Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 21, 201111:12 AM

How I Write

Wouldn't it be a magical world if someone could tell you - in detail - how to write a best-selling novel or a hit song?

The truth is that there is a whole lot of secret sauce  involved in outputting creative work. It's hard to describe why one piece of writing resonates over another. I'm often asked about how I write, what I use to write and where my ideas for content come from? (along with how I decide on where things should go? Blog? Article? Book? Client idea? etc...). These are the three pillars of what culminates in my final output of writing...

1. The Tools.

The tools I use to write are as follows:

2. The Tactics.

The ideas for content come from the following areas:

  • I still subscribe to a lot of email newsletters (old habits die hard) on topics as far-reaching as marketing, public relations, branded content, technology, art, music, fashion, innovation, etc...
  • I use Google Reader and subscribe to many Blogs and news websites (I complement this with news apps, etc... on my iPhone and iPad).
  • I follow interesting people and what they're linking to in spaces like Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, Facebook, Flipboard, etc...
  • I try to read a book every week on various topics from business and marketing to creativity and innovation (I don't often read fiction).
  • I still read the daily local newspaper and I try to grab the national newspapers a few times a week.
  • I love magazines. Everything from Wired and Fast Company to Monocle and The Economist.
  • I consume and study a lot of art (more on that here: Study Art).
  • I try to have a "nose for news" (like I said, old habits die hard, and this one is from my days in Journalism).

3. The Techniques.

All of the tools and tactics in the world don't mean anything without the physical act of breaking through everything to sit down and write (no one explains this better than Steven Pressfield in his must-read business book, Do The Work!). Writing is a process of asking a question about something that inspired me - at any given moment - and trying to use critical thinking to create a thought or moment in time about it. In fact, Nate Guggia, asked me in an email today, "where does all the content come from?  Writing on a daily takes skill," and that was the inspiration for this Blog post. The placement of those ideas is something that comes very naturally to me, as well (I usually have more ideas to Blog or write about than I actually publish). I can just tell - as the idea begins to percolate - if it would be best-suited for a Blog post or for an article. When it comes to writing a book, once the core premise is established, my perusal of content on a frequent and regular basis usually gives me tons of inspiration, and I save those ideas and notes in Evernote and then organize them with Scrivener. Personally, I like telling stories and relating them to items in the news to create context rather than writing "how to" or instructional posts. I also write from a very visceral place. I don't write in pieces, but usually in one shot and then publish it as quickly as possible. It's rare that I write posts and then cue them up in a scheduled format and I tend to work best on very short/tight deadlines ("if it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done") verses other authors who write, re-write, think, pace, write some more, tweak and edit. I tend to let the idea brew inside of me to the point where the content must come out.

How about you? What kind of writer are you? What works best for you?

By Mitch Joel