My Writing Process
Tips on finding ideas for your writing
I’ve been a freelance writer for a few years now. I raised my children as a single mom and when my kids were young it was necessary for me to have a couple of home-based businesses going at the same time. When I look back at it now I honestly don’t know how I managed to have two children in diapers at the same time while running a small daycare and writing resumes and ad copy for local individuals and businesses. But as most women already know, we’ve pretty much invented the concept of multi-tasking.
Looking at the world through an artist's eyes
As far as the actual writing process I have my own methods that seem to work pretty well for me. My kids are all grown now and working around an infant or toddler’s schedule is no longer necessary. Finding the time to write is not an issue and thanks to my vivid imagination neither is what to write. I’m also a painter and photographer so it’s easy for me to look at writing the same way I do when choosing what to photograph or paint. When you truly open your eyes and look at the world from an artist’s perspective you’ll see so much more than ever before. And writing is an art form. Comedian, George Carlin, once said (and I’m taking the liberty of paraphrasing here) jokes are things you already knew but forgot to laugh about the first time. The stories that long to be written and the paintings that cry out to be painted are already right there in your head waiting to be put down on paper or canvas. You just have to access them.
Write what you know
When you start writing you’ll begin to see stories everywhere. A trip to your local supercenter can lead to many possible stories and/or articles. Overheard conversations, misbehaving children, an exceptionally friendly cashier and the rising cost of coffee are all potential article subjects. The topics of many of my articles and stories relate to things that directly concern me. What goes on in my own life greatly influences my writing. Personal experiences are easy to tap into when considering what to write about. The most viewed posts on my personal blog were my Runaway Nanny Series articles, where I told of how I had the misfortune of accepting a nanny position that turned out to be something other than was promised. My recent first Suite101 article was the result of a pushy, suspicious roofing contractor showing up at my door after a hail storm. Everyone has a story to tell and there’s always someone willing to listen.
Stories in your own backyard provide writing topics
Yahoo is my homepage and a variety of story snippets and videos parade across the Today area. Yahoo is so kind as to tailor many of these stories to my specific area of the country. Because of this, many stories are local and a bit off the beaten path. Therefore the subjects might not be as well known as national news stories. Often times local news stories can be turned in to excellent full length articles. You can put your own spin on them. My local news channel and radio stations often have some quirky, unique stories that I can use as writing subjects.
Computer researching and writing makes it easy
You should always have a pen and paper handy. You never know when an idea will hit you and you wouldn’t want to risk the chance of forgetting it when you sit down to write. I always keep my ideas document open on my laptop so if a subject comes to me while I’m writing I can quickly type it and refer to it later. I personally never write an outline. I reflect as I type out a rough draft, making corrections along the way. Word enables me to automatically correct spelling and grammatical mistakes. I research and fact check my article by opening a new tab and toggle back and forth. When I feel an article is done I read, edit and proof, then reread again and again. I’m a stickler for making sure my article is error free, as it should be. I never print out hard copies and save everything to both my hard drive and flash drive. I’d be heartbroken if my computer crashed and I lost all my documents. Word also saves my drafts as I go so that’s an invaluable feature.
Put your own writing spin on a popular subject
Checking to see how popular a potential subject might be, by plugging the phrase in Yahoo’s search engine, is a good idea. I do this often. And if an overabundance of results come up I don’t automatically reject an idea. I know I have a particular style and way of saying something and therefore I’m able to put my own spin on an idea. Finding something that’s interesting as well as timely is important however. For example, for a while Obama’s birth certificate was top news. I had my own ideas on the subject but I resisted the temptation because I think by then most people had made up their minds. So, like many Americans, I allowed the topic to die a slow death.
Write like Erma Bombeck, but not too much
Sayings, quotes and quirks belonging to relatives, friends and family are all fair game as far as I’m concerned. When my children were little I sometimes wrote about them, but not too much because I didn’t want to be accused of copying Erma Bombeck. Personal anecdotes are nice if not too heavily peppered throughout a piece. My dad does some pretty funny things and I’m fond of referring to some of them in my humorous pieces.
Check your writing thoroughly before submitting it
Before I send a piece of writing off to be published, whether online or via snail mail I let it lie for a bit. Unless time is of the essence for some reason. Something like a Dallas Mavs update is current at the moment for North Texans so I would give that priority. I revisit my articles to be sure they still sound like they make perfect sense with the proper flow, spelling and grammar. I try not to fall in love with my writing the first time around and be prepared to rework it or begin again with another point of view.
With imagination, effort and persistence, anyone can be a writer
Whatever method you use I encourage anyone to give writing a try. There are far more outlets available to current writers than there were when I began writing. The internet was fairly new back then and just about everything I submitted was done via snail mail. Most publishers accept online submissions, making it simple and quick for writers wishing to become published. Don’t ignore the humble blog as a way to polish your writing skills. You might be surprised to find you’ve quickly acquired some devoted readers who look forward to your next post. Go on, get started and happy writing!