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.”

The creative power of red fuzzy dice

The other day my ten-year-old son came home from a trip to the arcade with a pair of red fuzzy dice. You know, the kind you hang on your rearview mirror, if you happen to be a fuzzy dice kind of person, which…I am not. He hands them to me with a big grin.

“Here Mom! I got these for you. I won enough tickets to get something for me and for our family.”  His face is beaming with a degree of happiness that I see less and less as he grows older and “cooler.”

I hold the dice in my hands. They are very fuzzy. Very huge. Very red. Very noticeable. This was not going to be like wearing the bracelet made out of macaroni. This would be more like wearing the brown paper bag hat decorated with stick figure puppies and “Mom” all over it. In public.

Now, don’t get me wrong–it’s not like I’m too sophisticated for fuzzy dice. One of my favorite Continue reading “The creative power of red fuzzy dice”

The upside of insomnia: creative time in disguise

It started at 2am, when I bolted awake, heart racing and pounding like a man on fire inside my chest. I immediately took action, launching into my trusty Insomnia Routine, which consists of a series of mind games I use to try and trick myself into feeling very very sleepy:

2:09am: I am on a beach. Hear the waves. Feel the hot sand. Smell the coconut tanning oil. Hear the sea gulls cawing in lazy circles in blue sky. Caw caw. My running to-do list from work runs across the beach.

2:17am I am submerged in quick sand. Each part of my body floats down, down, down. I am melting into the quick sand. My arms, shoulders, neck, even my hair. That reminds me, my daughter needs a haircut, my client didn’t seem thrilled with my pitch, and I have no idea how to find my way in to that video project, let alone get it done in time.

2:34am I contemplate counting sheep. Dogs. Cats. Cigars. I have to pee. I’m hot. Hubby starts snoring. The dog (who is more like a horse at 70 pounds  and has no business being in my bed) is kicking me in the kidneys.

2:51am: I get up, grab my journal, and head for my office.

This used to go on for two or three hours, so I’ve made progress. I’ve had insomnia off and on since I was a child, so I’ve had time to fine tune. (I once went for a week without sleeping. I was afraid of me that week.) I used to squeeze my eyes shut tight and will myself to sleep, anything to stop watching the clock, counting down the minutes until my alarm went off and my day started, a day that I anticipated to be long, excruciating and exhausting. which made me angry so I squeezed my eyes shut even tighter and clenched my jaws too. SLEEP DAMMIT!

But I’m older now. Not necessarily wiser, but definitely mellower. Have you ever heard of found time? I don’t recall where I first heard of the concept, but it’s the perspective that any unexpected down time, such as waiting in a long line at the grocery store or post office, is extra time you can use however you wish. Warning: too much found time can make you just as angry as not being able to sleep (I am thinking of several long flight delays), but I usually carry a book, notebook, even my laptop wherever I go because you never know when a pocket of found time will pop up. You have to seize it when it pops.

Right now I’m sitting on my couch wrapped in a white blanket and black night and delicious silence with the freedom to write and work for as long as I am awake. No phone, no email, no interruptions. I can actually do and think about one thing at a time, rather than worry about 17 things at once while simultaneously helping one kid with fractions homework (ugh) and helping the other kid make his lunch while simultaneously feeding the dogs, paying bills and putting laundry away while simultaneously ordering a pizza and having a complete mental block when the girl asks for my phone number. (Sorry Mom for making fun of you when you used to say five other names–including the dog’s–before finally spitting out mine back in the day.)

No wonder I can’t sleep.

But multi-tasking challenges aside, I like to look at my insomnia as my pocket of uninterrupted, found reflective time in the middle of the night for writing, journaling, thinking, reading. It’s like a creative trigger, popping up when life is too busy and crazy and the world feels out of control, reminding me–forcing me–to take my little slice of creative time wherever I can get it.

Get Creative: Make found time in your day today for your creative project.