• On Writing … By Someone Who Doesn’t

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in Finding Time to Write     Comments 25 comments

    Image courtesy of Jonno Witts.

    Instead of actually writing on my blog today, I’m going to Write Here (see what I did there?) about how hard it is to write on my blog. See, I have it pretty easy. <— These two lines have been sitting here alone for 10 minutes. During that time I’ve stared at the screen, eaten half a pint of ice cream (Chocolate Fudge Brownie), and answered a few tweets. This is why it’s hard to write on my blog, I guess. Because it’s hard for me to write anything, anywhere. And it’s weird, because I’m actually a decent writer. Nothing earth shattering, of course, but I can hold my own. You’d think I’d be happy to write on my own blog, especially when writing on said blog a) goes out to an audience of people who actually want to hear what I have to say and b) helps my business grow. But you’d be wrong, my friend. Writing gives me an ulcer. Editing, not so much. I don’t mind a bit o’ editing other people’s work. And having a finished product after I’m done writing? Love it.

    Then why, I wonder, does the process of putting words to (digital) paper gnaw angrily at my soul? I’m also wondering what kind of thing gnaws angrily. I’m picturing some kind of shrew or rat. Hmm.

    Sometimes when people hear that I don’t like writing, they tell me to keep my chin up and keep at it, because eventually someone will listen. But that’s not the problem. My work, if you can call it that, has been read by hundreds of thousands of people. I have a solid audience, I love what I do, and I’m pretty good at it. Just not the writing part. I’ve tried all kinds of different things to improve both the weekly cadence and the writing time for each post. Both suck. Right now I’m trending around one post every two weeks, and 1.5 hours per post. Awful. If you happen to take a look at what I write about or how long the posts are, you’ll realize exactly how awful that is.

    So what should I do? You guys are writers, yes? Or at least work at it much more than I do. I would hope so, anyway, because if you write fewer than the 3,000 words per month I pump out, you really need a gut check on the whole writing thing. So yeah, any ideas you have on turning me from an ulcer-ridden hunt-and-pecker (I actually know how to type–I just had a bet with Duhr that I could get in the word ‘pecker’ and still keep this post at a PG rating) to a semi-functioning member of the blogosphere, I’d appreciate it.

    Also, this post took 42 minutes to write. It’s around 460 words. Do the math.


    Nate St. Pierre is the founder of ItStartsWith.Us, a global group of people committed to changing the world in just 15 minutes a week. He also runs Love Drop, which brings people like you (yes, you) together to give just $5.00 to one deserving family each month. In four months they’ve given away over $30,000 to four families.


    Discussion Question: What are some strategies you employ to blog quickly and effectively? Do you post daily? Weekly? Monthly?


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    David Duhr

    You know what helps me? (No, you don’t. Otherwise why would I be telling you?) Instead of always waiting until the night before or morning of a post, I’ve recently taken to sitting down on the weekend and banging out an entire week’s worth of posts. It only works if I happen to be feeling fecund on a Saturday or Sunday, but give it a shot. Even if you still write slowly, it’s worth it. Takes it off your mind for the whole of the coming week, so you can focus on other things and maybe jot down ideas for… Read more »

    Nate St. Pierre

    Yeah, I have friends who do that too – one day a week set aside for writing, and it seems to work for them (you). That’s something I’ve never tried, and perhaps I should. At the very least, writing ahead of time, so I’m not *as* stressed during the process of writing? Hmm…

    David Duhr

    I enjoy the implication that we’re not friends.

    Dave: Here’s what I do.

    Nate: Oh yeah. I have some friends who do that.


    So what’s your typical schedule? If you want to put up a post on a Thursday, you write it on Wednesday night?

    Nate St. Pierre

    Well. Mmhmm, if it’s going out Thursday, I’m typically writing midnight to 2:00am Wednesday night, or even Thursday morning. I’d say 75% of the time I’m hitting Publish as soon as I’m done writing. Which is probably not the way you want to be doing it. Also when I’m in the process of writing, I think about each line on its own (keeping in mind the larger picture), and try to make each sentence exactly what I want it to be, instead of writing the whole thing in one vomitous mass, and then going back and editing. What sucks about… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Yeah, it was Vonnegut who had the whole “swooper/basher” thing:

    “Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter any more, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”

    You have the talent–it’s just that you’re committed to other things.

    To quote KV again, “So it goes.”


    1. Keep an idea garden. I can’t remember where I stole this from. I have a folder on my desktop that’s for blog post ideas. When I have an idea — for me, usually just one awesome line of writing, an experience, or a point I want to make — I open an empty word doc and write it down. Sometimes, it’s literally one line of text. Sometimes I get a paragraph or two out. But, all of my ideas are in one place so I can always go back later and cultivate something instead of starting completely fresh. 2.… Read more »

    Nate St. Pierre

    You know, I have one of those? Dang it. I just haven’t opened the document in like 8 months. But yes, I shall open a new one in Google Docs right now and begin adding to it whenever I have an idea. That’s at least a good place to start.

    I just don’t know if I can do the write first, edit second model. I’ve tried before, and I never feel very good about the work.


    David Duhr

    You know that’s how I roll. Perhaps instead of trying to force yourself to do it (it = write first, edit second), you should sit down and examine why it is you can’t? Getting to the root of that might help.

    You’re always up for a little introspection.

    Regina Verow

    The best piece of advice I can give you is to write every day. Think of it like training for a race. You need to run every day (or nearly every day) to build up the speed and the stamina. If you run a marathon by just showing up at the starting line, there’s no way you’re going to be able to worry about your performance. And absolutely write first without editing like Leigh said. – Buy yourself a copy of “Bird By Bird” by Ann Lamott. She get you familiar with the crappy (insert the PG-13 word here instead)… Read more »

    Nate St. Pierre

    Thanks, Regina. Actually, I was on a walk about an hour ago, and wondering if I should just set aside 30 minutes each night to write SOMETHING. Anything, really, but focus on blog posts, guest posts, and some fun stuff too, just to keep in rhythm and practice, etc. I may try that.


    Hey Nate, I had a thought. (Don’t say anything – it happens occasionally, and even gets said sometimes before I edit it out.) You have no problem talking, right? It sounds to me like your struggle is with the writing end of things. So stop writing. Talk. There’s software for that. Dragon comes to mind. Sadly, I’m one of those who never writes a rough draft. I simply write – sit down every morning and/or night and write a treatise that my readers seem to appreciate. I’ll admit I go through it once and fix those horrifying errors (there, their,… Read more »

    Nate St. Pierre

    Interesting, I never would’ve thought of that. Although I do say there is a definite difference between the spoken and the written word. Although I tend to write the way I speak as a general rule, and especially in team correspondence, when I’m writing a more . . . um, inspirational (?) piece, I use a bit more elevated language. I’d still have to find all the right phrasing and diction, whether I speak it or write it, and I don’t know how that would work with software.


    David Duhr

    You could just speak into a tape recorder. Natter away about your topic o’ the day, and there’s your rough draft. The problem is, transcription is a huge pain in the ass. But instead of just transcribing, you could go line by line and edit in the moment (like you do now anyway), and by the end you should have an almost-ready draft.

    Nate St. Pierre

    Was gonna say that Dragon does the transcribing for you automatically, but Ronae covered it below.

    David Duhr

    I’m sure the program works fine, but is it portable? You’re sometimes at your best when you’re walking and talking, instead of stationary. Do you have to be sitting at your computer in order to use Dragon?


    I had a friend who wrote alot, and it was an absolute nightmare for him. He wasn’t fast on the keyboard to start with, but he was also an incredible perfectionist. Writing just made him a bit nuts(er) is all. So when I got him the Dragon program he poo-poo’d it for a long time, then finally tried it. Its kinda cool because it actually ‘learns’ your speaking-to-writing style, and as you use it more it becomes more accurate. My friend wrote every day, and it only took about two weeks for him to be able to speak his writing… Read more »

    Nate St. Pierre

    Hmm, I’ll take a look and see how much it costs. I’ve never honestly looked into it, but it may be worth the experiment. Thanks for the idea!

    Nate St. Pierre

    Duhr, does your comment system have a limit on replies? I can’t reply to your “portable” comment.

    But yeah, that’s a good point. Often when I’m into a big idea I’m pacing about, thinking and talking. If I’m writing by speaking, that seems more natural. Hmm, wonder if they have a smartphone app to record and then send/process/etc?

    Nate St. Pierre

    Dragon reviews say success with 4 out of 5 spoken words. Good, but not great. Still the best out there, though. At $99, it’s a bit expensive for me for just a test, especially when I have my doubts as to how it would help me (knowing the way I write). I think I’m digging the setting aside 30 minutes each day to write, and see how that goes.

    David Duhr

    I mean, let’s be honest. You have success with, on a good day, three of every five spoken words. So maybe it’s worth a shot.

    You’ve tried setting aside a specific amount of daily time to write, but it doesn’t seem to work all that well for you. Not that you can’t try it again, but I’d say give the weekend thing a go once, try taking a tape recorder on a long walk once. Eventually you’ll land on something that works.

    Nate St. Pierre

    You’re right, I’ve failed at this before. Only trouble with the weekend thing is that I wanna try to keep my weekends relatively free and be a “normal” person again. I’ve spent two years working virtually all weekend. Sucks.

    But anyway, all good thoughts, and good to at least get my head noodling on the problem. W00t.

    Nate St. Pierre

    Also, you’re a jackass.

    Michelle D Keyes

    For me, I had to get rid of the internal editor. I wanted to write perfect drafts and it just was never going to happen. So I try (emphasis on try because life does get in the way) to write 1,000 words a day. Yep. My original goal was 500 and I smashed that to bits early on. Maybe for you, set a goal of 250 words a day. Doesn’t matter what you write about, how long it takes, or when as long as by midnight every day you have 250 words written. I tend to count any nonfiction (articles… Read more »

    Nate St. Pierre

    Ooh, the word count per day sounds even better than the 30 minutes per day, because then it’ll train me to write on deadline, as you mentioned. I like!

    […] that I haven’t written a legitimate blog post since May 10. Much like my good friend acquaintance Nate, my own blog contains little evidence these days of my presence, but is instead a whirlwind of […]

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