The Writing Practice

Chris Brogan signing books Where do you get your ideas for your blog? I get this question a lot. Do you? The question is a bit more telling than the answer, I’m afraid. You see, I have more topics and ideas than I have time to write about. I write two or three posts every time I sit down, and lately, I write a bit for a book at the same time, so that I can give you original book content as well as original daily post content. How is it done?

It’s practice. Practice the verb, in this case.

The Spark of an Idea

Last night, Kat and I were at Ruby Foos in Manhattan for dinner after a movie. The server, Jenna, was pretty good at her job, but when it came time to try and sell us dessert, I noticed a flaw in her service. She said, “Do you think you’re going to have room for dessert?”

The answer to this should always be no. To say yes is to say that you’re gluttonous. It also isn’t very appealing. It requires more questions.

Instead, if Jenna had said, “We make the most amazing molten chocolate cake here,” I might have raised an eyebrow. Even if chocolate isn’t my thing, my head would immediately go to the dessert I wanted, but then I’d already be shopping for it. Make sense?

There. That’s the spark of an idea. Just a little moment in time with a server at a restaurant, and I have something to talk about: suggestive selling and the benefit of leading your prospect.

Sparks are everywhere. We just have to look for them. I look every day. Need more help? Use your phone’s camera. Snap weird things that you see. I write many blog posts based on weird photos that I snap.

From Spark to Fire

Having a good idea is one thing. Turning it into a blog post is another. If you want the complete rundown of what I do each time, check out 27 blogging secrets I’ve given you here. In short, for a blog post to be useful, it has to be useful to more people than yourself.

Fires start when you get them in many minds. If I share something of interest to me, that might only stay a smoldering spark in my head. If I share something that you can run with, now we’re talking. That’s the goal. Always look for ways to turn your spark into a fire that will fuel other people’s imaginations and set them to burning with new ideas.

The Actual Practice of Writing

I’m writing this to you while I’m waiting for someone to get some webinar software rebooted. I find time like this everywhere. I wrote about this in 2006 when I covered time quilting. The thing is, you have to practice writing when you can. I don’t think it’s good enough to say, “I’ll write every morning,” or “I’ll write after the kids go to bed.” When I say this, I understand that you have to find time where you can, but the actual practice of writing is something I want you to try doing all the time.

How?

Think about pieces to write. Jot notes about those pieces. Record little snips of audio or leave yourself voicemail or write on the back of receipts. Whatever you can do, think about what you’re going to write.

Grab paragraphs where you can. I’m writing this paragraph in the back of a town car in the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City. This piece of writing has officially been crafted in three places (I started in an airplane).

Read other people’s stuff. This actually counts as writing practice, provided you read as a writer, and then develop what you need to do to make your writing better from it.

Publish often. Another place where our practice falls down is that we keep tons of drafts of things around, but never publish. Here’s the truth: If it’s not out there, it doesn’t count as much. (Journal keepers, I don’t mean you. Put down the purple pitchforks.) Get your work out there onto the web, onto blogs, into the hands of other people, whatever. Get it out there. The more you publish, the more people will take swings at it, the more people will riff off it, the more you’ll get the chance to get feedback.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

I spent a good chunk of my life believing I was destined to be a fiction author. The moment I threw that away, I found great success writing my blog and then writing a New York Times bestseller. Life throws curveballs. Don’t forget that the practice of writing might lead you somewhere you didn’t anticipate. Be open to this as much as you’re open to anything else in your experiences. You’ll sometimes surprise yourself.

And keep writing. Keep practicing. Keep trying new things. The only way to improve is to work with it, to practice, to learn from what others are saying about you, to learn what you think about others.

So, Practice

And in that practice, share what you find. Okay? Do you find that when you share what you’ve learned it helps you and others? I do. Maybe you will, too. And I hope you share it with us.

What else? What did I miss? What can you add to this?

Photo credit C.C. Chapman

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