changed, because WE change from day-to-day. Ah, the transient nature of life!

  • For the last couple of weeks I’ve been studying and worring about copywritting for I know for sure that my posts to my almost 1 year old blog, suck. And then I stumble upon your last 2 posts and my mind it’s blown away.
    I really have some serious re-thinking to do. Thank you so much for the inspiration.

    • Ah, you’re welcome, Simone – this approach certainly doesn’t work for everyone, but it does work for me. :) I wish you the best in your copywriting and blog!!! Go get ’em!

  • Such a well timed post! I am planning to send in my (first!) column tomorrow. It is to be published in a real magazine in January (Yay & fingers crossed) But oh boy this stuff is scary and exhilarating at the same time. I will bookmark this post and I will certainly come back to it and reread if I need inspiration. I am sure I will make some final changes before I hit send tomorrow.

    • Oh that is SO exciting – congrats, Charlotte!!!! I hope you carve out some time today to celebrate. :)

  • And this is where autenticity in writing comes out. Something genuine, something that makes sense, something personal and inspiring.. I love this post so so much!! Thaaanks

  • Love this…. I think I’m in the stage where I just toss everything into Evernote and then go through there and my actual notebooks at a later time when it’s time to share, post or publish. BTW, found your blog via the NYT article and I love it here!

  • This is so helpful. I recently started my blog+website last month and i don’t really have a lot of experience in writing. In my head there are sooo many thoughts but when i sit to write i struggle. love point no.5 .. using metaphors definitely helps. i am more of a visual person but i am learning a lot about writing from your blog. There is certain ease with which you write which makes it so relatable .. I am a regular for sure !!

    • Thank you, Varsha – I’m a very visual person, too! But yes, writing can be a struggle for sure. Thank you for your encouragement!

  • Love this post, and I needed to read it today. Long day and too many feelings, you know? Anyway, thanks Erin. Looooonnnnnnnnnnnggggggggg time reader, few-time commenter. Anyway, anyway! You are da bomb. Keep doing what you are doing.

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