This is from an interview with James Clear. His book, Atomic Habits, was a New York Times bestseller and sold over a million copies.
1. Idea Capture
You’re coming across ideas all the time, right? Like maybe we’re talking this c and you say something that is interesting or sparks an idea for me or something like that.
I think you need to have a central holding ground where you just put all the ideas in your life, whether it’s from a conversation or a book or whatever. And so for me, that’s Evernote. So I have a notebook in Evernote, just titled articles.
Whenever I come across an interesting idea, I just dump it into there.
- Sometimes it’s just a title for an article.
- Sometimes it’s like one sentence.
- Occasionally, I’ll riff for a little while and I’ll be a couple of paragraphs.
But all of that goes into the same folder.
Then I typically write either earlier in the morning or before lunch. I start to b move it around in chunks. I kind of break it into like say, five sections and start.
- Then I make this point
- I make the next point.
- Some kind of practical takeaway.
It’s not always five pieces, but I lay out the pieces of the article out like that. Then I’m trying to figure out broadly where do they fit. And once I get to that point, I usually put it into WordPress, so that I can see what it actually looks like on the page when it’s going to be published.
That’s really when the real work begins for me. So, all of that kind of precursor to getting to that point is mostly a collection of ideas and just trying to get the general shape of the article. But I haven’t really thought carefully about the line by line writing.
Once I get to this point, I’ll start at the top and read the first sentence. If that sounds good, then I’ll read the second and Ithe third. And at some point, I’ll get to a sentence that doesn’t sound good, or doesn’t work well.
And I’ll edit that sentence. Once that’s done, I’ll go back to the top and start again from the top and read it all again. I just do that endlessly until I get all the way through the article. By the time I’m finished,, it’s really not much of an exaggeration, I probably have read the article 50 or 100 times.
So what ends up happening is that the article sort of shapes itself or like writes itself in that way where I’m just I’m reading it out loud and seeing how it sounds each time I go through it.
Usually, I end up cutting a lot. The most recent article I published, is around 2000 words. But it started at 6000. And that’s a pretty typical result for me.
I’ll cut an article in half or so. That’s mostly my process. I don’t really consider myself a great writer. I think I’m a better editor. But that’s the process of editing and refinement. That’s the real work.
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