Understand your writing process to keep the words flowing

I was recently asked questions about how I write – what to do and not to do. Basically the style and content of a blog is very personal, but I find that understanding the process is key in order to keep the posts coming. When I write I go through three different stages, and what causes me to get stuck in the process or limits me from writing is when I mix up the different stages.

These are the three stages I go through:

1. Be inspired: getting the idea
In this stage I hardly ever sit by the computer with a word document open. I can of course consciously try to generate ideas by brainstorming with pen and paper. However generating ideas often occurs more organically for me. It happens while I’m out for a walk, after a conversation with a friend, during workout, while watching a movie, listening to a podcast, driving my scooter, reading a book, dancing, cooking etc. I always carry a notebook and pen so when I get an idea, I can note it down as soon as possible; and maybe even outline a couple points about the main content.

2. Open the tap: writing uncritically
A famous Danish children’s book writer Louis Jensen once told me about his writing process saying that the initial stage was like ‘vomiting onto the paper’, and as unappealing it might sound, this is more or less what happens when I start writing the rough draft. I write everything that comes to my mind, and sometimes it almost feels nauseating because it comes out in fragments, I jump back and forth between thoughts and new ideas spring forth. At the back of my head I often hear this voice criticizing whatever I am typing, but I try to ignore that voice. The key is to stay light and open and let the words flow uncritically. Some of what I write will be bad, will sound weird or need to be re-written, but the less I focus on the end outcome, the easier I can bring forth the desired content in a free flowing way.

3. Hatch away: editing fiercely
In this stage I put on my critical glasses, restructure the post and remove unnecessary content. I try to narrow down the main point(s) I want to make and delete the parts where I am just repeating the same point. This is the biggest challenge. Sometimes I really like the way I’ve formulated something and a part of me feels like keeping it in, even though it doesn’t bring anything new to the post. I ask myself is it concise, coherent and relevant?

Why I never mix these stages 
What works best for me is to go through each stage on different days. If I have set myself a tight deadline I can combine 1 and 2 on one day, but doing 2 and 3 never works on the same day. This is because it requires very different modes of thinking. When I write the draft and put the text away for a day or two, I can then look at it with fresh eyes, which makes the editing much more effective.

Have you noticed what works for you in your writing process?

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5 apps I wouldn’t live without

 

It might be a slight exaggeration to say I wouldn’t live without these apps. However, I use them on a daily basis and they help me stay balanced, focused, organized and inspired.

Insight timer
Insight timer is a mediation app. It is very simple and allows you to set a desired time to meditate. It will start off your meditation and let you know when time is up with the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl. It keeps statistics so you can keep track of your daily practice. It makes it so easy to begin the day with a meditation session, and I love the beautiful sounds it displays. My daily meditation practice is essential for me to keep a balanced life and reducing the feeling of stress.

Task
In some ways I am still quite old fashioned. I like to write things by hand; like to-do lists, and I especially enjoy crossing the tasks of when done. With Task I can get the same feeling of accomplishment by swiping the task of the list when done. This app has a very simple layout, and you can list all your activities on the days you plan to do them.

Toggl
With Toggl I track the time of the tasks I work on during the day. I can name the the task, assign it to a specific project, and it will be listed with the time spent and the exact time and date it was done. This way I can se the actual time spent on individual tasks for one project, and I can even send a report off to a client, showing the time I have spent on his projects.

Downcast
I use downcast to manage my podcast subscriptions. I can easily discover new podcast by browsing through the topic listing. I enjoy listening to podcasts to get inspiration, learn new things and get ideas. It’s a great way to give your eyes – who are constantly at work otherwise – a break, or to fuel your creativity by drawing while listening to a podcast. Love it.

VSCOcam
I like photography and all things visual, so this is a perfect app. I just recently discovered it, but it is a great place to look at beautiful photographs, get inspired, edit your own pocket shots, and share images on different social media platforms.

Which apps do you use everyday?

How using desire paths will spark your productivity

 

Do you often feel that what you have to do is not aligned with what you feel like doing? And then you end up in an unproductive and destructive work pattern? I used to experience this a lot.

The other day I watched a TEDx talk by Chris Bailey, the creator of the project ‘A Year of Productivity’. In the talk he mentions the University of California at Irvine and their different approach to design. He tells how they waited some time before building actual sidewalks during the construction of a new campus. They looked at the paths that the students created spontaneously by walking around the buildings, and then built the sidewalks on top of them. They chose to use the students’ desire paths.

I immediately loved this concept of desire paths. It was exactly what I had been looking for to describe, how I have managed to become more productive: by integrating my desire paths into my work schedule.

Let me give you an example.

I used to plan to have one morning a week for writing blog posts. I had this idea that I work best in the mornings and, therefore, it would be the first thing on my schedule. But, what really happened was that I prolonged the morning by surfing aimlessly on the Internet until at some point I forced myself to look at the blinking cursor in an empty word document while lacking inspiration. I would end up feeling frustrated because I had procrastinated too much and was behind schedule.

I started paying attention to when I felt inspired and what would get me writing. I realized that I was more likely to concentrate on writing when I allowed myself to start the day by taking a walk and getting my mind to flow; then read some articles and maybe watch an inspiring talk to fuel creativity. Slowly, a topic for my new post would form in my mind, and when I actually sat down in front of the computer, my hands would start typing almost as if by themselves since I would be bursting with ideas.

What it really comes down to is to work with your personal flow and not against it. I am not talking about just following any desire you have. You should really look at what energizes you, what ignites your creativity, and then do this. Thereby, you can eliminate the patterns that drain you and keep you from being productive.

How to map your own desire paths:

  • What activities do you constantly choose to do at a different time than planned, or skip altogether? Notice why this happens. Could you schedule them at another time of the day?
  • What tasks do you always feel resistance towards doing? Notice why there is resistance. Notice what helps you do them and what doesn’t. Incorporate the things that help you into your schedule.
  • What sparks your creativity? Plan this activity to take place before you have to write a blog post/brainstorm/create a new product.
  • What calms your mind? Plan doing this activity before you have to perform/teach/work on difficult tasks.
  • What gives you confidence? Plan doing this activity before you have to talk to potential new clients/sell your products/meet with collaborators.
  • What energizes you? Plan doing this activity before you have to do dreaded but unavoidable tasks.

This way you are able to plan your work with awareness and increase productivity. In the comments below, I would love to hear, how you use your desire paths when planning your schedule.

Get inspired!

I’ve always found that I get inspired and energized by new knowledge – and especially if it is conveyed by passionate people. I want to share with you some of my favorite TED talks that have thought me valuable lessons – for work and life.

The Happy Secret to Better Work, Shawn Achor


“If happiness is on the other side of success, your brain will never get there.” Shawn Achor argues that happiness inspires productivity, not the other way around. He includes practical tips to increase your happiness. A great talk.

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, Amy Cuddy


Amy Cuddy talks about the connection between brain and body postures. You’ll get great tips for giving talks, presentations and build confidence. A new approach to ‘fake-it till you make-it’.

Forget Multitasking, Try Monotasking, Paolo Cardini


A humorous short snippet that reminds us of the importance of monotasking in a world that preaches multitasking.

How schools kill creativity, Ken Robinson


A TED classic and my all time favorite. Great reminder for everyone of the multiple types of intelligence that we inhibit.

The Transformative Power of Classical Music, Benjamin Zander


Benjamin Zander is absolutely passionate about classical music and it’s hard not to get caught by it too – and he shares intriguing insights: “I realized my job was to awaken possibility in other people. And of course, I wanted to know whether I was doing that. And you know how you find out? You look at their eyes. If their eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it.”

Which TED talks have inspired you?