All the articles I’ve written have gone through six phases. I didn’t recognize this until I heard them from writer Adam Grant. The phases are the six thoughts every artist has as they craft their medium. Together, he calls it “The Creative Process.”
I wrote according to Grant’s “Creative Process” before I sensed there was a formula to how I write. Perhaps it’s self-fulfilling now, but I commit to the phases because every finished article is an ebenezer that “The Creative Process” is trustworthy. Here it is:
- This is awesome.
- This is tricky.
- This is crap.
- I am crap.
- This might be okay.
- This is awesome.
Throughout the day, I’m always reading, listening, and watching for something to inspire me in my next piece. My Notes App is crammed with ideas for new articles and quotes and links that supplement current drafts. So, if you were to ask me how long it took to write an article, I could never give you a straight answer because I was never off the clock since the idea hit me.
Here’s how “The Creative Process” looks for me:
- Once I decide to settle into one bit of inspiration, I’ll think “This is awesome.” In reviewing my notes, I am re-convinced of my own logic. I’ve drafted one-liners that will win awards. Here, I usually make the mistake a child does with a stray animal: naming it. Once I have a gripping title, I am sold on my own brilliance. Nothing to do but keep writing!
- As I start to swim through my brainstorming, I find the water choppy. How do I fit these puzzle pieces of sentences together? Which of them should I start with? Which is my thesis? I spend too much time here, holding onto the too many life savers that are my irrefutable sentences. This is tricky. I remember advice: Write the first draft for yourself and edit the second draft with the reader in mind. So, I spill out the full train of thought I had at the moment of inspiration, making chronological rather argumentative sense.
- But it reads like someone’s Remedial English homework. This is crap. The puzzle pieces don’t fit. Do I even have a thesis? I should probably just tweet my points; they don’t need an entire article made of them. The brilliance from the inspiration is like a dream: I’ve forgotten it and it only made sense in my head. I’ll just turn this into a listicle or use a bunch of quotes.
- That’s because I’m crap. Once again, I’ve fallen for the rookie belief that anything dreamed up has to be written down and told. Also, I know I shouldn’t name a piece until the end, but I just can’t help myself, because I’m a novice. I’m not an expert in anything. I’m not making a dime, shed the idea that I ever will. Anyway, surely someone’s already said what I’m trying to say—and said better.
- Oh well, I’m too deep into this; I might as well see where it goes. Nothing to do but keep writing. Wait a minute. If I move this paragraph there, flip that sentence around, and cut out the intro… this might be okay. Yeah, it’s starting to make more sense. I begin to release hold of the catchy title and specious one-liners because the story is going in a different direction.
- Yet it’s what I actually wanted to say at the beginning—and said better. It takes me two or three self-edited drafts to be ready to show it to a willing proofreader. After them, I’ll rework it as many times as necessary. And that’s when I realize, “This is awesome.
– Scot Bellavia