6 stages of the writing process for business and fiction

Recently I had the pleasure of watching a really smart, motivated guy I’ll call Sam put together a presentation  from scratch in a matter of days. I was there from the beginning to end, coaching him on, suggesting new directions and edits, watching as he shaped and crafted the content from a rough outline to a finished, polished presentation.

It occurred to me that this process was much like–no, exactly like–the fiction writer’s process. I am usually so enmeshed in the writing process myself that I forget what it’s like to look at it from the outside in. But the similarity of the writing process for business and fiction is uncanny. See if you recognize these six stages of the writing process:

STAGE 1: The Creative Spark. For Sam, it started with an email that consisted of the basic idea and eight bullet points. He was pumped! Confident he could complete the presentation in two weeks, he requested that we move thedelivery date up. Thankfully, we talked him out of that. Because once the initial excitement of the spark wears off, stage 2 sets in.

STAGE 2: Writing the First Draft. One week later, three of us gathered together impromptu to see Sam’s first draft. It’s important to note that we kept this group small and selective. First drafts are sacred and too much Continue reading “6 stages of the writing process for business and fiction”

Walking through the chaos

I took a long walk this afternoon. It’s Mother’s Day, and this walk was my gift to myself. I feel rusty and out of practice, between the long Chicago winter and short days, not to mention the foot injury that’s sidelined me for weeks. But new music on the iPod got me moving as the late afternoon sun shined through the trees. There was a late-fall chill in the air, but the leaves and grass were so brilliantly green it hurt to look at it.

Nothing clears my head like a good walk and the sun on my face. I concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, trying not to trip on sidewalks buckled up by tree roots. Recently, a string of bad news has left me feeling more uncertain than ever. It’s been hard to focus, hard to keep one foot in front of the other. My foot literally aches. But a walk brings me back to where I belong.

My mind meanders over events and people, decisions made and not made or not made well. Soon it contemplate new ideas: should I Continue reading “Walking through the chaos”

10 painless ways to find time to write

You’re too busy to get to your creative work? Yeah, don’t even go there, I’ve heard it all before. From myself! That’s why I’ve come up with 10 relatively painless ways to make time for your creative work:

1. Give up 1 hour of TV. I know it’s hard; that’s why I didn’t say “Give up 1 hour of TV every day.” Just try one hour today–turn off the TV, go to your creative space and work. See how you feel afterwards. You might even work longer than an hour. Now try it again tomorrow.

2. Sit in your creative work space. Yep, just go there and sit. Don’t pay bills there. Don’t wrap gifts there. Whether your space is in a closet or the spare bedroom or your dining room table, go there and sit with your creative tools–notebook, pens, paints, whatever you need. You don’t have to write. But you will. Sit there for 30 minutes. Eventually you’ll get bored and write.

3. Listen to music that moves you. Just like actors need prompts to help them get into the right mood for a scene, writers need that too. Let Continue reading “10 painless ways to find time to write”

What does an MFA get you? You might be surprised.

When I first announced to family and friends in 1996 that I was going to graduate school to earn a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing, reactions were mixed. OK, people thought I was nuts. They said things like, “But isn’t writing something you either know how to do or you don’t?” and “What does creative writing have to do with marketing?” and my personal favorite, “What the hell will that get you?”

I didn’t care. I was going to immerse myself in learning my craft. I wanted to be a better creative writer for my fiction and a better marketing copywriter. I wanted to train like Uma Thurman in “Kill Bill” and be a kick-ass warrior writer who could whip out a shiny pen and people would step back in awe and respect.

Truth? I’m no Uma Thurman. But going to grad school for my MFA was the best six and a half years of my life. I focused exclusively on Continue reading “What does an MFA get you? You might be surprised.”

Need a creative spark? Make a change.

Change is in the air. Actually, change is stalking me. It began with a colleague at work denouncing proposed changes to a project with a rant that ended with the declaration: “Change is not good!” A few days later, one of my LinkedIn professional groups came out with this topic: “Why do you think people resist change and what steps would you recommend to reduce this resistance?” On the heels of that, Hubby’ called: “I’ve been reorganized. The good news is, I still have a job.” And as if all that talk about change wasn’t enough, there was this excellent blog post by Fast Company: Make Change Work for You.

OK, universe. I hear you.

Let’s face it, we’ve all seen our share of change these past two years: economic, housing, employment, financial, healthcare. That’s why Fast Company’s post resonated with me, especially the very first line: “One of the chief reasons that so many people are uncomfortable with change is because it happens to them not for them.”

Knowing that change is inevitable, how can you better handle change and make it happen for you rather than to you? Continue reading “Need a creative spark? Make a change.”