Ask any experienced writer about their process, and they’ll tell you they tend to warm up before they get to the good stuff…
What does that mean?
Well, have you ever noticed that a lot of times when you read something, the first two or three paragraphs are kind of ho-hum? They’re not bad. They’re not difficult to read. They’re just kind of… there.
And then, you hit a point that makes you sit forward. Suddenly, you’re into it. Up to that point, you could give or take finishing the piece. But suddenly, the writer has your attention.
So, why didn’t the writer start at the point?
The answer is because they were warming up. Experienced writers know to watch for the warm-up and trim it away. (And, even experienced writers forget sometimes!) But, start watching for this and you’ll see the warm-up makes it into a lot of writing.
It just happens. Sometimes it takes a bit of time and typing and wordsmithing before you hit your groove. Everything before that point is a warm-up… and it’s usually not your best work.
So, here’s an idea. What if you were to take this natural tendency and use it to make your writing stronger?
A Warm-Up to Help You Internalize Your Research
Here’s one way you might do this…
When you’re ready to start drafting, it helps if you really know the topic, inside and out. That way, you don’t have to keep stopping to refer to your notes.
As part of getting ready to write, build some warm-up time into your research process. When you’re researching a project, spend the time you usually do searching and reading and taking notes. And then, once you’ve finished that part, before you move onto the next step in your process, do an uncensored fast write.
Set a timer for 15 minutes and, writing as fast as you can, sum up what you’ve learned and what surprised you the most. Don’t worry about logic or organization. Just write, stream-of-consciousness style.
When you do this, you’ll make the research you’ve done easier to remember as you start your first draft and you might make some surprising connections that could lead to a fresh approach to your project. Plus, you’ll have gotten your warm-up out of your system.
It all adds up to a stronger first draft.
Write Something Related but Different
This recommendation comes from Nick Usborne (and is the inspiration for this article — thank you, Nick!).
When you’ve landed a project, before you actually start writing the copy, tackle it from a different angle. For example, before Nick writes the homepage for a website, he’ll write a blog post or two on the same topic. This helps him organize his thoughts… and it gets that warm-up copy out of the way.
You could take this same approach before writing a sales package. Or, you might write a couple of quick email messages before writing a landing page or a special report.
By putting your writing into a different structure, you take the pressure off to get things just right in your first draft. You clarify your thinking and uncover your strongest ideas. And, that can only help you when you turn to writing the project at hand.
Try a Forced Association
Once you’ve done your research and you have an idea of what you want to write, make a list of all your key points, all your benefits, and all your best bits of proof.
Then, number your list.
Using a random number generator like random.org, select two items from your list. Then write 500 words about how the two go together… even if there’s not a natural connection between those two items. You may have to get creative.
When you do this, you might uncover an exciting Big Idea to use in your piece.
But, even if you don’t, you’ll move yourself through the warm-up phase. So, when you start drafting, you’ll be ready to write well. And creatively.
A Tried and True Warm-Up
How many times have you heard the advice to write 100 headlines before starting your sales package?
And, how many times have you done it?
The main reason you hear this advice is because to get 100 headlines down on paper, you have to push past what you’re familiar with. You have to push past the obvious. And, that’s when the good stuff starts to happen.
So, next time you’re working on a project, before you start writing, actually write those 100 headlines.
You’ll move past your ho-hum ideas and into the good stuff, which will translate into a stronger draft.
Most writers warm up, whether they realize it or not. If you’re going to do it anyway, you might as well do it in a deliberate, productive way, so you can deliver a stronger result to your client.