One of the best things about writing for a daily newspaper is that it either permanently cures you of writer’s block, or it convinces you to pursue another profession.
When I worked on the Ellensburg Daily-Record, a small daily in eastern Washington State, I had to cover a wide variety of topics, not all of them especially captivating–the Ellensburg Rodeo, the Kittitas County Weed Board, country and western concerts, and an eccentric old lady who won the Halloween Contest by dressing up in a dog food bag.
During the time I worked there, I developed a method for quickly organizing and composing stories. It was the only thing that allowed me to survive with my love for writing intact. I developed this method by trial and error, mostly by error. Early on, like many of those who sign up for the Seattle Writing classes, I would obsess about the lead, spending three or more hours on it. As the deadline approached, I had less than an hour to finish the rest of the story.
I needed to find another way. I discovered that if I postponed my instinct toward perfectionism to later in the writing process I could produce a better story. First, I got black on white, quickly typing up the rough draft, and then I went back over it and tinkered with it. The key to avoiding writer’s block was postponing perfectionism.
Over time, I refined this technique. I would arrive at the office, organize my notes, find an angle around which to structure the piece, and then type away. After finishing the rough draft, I would go back and polish it from the lead forward. By postponing my inclination toward perfectionism to the end of the process, I was able to turn in a stronger piece.
This is one of the topics we’ll over in my fall Seattle Writing Class, Revising Your Life. Let me know if you’d like to sign up!