Before I Write: Five Things

A favorite travel photo from walking across Spain last year. It speaks so much to me about the pilgrimage.

A favorite travel photo from walking across Spain last year. It speaks so much to me about the pilgrimage.

Reading and participating in social media “forums” is a favorite pastime. It’s a good way to learn, laugh and network with others who have similar interests. I participate in groups ranging from Latin American expats to birdwatchers to hikers and writers.

It often bewilders me when I see posts for writers who have difficulty generating writing ideas. Really? It’s a rich world out there. If a writer has consistent difficulty with ideas, it may be time to rethink things altogether. There’s almost no reason whatever for the absence of good subject matter, and outside scheduling conflicts there’s no reason you can’t write every day if that’s your chosen path – not that it necessarily should be.

For me, writing is all about what happens before I sit at the keyboard. It’s about five things mostly.

#1. There Must be an Outline in My Head or On Paper

My pre-writing outline organizational method is pure madness. It involves multiple notebooks in multiple places, various phone applications, Post-It notes, napkins and other scrap paper tidbits.

At 50, my ideas require immediate documentation, or they’re gone forever. I’ve attempted memory techniques, but they’re epic fails. This means there’s a notebook by my office computer, my kitchen table computer, my bedside, in my truck, my briefcase and one dedicated especially for church where so many themes are born.

There’s a notes application on my phone used mostly when I walk, and a dedicated place on the kitchen counter for a stack of random restaurant napkins, wrinkled Post-Its and usually a bank deposit slip or two and maybe a grocery store receipt where I’ve written other random thoughts.  There are both predictable (church, in bed, working out, etc.) and unpredictable (driving, the shower, grocery store, and many other) environments where my ideas get generated, and note readiness is necessary in all these places and more.

Periodically, I review all these caches and gather the dozens of related, if fragmented,  ideas into new groupings. These very rough outlines become the first foundations for blog posts, book chapters and future possible bigger ideas. I mull on them sometimes for hours, other times for months. Then when the inspiration hits, I rearrange the rough foundational outlines into a sensible order, and that’s when the writing may begin. It’s constant chaos until that point, but it’s what works for me, and by the time my fingers hit the keyboard, the writing typically flows pretty well. By that point, it’s almost written in my head.

#2. I Know What Inspires Me

Much of the above leads to the fact that if you’re going to record your inspiration, you need to know where/when/how you typically get inspired.

Inspiration owes me nothing. In fact, it hides around corners and in the dark, and rarely falls into my lap. Inspiration is jealous. It requires that I pursue it, and learn through experience how it ebbs and flows as the tide.

Unquestionably, my best ideas come when I sweat, and it’s even better if the sweat comes outdoors in a natural setting. Neurological research proves this true.

A 2015 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found 90 minutes of walking regularly, especially in non-urban areas, reduces tendencies toward depression and mental illness. Scientists could actually see this at work in people’s brains. Another study used a test group to prove that backpacking and disconnecting from technology boosted creative thinking and problem solving by as much as 50 percent.

Long walks and hikes work best for me. If it’s raining, or if outdoors is inconvenient, a treadmill works fine. My current big project was developed on a 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain and the next one will likely involve a similar adventure. I do believe the best creative ideas flow first as salty liquid through my pores.

It’s not the reason I go to church, and for a time I felt guilty because of this, but I never leave a Sunday worship service with less that a half-dozen good ideas. Since I tie much of my experiential writing to metaphorical and parable-type themes, church and personal bible-reading time always bring anticipation for ideas. It’s often the place where I get the first picture of my future work from 20,000 feet.

#3. Read

This pretty much goes without saying. To create good work, you have to know what good work looks like. You need exposure to what’s good, bad and everything in between.

If I could create a perfect writer-self, I’d be 60 percent Pat Conroy, 30 percent Lewis Grizzard, and 10 percent Larry McMurtry.

You should read books, newspapers, magazines, billboards, business cards, greeting cards – every media you can find. Somewhere in the deep recess of my mind, my subconscious edits social media posts and I just can’t help it. If you’ve used an apostrophe to create a plural, you’ve made me cringe at some point. It hurts so badly. And yes, if you’re a “christian” writer you probably ought read the bible regularly. Two Corinthians has some good stuff, according to Donald Trump.

Another favorite photo from last year in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador.

Another favorite photo from last year in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador.

#4. Travel & Live

I’m never more inspired than when I travel – 10 miles down the road, or 5,000 miles from home, travel brings out my best creative ideas.

Though I’ve been an objective journalist a lifetime, I learned more than 10 years ago in Cancun, Mexico that my creative bent loves new places.

It was during an early-morning run just at the centro came to life when I saw an older, obviously poor, and possibly homeless woman on the street. From the top of her lungs she was yelling at a storefront mannequin as if she saw it possessed. She was obsessed with the figure, cursing, crying in a spiritual battle with a counter spirit she sensed right before her. It was an amazing thing to witness and I was thankful, 2,000 miles from home, to be in that place, at that time, and see the event play out. I felt so sorry for the old woman, but also couldn’t help thinking about all the life experiences that brought her to such a place. Of course, it made me want to write on the spot.

Pat Conroy once said:

“Once you’ve traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”

It’s true. I’m most alive when I’m traveling.

#5. I Understand My Creative Limits

This is a true product of time and getting to know your creative self.

I can write journalistic-type copy any time of day, but creative copy is a different animal. I’ve worked at it long enough now to know that I have three to four hours a day, about four days a week when I can produce decent work. I also know it must happen between 4 a.m. and 1 p.m. My creative day is toast after 1.

Knowing this also helps me know when I need to do something different.

Today, I desperately need to work on a book chapter, but the creativity’s not there. It would be a total waste of time and I knew it when I woke up this morning. That doesn’t mean I can’t write. It simply means I can shift my focus to something else – a more analytical blog post like this requiring almost no creative juice. And with it, my need to create and express is fulfilled.


When the stars align with the things above, I get to do what I love. Someone once said, “The only way I know  what I think or how I feel is if I write it.”

That’s true enough, and after all these years, I’m glad to understand it better.






2012 in Review: A Few Favorite Reader Comments


Today marks my 230th post since taking up residency on WordPress in late January. Lots of great discussion. The posts will be fewer and farther between for the remainder of the year as we take on some new business opportunities thousands of miles away. The interaction with readers has been my highest honor during 2012. Here are some of my favorite reader comments from the year.

And special thanks to the blogging buddies represented in the three visuals below for their steadfast encouragement throughout the year:

1. Very inspirational post. This is why you’re on my blogroll – in response to this post.project-40-logo12

2. If there were a way to better put this into words, I would, but can’t. So I’ll simply say thank you for writing this and making it available to a somewhat lost soul who’s often given up on healing and who so desperately needed to hear these words today – in response to this post.

3. Unpatriotic, left-wing, democratic garbage – in response to this post.

4. Steve, this is not funny. Obviously, you’re not the man I thought you were – also in response to the post cited in #3 above.

holly michael5. Your bucket list is not just a list. It’s a framework for how you’ll live your life. You’ve inspired me to create my own bucket list – in response to this post.

6. You’re a very blessed man, but I can see that you already know that – in response to this post.

7. Love your boldness,  Steve, but wasn’t the reader whose comment offended you also within his First Amendment rights? Don’t people have the right to say they don’t want to hear what you have to say? – in response to this post.

8. Thanks for this post. It really helped me understand SEO strategies – in response to this post.

9. Thanks for putting into writing what most of us are thinking – in response to this post.rhonda hardisty

10. I don’t like it. I love it. Best blogging advice I’ve seen on the web – in response to this post.

11. Your dad looks like a young Paul Newman in this photo – blues eyes and all – in response to this post.


12.21.2012 – What Time Does the World End Because I Have a Plane to Catch That Day. Seriously.


Six Blog Post “Leads” That Will Lose Me in a Second

“Literature is the art of writing something that will be read  twice; journalism what will be grasped at once.” ~ Cyril  Connolly


A lead paragraph in literature refers to the opening paragraph of an article, essay, news story or book chapter. Often called just “the lead,” it writing for blogsusually occurs together with the headline or title. It precedes the main body of the article, and it gives the reader the main idea of the story. In the journalism industry, particularly in the United States the term is sometimes spelled lede. “Lede” refers to one or two sentences, not multiple paragraphs. Journalistic leads emphasize grabbing the attention of the reader. In journalism, the failure to mention the most important, interesting or attention-grabbing elements of a story in the first paragraph is sometimes called “burying the lead.”


It’s a product of having come from the “old school” world of journalism, I suppose.

While pursuing an undergraduate degree in journalism, I was required to take an entire 18-week course on writing leads.

A beautifully crafted lead is a work of art. A substandard lead tarnishes every word that follows. Your lead is a “make or break” deal. Readers make an unconscious decision whether he will read on, or click off, after the first 30 words.

Here, I’ve written six leads that will lose me in a second. Some were published on WordPress today.


1. “Hello people! Haven’t blogged in awhile because I’ve been busy up to my neck. I finally started working on Friday and it has been “fun” if I can call it that. My boss is absolutely the nicest man ever, my colleagues are equally awesome, there’s free wifi! What more can a sister ask for? Well along with the job came more  work.” (Well hello right back at you!!!!! I’ve been wondering where you were!!! You’ve been busy? Really!!!  That’s awesome. I have no idea what this post is trying to say.)

2. “If your (sic) wondering where I’ve been lately, life’s just been to (sic) busy to be on the blog.” (With two fundamental grammatical errors, and ending with a string of three consecutive prepositional phrases, I pass on this one quickly.)

3. “Here’s a collection of musings, rants and ramblings from the last week.” (I don’t have time for ramblings; if you’re going to rant, please do it without telling me so, because I’ll be much more inclined to read; and I have no idea what a ‘musing’ is.)

4. “The hubs and I had the most awesome lunch today!” (I’m thrilled you and ‘theBlogging tips hubs’ enjoyed your fare and that you were so compelled to end with a slammer, but I refer you to the author of this book, whose sentiments I could not share more.)

5. “Needless to say, I was scared to death, but when reality set in, I knew we’d make the best of it.” (Congratulations on setting the world record for most cliche’s in a single sentence.)

6. “Another week of me being semi-lazy…” (I actually found this one in my reader today. Oh, how it compels me to read more…)

Want more readers?

Write good leads.


Writing for Boris

At the outset of writing my first book, I decided to take an unconventional approach to drafting the manuscript.

Before the first keystroke was typed, I sold an editor on the book’s topic and was fortunate he agreed to edit my work in progress, rather than as a finished draft. The benefit was learning how to correct my mistakes early on rather than repeating them endlessly through a 40,000-word body of work.

Bradley Harris of Memphis, TN, is my teacher, mentor, counselor, advocate, nemesis and friend. Before meeting Brad, I thought I was a good writer. That’s what I thought, anyway.

Early on, Brad’s typewritten editor’s notes introduced me to a fictional reader. Brad called him Boris. Occasionally, Brad gives me an account of Boris’s reaction to my work.

I can picture Boris this way…

Boris is a multi-faceted reader. He’s a Christian-atheist-agnostic – a citizen of the world, skeptical, cynical with a short attention span. He’s intellectual, not easily impressed, and frequently puts my book aside for a scotch rocks. Sometimes, he’ll come back to the book. Other times, he’ll toss it aside.

The point is, Boris is every reader.

By our very nature, our upbringing, our limited life experiences, and the culture in which we live, as writers we have shortcomings, blind sides and a plethora of limitations.

I’m a 46-year-old Christian, who’s lived his entire life in the South with limited exposure to the vastness of the world. The very nature of who I am intuitively causes me to write for people who are well – just like me. Boris helps me break outside the mold.

…and this way…

Today, with many lessons learned, I’d submit most Christian writers’ significant limitation is that they are, in fact, Christian. We see the world through our profound belief for what’s right, good and pure. And that’s all well and good but…

What good is a “Christian” book that appeals to Christians only? People just like us?

Is not the world our mission field?

The best Christian book may just be the one that appeals to a Buddhist, a Hindu or an atheist. Is my love so strong for my own beliefs that it should be shared only with others who think just like me? What purpose would that serve for the greater good?

Boris is every reader. Today, not a single sentence is written without consideration to Boris’s reaction. If my words turn him off and he never picks up the book again, I’ve lost him. The better approach is to push him just far enough to think. Right to the edge of his comfort zone so that he might put the book in his lap for a moment, ponder, and return for more intrigue.

It’s a fine line, and a slippery slope.

Each of us as Christian writers have a certain set of values – a belief system. It’s not our job to impose our beliefs on others.

It is our job to maintain our integrity, speak truth in love and push all readers, both Christians and non-Christians to the edge of their comfort zone. To raise questions in their own mind, and go beyond our work to seek out their own truth.

The Christian life is not designed to make us comfortable. It’s a life of never-ending questions, discomfort and the realization of this truth:

The most dangerous of us all is the one who believes he grasps God‘s truth, gets it fully, and is completely comfortable in his own faith.

…and especially this way.

Thank goodness Boris came into my life. I’m a better writer because he reads.

For related posts on writing and editing please see: How to Write Copy that Kills: Part 5: Pursue @ This post includes links to a series of writing-related topics.


How Do You Birth Triplet Books? One Baby at a Time: Trilology

Around the first of March each year, a good buddy of mine immerses himself in the study of what he calls “bracketology.”

I can’t say for sure that he coined the phrase, but he’s a sharp guy, so I’ll give him the credit until I know better.

Bracketology is the artistic and scientific study of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. Each spring hundreds of thousands of college basketball enthusiasts make their selections in the 68-team tournament. It’s one of the most exciting events in all of sports, better known to the purists as The Big Dance.

My friend’s study has inspired me to take on a new personal area of research in the world of writing. I call it Trilology.

And until someone else claims it, I’m taking the credit for the establishment of that new science.

TRILOGY: a set of three works of art that are connected, and can be seen either as a single work, or as three individual works.

Trilogies date back as far as 458 B.C., to the ancient Greek plays in the Festival in Athens. The Oresteia is one of the few surviving trilogies of that early era.

Some reputable trilogies we all know:


I’ve been fully engaged in the book-writing process for five months now, and if there’s one lesson I’ve learned, it’s about patience. It’s a tough, but valuable lesson for someone with my personality.

But the lessons learned have been nothing short of mini-epiphanies.

The tedious trek of writing and marketing a book is slow, and it forces you to think. And it brings on new ideas a writer may otherwise never have envisioned.


On reflection, the single-best move I made in the book-writing process was hiring a seasoned editor before a single manuscripted word was written. I pitched the idea to Brad Harris during a four-hour breakfast last March, and it was my good fortune he signed on to the task.

Brad is more than an editor. He’s a teacher. I thought I was a decent writer before my relationship with Brad. Not so much, I now see. But he’s made me a decent writer through the process. For the best advice Brad’s given me, see this post:

Just one of the benefits of our relationship is Brad’s guidance in helping me see the bigger picture.

Some 10,000 words into the initial draft of Light Wins, Brad identified the sequel – an anti-thesis to the original work we’d title Dark’s Dominion.

At the time, I couldn’t remotely conceive the anti-thesis of the original premise in a new body of work, but over the slow process of writing, and thinking, the idea took root. So now, the sequel is being written in my head as the first manuscript is being completed. It’s a very cool process, and it came only through patience.


Excited about the process of a follow-up book, my mind really started churning.

When I understood just how the Dark’s Dominion anti-thesis would flesh out, I could see a third work as complimentary to the first two, and the idea for Hope’s Horizon was born around 1:30 this morning.

And now, thanks to the 24-hour customer support of my friends at the domains are securely tucked away.

Just looking at that thrills me.


The Perfect Trilogy in human form.

But now, there’s a whole new set of questions and ideas to ponder, especially when it comes to the business of marketing a trilogy.

  • Do you write one book, release it, then begin work on the second?
  • Do you complete one book, get half-way through the second, release the first, then come out with the sequel soon thereafter?
  • Do you write all three books together, and release them in drip fashion or all at once?

If anyone has any experience or advice on this, I’d surely welcome your thoughts.

Patience has been a good thing, but I’m still on the high-end of the learning curve.

(Bloggers Note: You may view additional posts from my series, How to Write Copy that Kills @

How to Write Copy That Kills: Part 5: Pursue

“Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.” ~ Booker T. Washington

The PURSUIT of the goal of excellent writing is publishing. I can share 90 percent of the formula for pursuit with you in one word:


Some of the best writers/artists in the world have gone unnoticed for years. Some just went ahead and died to get published.

I’m trying not to go that route.

So you’re writing killer copy and the phone’s not ringing? Email comes up blank? Twitter isn’t tweeting your way?

The first most important relationship in my writing life, and all the rest of it for that matter, Dana.

  • Recognize your existing relationships.
  • Enhance those existing relationships.
  • Forge new relationships every day.


Begin with your inner-most circle of friends. They can’t write a book for you, and they probably can’t give you advice that amounts to squat. But they’re your support team. A few people are always there for you – through everything. A writer’s life pursued to the fullest is chaos. You need those people. Hang on to them.

Then move to the outer circle. I have about 800 Facebook friends, 130 blog followers, 150 followers on Twitter and about as many on Linked-In. Most of these people I don’t know well. Some of them are distantly casual “virtual” friends. Others are professionals in my field. Occasionally, they “like” my work and pass it on for others to read. That’s invaluable.


I’m currently about 60 percent through the first-draft manuscript of my first non-fiction book, Light Wins. About 25 percent of that book (its flesh: see this post: is told through the stories of real people who were tragically wounded by “religion.” They experienced a metaphorical Darkness some of us will never know, but the metaphorical Light healed them. Most of those stories come from people who live within 20 miles of my home. And that’s not a matter of convenience. Their stories are incredibly powerful. It just turned out to be convenient because I listened to what they were saying and their trust in me gave me the privilege of conducting some magnificently productive interviews.

Build those relationships.

At any given moment I may “like” or comment on someone’s social media post. They may only know me by a simple profile picture, but if I genuinely care enough about what’s on their mind, maybe they’ll be inquisitive enough about me to learn more. And maybe one day, one of those folks will be a powerful agent.  Or maybe she’ll be an established author who would endorse my book. You just never know.

The second most important relationship in my writing life – my editor, Brad Harris (left).


This only makes sense right?

All of us are trying to get attention in a world where communication moves nearly at the speed of light. Twitter blows me away. Those people who have 30,000 followers and follow another 30,000 and have made 50,000 tweets … what else do they do? It’s the fastest moving medium I’ve ever seen. I tweet, but I don’t have time to manage a lot on Twitter. It’s somewhat useful, at best – for me, that is.

Sometimes you have to break the rules. I did it today. I have one non-fiction literary agent who I REALLY want to represent me. I follow her every way imaginable. I’ve submitted the query with all the dotted i’s and crossed t’s. But I’ve gotten impatient. I’ve made a subtle follow-up, (big no-no) and when one of her colleagues made her own blog post today on the topic of “How Do You Get Noticed By An Agent who has the strictest of rules, I commented and told her I’d followed the rules … so why don’t you just tell her to pick up the phone and give me a call?

So we’ll see about that. I’ll let you know if it works.

But just maybe, my approach was radical enough to get noticed and forge a new relationship.

One final note.


I hate it. It goes against everything my logical self believes, but I’ve done it, and probably will again.

We’re a passionate people, we writers, aren’t we?

We’re artists and scientists of the world. We invest ourselves radically in what we do. So if you burn me, and it REALLY stings, I’ll burn the bridge. You go your way and I’ll go mine. We’ll probably cross paths again, and it’ll be awkward, but I probably won’t stand in the distant corner, just because you’re in the room.

I’m not offering this as advice. Do it if you must. Just be careful.

The pursuit of greatness has a lot to do with relationships.

To see other posts in this series, you may view:






How to Write Copy That Kills: Part 4: Write

(Bloggers Note: This is the fourth in a series of six posts: How to Write Copy That Kills. Today’s post is the fourth element: Writing.)


I recall the first personal meeting with my editor last February. We met for breakfast in Memphis. What I expected to be an hourlong meeting lasted four and a half hours. The waitress thought we were waiting for lunch.

At the time, I’d yet to put a single word on paper. Light Wins was only an idea. It was a fairly well-organized idea in my mind, yet it was just an idea.

Bradley Harris is not easily impressed. We took our seats and he said, “What have you got?”

So I went through the background, concepts, and the book’s “meat” if you will. And I shared the peripheral possibilities, marketing opportunities etc., etc.

As we bounced back and forth, more ideas developed, and I could see in his eyes he knew we were on to something. Brad was actually a little excited.

Then he said something I’ll never forget.

“May I be blatantly direct with you, Steve?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

“This is all wonderful, but you don’t have **** until you have text. I need text, and I need a lot of it.”

And I took a deep breath.

The long road started there. You don’t have **** until you have text.


The headline on this post is admittedly misleading. I can tell you how to observe, think, plan, pursue and execute, but I can’t tell you how to write killer copy any more than I can tell you how to travel to the moon.

At best, I can share with you a few things that work for me:

  • First, you must have text. Just write. Whatever your preferred style, whatever time of day or whatever place you prefer, just get there and write. Short spurts, long binges. It doesn’t matter. Just write. No excuses.

  • Get objective opinions. Pay someone if you have to. Your friends’ opinions are no good. They’ll tell you what you want to hear. Toss something out there. Test and tease a nugget here and there in your blog. Zero comments may mean you have some tweaking to do. Let’s be honest. If you have zero comments, you may want to think about living in a van down by the river.
  • Get into character. I’m a different person when I write. Nobody knows that person but me. Whoever you are when you write, be that person. Put on your writing clothes, your hat, special glasses, sip hot tea, whatever you have to do to be your inner writer, become that person at the moment you sit before the keyboard and let nobody take you away from who you are at the moment.
  • If you’re a binge writer, go on a media fast before the binge. The world will distract you. It will raise your blood pressure. A few days prior, pretend newspapers, magazines, television and internet news posts don’t exist. Clear your mind. I’ve been able to do this to the point where I can literally think when I sleep. When the stars line up, my subconscious can write copy when I’m in certain stages of sleep. You may not believe that, but it’s true. And that makes for some exciting times when I take my first cup of coffee to the keyboard in the early-morning hours.
  • Don’t push yourself into a pattern. This is the anti-thesis of what many will tell you. You may be going along well on a focused chapter, then have another idea that kills. Stop, and write what just came to your mind. Stay there for hours if you must, then come back. Ideas have a way of vanishing if they aren’t written down. I regularly take 15-minute breaks just to get up and walk around, but continue to think. Inevitably I come up with two to three ideas, then I can go back to the keyboard and keep the momentum going.
  • Gauge your gut. When I write something that’s killer good, I literally tingle – and honestly, I’m not impressed with my work most of the time. But once in a while a phrase goes on paper and I’m forced to take a breath. I’m my own worst critic, so if it moves me, it will probably move a reader. Check your gut.
  • Think about Boris. Boris is the fictional character my editor uses to let me know how a reader is reacting. Boris is conservative, grumpy, overweight and set in his own ways.

When Boris grumbles, I’m losing him. If he gets up to pour a scotch rocks and comes back to read more, I’ve got him. Think about YOUR Boris.

  • Stop trying to be perfect. The copy will not be perfect on first draft. It may have grammatical issues, and may not have the perfect flow. It doesn’t matter right now. Get the ideas down. Move on. Perfect later. Injure it first, then kill it.
  • Come back later with a scalpel. Days ago you used a rusty dagger to cut out a rough form. Give yourself time, then come back with a scalpel to make your precision cuts and additions. This may be the hardest part of the entire process.
  • Reward yourself at whatever intervals you choose. Maybe at 10,000 words you go out for a steak. Do something you love for yourself. I don’t set specific intervals for rewards, but I know instinctively when I should reward myself. Walk away and go party, whatever that means to you.

Just remember, you don’t have **** until you have text.

For the previous posts in this series see:





How to Write Copy That Kills: Part 3: Plan

(Blogger’s Note: Parts One and Two of this series can be viewed at: and

Of the six-part series, this is probably the toughest to communicate.

Today’s writer/publisher must live a double life. That of writer, and that of businessperson.

So there’s the art of writing and the science of business.

Because this particular series is focused on writing, we’ll leave the science of business alone today. There are many great bloggers out there today who help you with the science of publishing. A couple of great ones are:

Now the art of writing is a difficult thing to communicate. There’s really no way one artist can tell another how to do his/her work. It’s impossible because:


We’re all inspired/motivated in different ways. We write at different times of the day. Some of us write a thousand words a day on the way to our goal. Others go with the binge style and write tens of thousands of words at one sitting and may go for weeks without writing another word.

So what advice can we share about how to plan the artistic endeavor of writing killer copy for a book?

I’ll just offer a few short bullet points that work for me.

  • It’s a given that you should read, but in all honesty, I struggle with this, too. I love to read and I love to stay informed about the news of the day, but here’s one thing I noticed recently. On a 10-day trip outside the states during May of this year, I never saw television or a daily newspaper. And during that time I never even realized those things were absent from my life. My mind was free of worldly clutter and I’ve never thought so creatively clear. So for me, there’s a fine balance between staying informed and keeping the junk out for the sake of good writing. But when you do read, read with diversity. It helps most when I read with variety.
  • To the degree that you can, be intentional about your calendar. Every three months or so, schedule a writing retreat for yourself. I do three-day getaways, where I’m isolated from society, and it’s when I do my best work. Schedule your retreats 90 days out and let your family and friends know well in advance that you’ll be out of human contact during that time. Beyond that, be intentional with time that you don’t write. I schedule times that are strictly for fun. No writing on the agenda, but inevitably during those times, I have ideas to bring back to the keyboard.
  • From time to time, use your blog with test-and-measure intention. Every few months I’ll throw out a partial chapter of my book just to see how readers react. One example is here:   a post where I recently tested the prologue to my current work. It’s helped guide and re-shape some of the things I do. Now, if a book tease doesn’t necessarily fit with the theme of your blog, consider adding a sister- or cousin-blog that is independent of your primary blog. I maintain three blogs and I’ll write later about the benefits of hosting multiple blogsites.

  • Study metaphors. Many of us write metaphorically and don’t even know it. When my editor pointed out the metaphorical nature of my writing he suggested I study the intentional use of metaphors to strengthen my work. It helped immensely because I now have more self-awareness of my own style. This book really helped me.
  • About “writer’s block.” I’d submit there really is no such thing. Yes, I may go weeks without writing a single word for my book, but the blog is always there to turn to. I do not subscribe to the notion that you must blog every day – quite the contrary. But there is a void in my day if I haven’t written or published something. Use your blog as an outlet. My primary blog serves that purpose. It allows me to write about whatever I choose: news, sports, faith, travel, whatever. The blog helps fill the empty spaces when I’m stuck on bigger things.
  • About outlines. Necessary or not? Just depends on your style. I usually draft broad outlines. If I can see the bigger points I want to make on paper, the details usually take care of themselves.
  • Go easy on yourself. The art of writing is a creative process. (How’s that for stating the obvious?) It takes time. It will not be rushed. Do whatever you can to go easy on yourself for a period. Then when the blood starts pumping, focus like a laser beam.

Most of all just remember:


Next Post: Part 4: Write.