A lot of people think that writing is just that–writing. In my 30+ years of engaging with this art form, I’ve come to realize it’s a great deal more than just stringing words together on paper. First, writing is only one very big word that comprises multiple phases or stages of a process that brings something messy to something meaningful. Second, there are things outside of the writing itself that are critical to the success of the piece. As far as I’m concerned, there are three pillars that comprise the foundation of successful writing. These three writing foundation pillars are the strength of the writing itself, mindset, and a business sense (or strategy).
Writing Foundation Pillar I: The Writing Itself
Writing is a process. It’s not a one and done activity if you’re aiming to share a piece, impact your reader, be taken seriously, publish, or some combination of these. (There are other aims, of course, that I haven’t listed for the sake of time.)
That process often looks like conceptualization of the idea, brainstorming or outlining that idea, drafting (dumping the idea onto the page for the first time), editing (evaluating the material for improvement), revising (changing the material based on the evaluation), and polishing (adding final touches and making last fixes). Sometimes these individual pieces of the process are also not one and done. Of all of these, I really hope that editing and revising are done multiple times.
The process is what makes the writing strong because each time you go back to the material to dig in, you clarify and deepen what you’re saying, turning mess into meaning each time. As that meaning is clarified, you start to work on other things that make the writing more powerful, like choosing more descriptive or active word choice, or showing more and telling less.
A dump and run method of writing isn’t going to lend itself to successful and powerful writing. It could be therapeutic or cathartic or what you need at the time, but it’s not going to be ready for ‘prime time.’ The writing process is a process but only in committing to it will your written work benefit.
Writing Foundation Pillar II: Mindset
A lot of committing to the process or committing to your idea and vision is mindset. This shows up in a few ways: 1) your beliefs around writing as an activity 2) your beliefs about your skill 3) your beliefs about your idea and 4) your beliefs about sharing your work. If you have a mindset that writing is frivolous and unimportant, you may find it challenging to develop a practice, routine, or habit around writing.
If you tell yourself you’re a terrible writer and have no business writing, you’ll likely find writing itself challenging instead of joyful. If you don’t believe your ideas are relevant, important or worthy, they may not flow onto the page that easily or you might not bother to sit down to try to write them at all. And if you’re terrified of being seen or heard through your written work, of being judged or disagreed with, you may do well in committing to the process but your words won’t see the light of day.
Writing Foundation Pillar III: Business Sense (or Strategy)
Now, let’s say that you’ve got the first two writing foundations well set and in place. If you don’t consider who your piece is for (audience), or where to spread your words (platform), or how to go about distributing and sharing your work (publishing), your words won’t go very far. Of course, if you worry what others think and fear their rejection or judgment, you may dump and run in a different way, such as posting your piece to your personal blog but never telling anyone it's there.
Whether you’re writing content for your business such as blog posts, LinkedIn articles, or social media copy; or you’re working on a chapter for an anthology or a whole book, you’ll have to have business sense. You’ll need a strategy around who you’re trying to reach, where you’ll reach them, and how. And you’ll have to be willing to do the work, put yourself out there, and promote what you write. Your written work won’t promote itself.
Some people will want to know which writing foundation pillar do I work on first? Only you know the answer to this. Which is the weakest? That’s the one to start with. Your writing foundation is only as strong as the sum of its parts. They all play a role in the success of your written work so they all need to be functional and strong. If you struggle with the writing process, begin there. If you need to adjust your limiting beliefs, start by working on your mindset. If you don’t have a strategy for how you’re going to share your words, it’s time to put your business hat on and make a plan.
It’s not a linear or sequential thing where you work on one and then advance to the other. All three are important and work together to form the foundational base of your writing success. So, you tell me. Which of these needs your attention so your words can get the attention they deserve?
Every book starts with a strong foundation. Need to establish yours? Let’s start with a 20-min Story Stroll where we walk and talk about your book. Email me to set one up.