Like many aspiring writers, I have a tendency to overwrite and over-think. It’s eating at me even now, urging me to spin this sentence into something greater than it is. Overbearing vocabulary and over-complicated phrasing all comes from this monster that lives inside my head.
So how do you defeat this monster and write something worthwhile?
When I was writing The Entrepreneurial Evolution, I spent a lot of time talking about how important it is to reel in your ego. Ego is what stops us from putting in the work and taking the risks our businesses need to blossom, and it’s what sustains this monster in my head, too. Slaying this beast was just a matter of taking my own advice and removing my ego from the process.
Here’s how I did it:
Like a butcher breaking down a piece of meat, I had to lay my work out on the table before I could cut away the fat. Partly to get past that first intimidating empty page, I would start every session with a kind of freeform writing. For the first 45-90 minutes of my work period, I would embrace all of my pretentious impulses. My goal was to bleed my vocabulary dry and exhaust every bit of wit I had at my disposal.
Once I’d let the beast run wild, I was ready to bring it down. The moment I got back from my office chair break, I’d launch into a round of ruthless editing. I’d approach the draft with the exact opposite intentions I had during the first attempt.
For session two, my goal was to “dumb things down,” cut away the fluff, and simplify wherever possible. Did I use two sentences to say something that could have been expressed in one? Were there any fancy words or punctuation I could afford to lose? Where could I make the passive tense active? Where was my writing trying to draw attention to its own cleverness?
The amount of shrinkage my drafts experienced would put George Constanza to shame. When you’re trying to be clear and concise, it’s not uncommon to see a 1000+ word post cut down to a fraction of the size. Try it: the readers, editors, and publishers will all be grateful, and you’ll be able to cram more valuable content into your work.
So what’s the bottom-line lesson here? As I say in The Entrepreneurial Evolution: put your ego aside and make the move, whether that move is launching a business or putting pen to paper.
Closeup hand writing on notebook with pencil