It’s Easier Than You Think …

“Writing is easy. All you do is sit down at the typewriter, open a vein and bleed.”

That quote is attributed to legendary sports writer, Red Smith. Smith reportedly made this statement when asked about the task of turning out a daily column.

His words are still true today for most writers. Writing can be hard, cerebral work if you don’t know where to start or worse, don’t have enough ideas. And getting the ideas we’ll ultimately write about is the undisputable first step in the process.

Bob Sands here, taking the stage for The Writer’s Life this week.

Ideas are THE currency for us as writers. Getting more of them better and faster is vital to our financial success and potential survival. So, all this week, we’ll be examining ways to develop infinite creativity.

Today, we look at the first step, which I’m calling:

Try easy.

In his book, Accidental Genius, author Mark Levy uses these two words as the title of his first chapter. The premise? Don’t try so hard to be creative. Take the pressure off and let it flow.

Have you ever noticed that, during those moments when you aren’t trying to be creative (like taking a shower or otherwise indisposed), you get your very best ideas? Ever woken up in the middle of the night scrambling for a pen and a piece of paper in order to capture your brilliant but rapidly fleeting thought?

It’s a paradox of the writer’s life – the harder you try to be creative, it seems the less creative you are! So, why not try easy? Here are a few steps that can help you.

First, remember that a rough draft is – just that. Too often, we treat our rough drafts like they should be near perfect from the start. It’s important to remember that no writing, by the time you read it, was “just right” at the outset. It has been sliced, diced, revised and rewritten. So, take the pressure off by developing the “rewriting mindset.” You’ll be surprised at how much more freedom you’ll feel when you sit down at the keyboard.

Second, always have a way to record your thoughts. Maybe it’s an app on your smartphone. I use an app called DropVox that places the recording in my DropBox folder so I can listen to it from any computer or device. Once I get it out of my head, it frees me up to think about other things.

For other people it may be keeping a stack of index cards or even a small notebook to jot down their thoughts.

Sometimes you might even pull a Stephen King and grab a cocktail napkin! According to King, that’s how his famous book Misery was birthed. He woke up after having a dream about a troubled writer being held captive by a psychotic fan. He wrote down one phrase on the napkin. When he arrived at his hotel, he quickly fleshed out the story longhand for 16 pages. The rest, of course, is history.

Third, warm up before you write. In order to get the most out of physical exercise and to prevent injury, it’s necessary to warm up your muscles. Skip the warm-up, and the workout will seem both daunting and difficult.

The same holds true for our creativity and writing. You should always have some kind of ritual before you write that sends a signal to your brain and your body that you’re about to tap into the deepest part of yourself. It might be a bit of light reading or some journaling or going for a walk or a run.

I would love to hear how you approach your writing time. What do you do? How do you “try easy” in your writing? Let me know in the comments section below.

Come back tomorrow when I’ll show you one method that will help you generate more ideas than you can possibly use. See you then.

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Published: June 30, 2014

11 Responses to “It’s Easier Than You Think…”

  1. That's great advice! I'm going to use it today.
    Getting that first draft out is always a struggle for me -- I always want it to be perfect from the get-go, no misspellings or unfinished, unpolished thoughts. I'll try to do it a little easier now.

    Saralee Etter

  2. I listen to music.... use the lyrics or title and do free writing (mapping). I usually start my day off listening to 30 min. And hopefully about 5 plus ideas.

    Guest (jerri)

  3. Great article, Bob, thank you.
    Mine's a simple ritual. It starts with Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee from freshly ground coffee beans. The aroma sends the signal it's time to write. I take my writing mug (a Snoopy & Linus "If you have a great idea run with it" mug) to my room, turn my chair & watch the oak and pine trees right outside my window for a few minutes. It chases the tension and I'm good to go! If I don't do that, I'm distracted and fidgety. Be interested to read other rituals.


  4. Hi Bob: I find that I approach my writing time easier when I start with making a list of all the expressions and tips I've found through reading. This gives me new inspiration and my thoughts simply flows.

    Guest (Karlene)

  5. Thanks for the "create a ritual" idea, Bob. I absolutely know about getting best ideas when not trying to, like right when I'm about to fall asleep. I find it challenging to fish around my night table for the writing instrument and pad I keep there, but at least half of those midnight epiphanies make it worth it. If I really have to get a blog post or web content up right away and feel no inspiration at all, I find that this little trick really does work: simply write down whatever comes to mind, no matter what it is, such as “what am I going to write, this is stupid, I need coffee, there’s nothing new to say about this product, I should add lemons to my shopping list” etc. Before long, actual usable ideas start to appear on my screen :)

    Guest (Silvianne)

  6. I believe just as you've written. Recently I read a post in a LinkedIn post, where the author was asking how many words do somebody writes per day. But I think that a goal of quantity of words shouldn't be set, but it is better a quality session, where there is no pressure of time or anything else, where the mind is set into the correct attitude, therefore it flows easily. That's what I regularly choose and then I found myself writing for hours while I feel that only a few moments had passed by, the time blends and it no longer exists.


  7. To make it easier to get started I review my notes and then take my dogs for a short walk to firm up my thoughts.

    Guest (Julie Mac)

  8. Good ideas Bob, thanks for tips. I do easy by writing my first sentence or paragraph that I knew I liked. Then I just keep writing the body of my work and go back later and edit, add, or even change what I've written. While I have inspiration I just keep writing, then do the critique later.

    Guest (Melvin)

  9. I can't write unless I'm at a keyboard and things begin gliding along. I often can't recall what I wrote but back at the keyboard the magic starts in again. Maybe this comes from writing hundreds of letters to pen pals thru the years when I was younger... or playing the piano by ear and not able t read music. I only knew which note followed which by the order I played the keys. To get in the creative spirit, listening to music helps as a starter. But once the writing begins all music has to go off in order to concentrate.

    Robert Phllipps

  10. A desk, a special desk only for writing. It is set on a covered patio and when I arrive, anytime day or night, my being knows instantly the focus, what is to occur - write. Used for nothing else.

    Guest (barrts)

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