Tuesday Beauty Tips: Writing Made Easier

Published in: Beauty Tips

110309-writing-made-easier

In committing more than a million blog words to digital paper, I’ve battled struggled through some SERIOUS bouts of writer’s block.

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No matter how many times I beat it back, writer’s block always returns! It’s funny that way, but I’ve learned a thing or two about writer’s block over the years, and if you’ve faced it too, here are some things that might help.

1. What’s the theme?

Most of the time, if/when I can summarize an idea in about one sentence, it’s fully baked.

That’s my theme, and I treat it like my hypothesis. Basically, it’s what I plan to prove in the blog post/e-mail/memo I’m writing, and everything I put on the page should help to back up my point.

Before I start to write, I’ll post my theme at the top of a blank page to remind myself to stay on topic.

A few of the themes I’ve written over the past few weeks…

110309-writing-made-easier-theme

2. Try an outline

Even harder than figuring out what to talk about is figuring out what not to say.

When I write without at least some kind of an outline, I spew everything and the kitchen sink in verbal stints of written diarrhea that waste time, energy and leave me feeling frustrated.

There’s no right or wrong way to make an outline, but here’s a bare bones method I learned from a newspaper reporter.

I’ll write each major topic down on its own line, restricting myself to 4-5 words per topic. Once all the major points are on the page, I’ll rearrange them into an organized list.

Here’s the outline I used for this post…

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3. The power of the sh*tty first draft

This idea’s from Anne Lamott’s brilliant book, Bird by Bird.

Anne advocates blazing through your first draft — no stopping to correct spelling or grammar, no long pauses to judge your prose, nothing. Just let the words flow, and accept your mistakes. You’ll correct them in your next draft.

In a sh*tty first draft, you bang it out just to get it done. Not worrying about mistakes removes the pressure we place on ourselves when we write, and I think it generally makes the whole process more enjoyable.

Resist the urge to correct your spelling and grammar as you go along.

  • Stay loose and relaxed: I hold a lot of tension in my shoulders. If they’re scrunched up near my ears, I’ll make a conscious effort to loosen and relax the muscles. It sounds like a minor thing, but I swear it helps a lot.
  • Set a deadline: I’ll set mine at the start. Duration depends on the complexity of the project, but most of the time I shoot for 10-15 minute sh*tty first drafts.
  • Avoid the delete key: I know it’s hard, but pretend like it’s broken. Don’t click delete. Just keep mfaaking mistks — keep making mistakes. You can always correct them later.

Whether your next writing assignment is a term paper or an e-mail to your BFF, I hope these tips help.

Oh, and if you have any writing tips of your own, please share in the comments. There’s always room for more! :)

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,

Karen

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  1. Kelly says:

    Hi Karen – Great tips! When I was in college (getting my BA in English) a professor had us read Bird by Bird, and I love it.

    I frequently have problems trying to find new and exciting ways of saying the same thing over and over. It’s frustrating!

    Oh and I have THE hardest time on earth not correcting my spelling as I go, it’s this insane urge I have. But I remember free-writing in class, and it really helped. Gotta get back into that! :)
    .-= Kelly’s last blog post… Butter London Fashionista’s Favourites Collection Swatches and Review =-.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kelly,

      I think there are always new and exciting ways to say things about a particular subject. It’s entirely possible — I mean, think of every single movie review Roger Ebert has ever churned out…

  2. Glosslizard says:

    Thanks for the tips! I don’t write much, but when I do I have such trouble getting over the notion that people will be violently critiquing every word I write from the first draft on! The sh*tty first draft seems like an excellent tool to control that particular quirk!

    My only writing tip is that once I finish writing something, I find it very helpful to take a break and then come back and try to read my own work as objectively (not critically) as possible!

  3. Christina says:

    I have to write plenty of papers soon and this just came at the right time! Thanks Karen!

  4. Babybubblz says:

    Thanks for the tips! I also have a hard time not correcting my mistakes as I type. It really does slow everything down. I need to take your advice and start with making a sh*tty draft first!

  5. CB says:

    Hey Karen,

    I like your post even though I’m not a writer. :) I think the tips applicable to pretty much any project, not necessarily writing.

    Cheerio!

  6. CB says:

    Hehe – typo – i missed the word “are” after “the tips…” :P

  7. I have tons of shitty first drafts!!
    .-= Blovet Beauty’s last blog post… Mini Birthday Haul & Part 2 Blovet’s Lipstick Collection =-.

  8. gio says:

    Great tips, thanks! I find it hard not to correct any spelling and grammar mistakes I make straight away too. It slows things down so I’m trying to control the urge but it’s not always easy. :)
    .-= gio’s last blog post… Product Review: Senna Totally Transforming Eyeshadow Primer =-.

  9. Karen, I recently found your blog looking for writing tips for my own blog and your posts have been a gift from heaven – so have your beauty posts! You and I share the same taste in products! Thank you so much for the advice. I am figuring out ways to stay consistent when I write, and having a theme and an outline certainly help! Keep em’ coming! xoxo
    .-= Brunette and Pink’s last blog post… Dress for Success and the Power of Timeless Shirtdress =-.

  10. Megan says:

    I love it when you post about writing/life tips. Thanks!
    .-= Megan’s last blog post… MIA =-.

  11. Marina says:

    Great post!
    When I can’t continue writing something right now I just leave it till next time( but I always finish my work). It’s important not to force yourself. Only if it’s not a daedline!
    .-= Marina’s last blog post… Lacy Beauty Collection by Dior. Spring 2010 =-.

  12. Thank you! Thank you! I really enjoy/appreciate when you share these tips!!!

    My big prob is that I can be tooooo wordy! :-( I have a lot to say and I like to use ALL the words I know to say it. ;-)

    I’m working on that.

    :+)
    .-= Mrs. Schwartz’s last blog post… Happy Halloween! =-.

  13. Kristen says:

    Karen,

    One of the most helpful tips I’ve discovered in my writing career is to WALK AWAY from a draft when you’ve hit writer’s block, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Taking some time to clear your thoughts is invaluable, and gives you a fresh perspective when you sit down to start writing again.

    It’s helpful for me to jot down questions or notes as I write (in red) in my first draft…that way, I can come back on my 2nd draft and edit as needed. Some reallly good impromptu ideas pop up that way, and if you don’t get them down immediately, they are forgotten. And the beauty of it is that you can delete the crappy ideas/thoughts instantly.
    .-= Kristen’s last blog post… The Web’s Best Beauty How-To Guides =-.

  14. Karen B says:

    Hi Karen
    these are just in time for me. I’m on to 9000 words for NaNo (www.nanowrimo.org) and it’s getting harder now to keep going.
    How was your day?

  15. Dao says:

    You know, I almost have no problem blogging and can get very verbose when it comes to this. However, scientific writing feels like pulling teeth to me. I learned a trick called “cardifying” where you summarize things you want to write in flash cards and just write them. It’s kind of like an outline but makes me feel less overwhelmed. Also, confidence is key. Most times people get nervous because they don’t feel so sure of what they write.
    .-= Dao’s last blog post… Going Rouge: Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick in Grand Garnet =-.

  16. oohh thanks so much Karen! I’m in my last year of undergrad AND I blog so by the end of the day I can’t write anything- whether it’s a 5 page paper or a darn post about lipstick haha

    .-= MissWhoever You Are’s last blog post… L’Oreal Telescopic Explosion Mascara =-.

  17. Catherine says:

    I love these kinds of posts from you Karen. And I really needed this kind of advice right now. Thank you!
    .-= Catherine’s last blog post… Giveaway from LipstickRules! =-.

  18. penelopee says:

    follow your instructor’s or your own rubric

  19. Vonvon says:

    Thanks for the useful tips, Karen! But I can’t let the mistakes in my draft go unchecked. ;) a bit OCD…;)
    .-= Vonvon’s last blog post… Vonvon’s Introduction To REN Clean Bio Active Skincare And REN Hands-On Workshops For You =-.

  20. Marisol says:

    While I mostly come to your blog for beauty posts. I really enjoy these nuggets of wisdom you share with us. Thanks!
    .-= Marisol’s last blog post… Catching up =-.

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