Jon Writes

The Brand Blog

Write It Real Good

I originally wrote this blog for HuntGather, an online platform for black graphic designers to showcase their work. My good friend Chris Richardson created it. Check it out, and check out his work, too.

 

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Your work is genius and you want to share it with the world. Great.

But you’re a designer. Or a photographer. Or any other creative type who hyperventilates when you have to cobble together a blog post about your latest piece.

It’s critical you write effectively to share your creativity with the masses. It doesn’t have to be a terrifying experience.

Here are tips for developing healthy writing and self-editing habits so your website copy or pitch deck is just as stunning as the user interface you just created.

Figure out what to write

It should be easy. It isn’t. Creatives are great at frolicking in a flurry of ideas but stumble when it comes to the actual writing part. Writer’s block is real but there are tricks to overcoming it.

Find inspiration. Be a detective. Interrogate yourself. Ask pertinent questions. Probe. What’s something you think other people should know? Why is your piece unique? Why should anyone care? What are your thoughts on the latest trends in your industry? How does it relate to a national conversation?

 

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Start writing

You can’t write without, well, writing. Take a pen and paper (or laptop) and start outlining your ideas. Brainstorm. Map it out. Allow your mind to wander and then unleash your thoughts onto the page.

Organize it all

Organize your work for the sake of the reader and avoid word vomit (i.e., a disorganized heap of your thoughts without rhyme or reason) at all costs.

Start by opening your piece with something interesting — a bland “I love designing because it allows me to express my creativity” is sleep-inducing. This is better: “Drawing became part of my life when I nearly lost it to a wood chipper.” That’s odd enough to pique someone’s curiosity and interesting enough to keep them reading.

Think your story through. What facts should logically follow in the next paragraph? What details can wait till the end? What’s the most important? What’s the least important? What can I leave out entirely?

These are all questions you should consider as you’re stringing together sentences.

Speaking of sentences, make them flow, and choose your transitions carefully (see what I did there?). Like a watercolor painting, you want your paragraphs to blend into each other so they’re natural and smooth. Avoid jarring ramblings that will disrupt the reader’s flow or confuse them.

Bonus pro tip: Don’t use big, confusing words to try to impress your readers with your extensive vocabulary. They don’t care, especially if you don’t use the words correctly.

Read your work

Here’s a lesson most professional writers eventually learn: “Every writer needs an editor.” Every. Single. One. Harper Lee needed one. Stephen King needs one. Even yours truly needs one (you’re shocked, I know).

Self-editing is paramount and can save you a lot of heartache and embarrassment in the long-run when your work isn’t riddled with typos and comma splices.

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Walk away, get some air

If you’re not working on a crazy deadline, walk away from what you’ve written and let it breathe. You should breathe, too. Writing is a rewarding — but arduous — craft. You’ve just poured your soul onto a page. You deserve a break.

Read it again — this time, aloud

Our brains are funny little machines.

Let’s say you’re reading something you’ve written and it’s missing an article, like “the.” Your mind will automatically insert that word into your sentence as you write it because it knows it’s supposed to go there. That means the correct word may be missing because you, the writer, failed to re-read your work and notice the error.

Your devious little Jedi mind tricked you.

That’s why reading your work a second, third or fourth time is critical. And don’t depend on close-mouthed speed reading, or reading on a computer screen. Print out what you’ve written and read it aloud. You have a better chance of catching missing words, run-on sentences or clunky phrases that way.

Cut it out

This step hurts the most.

Most of the time, we write a lot of filler into our work (even the best writers do this). Much of that filler — pro writers call it “fluff” — can be sacrificed on the altar and cut from your piece entirely. (Like this paragraph, it’s filler — we really don’t need it to get the point across.)

At work, we call it “killing your babies.”

Cutting out entire paragraphs is hard (especially when you think they’re great). It might even hurt your feelings (yes, you may cry). But it’s necessary and it often makes your piece better. If you feel like you can’t bring yourself to do it, find a competent editor with a fresh pair of eyes who will do the dirty work for you. Just understand that their critique of your work isn’t personal. It’s the job.

Keep it concise

Unlike this blog post, keep what you’ve written concise, short and straight-to-the-point. Save the elaborate prose for your novel.

Jonathan McFadden