What is the Writing Process?

This blog aims to share tips and techniques to overcome obstacles many writers encounter during the writing process and help writers of all kinds optimise their productivity. The regular blog posts will explain how the Focused Flow model combines values-driven goal setting, cognitive behavioural exercises, accountability check ins, and editorial guidance to steer you towards the completion of your writing projects.

First, people reading this page may be unclear about what the writing process involves, and what the writing process actually is. So, this page aims to orientate you to the other blog posts and link you to the forums where you can subscribe, free of charge, to participate in further discussions, share resources and ask any questions. I check into these forums on a regular basis to follow up on any posts.

If you have landed on this page after searching for a definition of the writing process, you will have seen many other pages describing it in terms of ‘stages’ or ‘steps’. Here, I describe the writing process in terms of a ‘cycle’ that each writer navigates during rounds of revisions, especially those producing longer pieces such as extended essays, dissertations, theses, books, or research articles. These are the types of writers most likely to benefit from writing coaching or the Focused Flow self-directed coaching workbook.

Usually, a writer approaches a writing task with a lot of ideas, notes and data. Many writers believe the first stage of writing involves organising these into a conceptual framework that provides the structure of their writing project. For some writers, the conceptual framework can be organised by following a template. For example, most research-based academic writing requires an introduction, methodology section, a results section, discussion, and conclusion. For others, the conceptual framework can be less rigid and more creative.

However, I advise against organising your conceptual framework to structure your project before you start writing. In fact, adopting this strategy is likely to lead to procrastination because it can make writing a painful process that impedes the flow state. Dropping into your flow state can happen in a variety of ways as illustrated in the video below, but you can easily miss it completely. The flow state makes any activity pleasurable and revitalising. Understanding how to get into your flow and focus on your writing will make it a source of joy.

In contrast, being faced with a complex plan and structure void of any content can lead to overwhelm, avoidance, and even writer’s block. I explain why in related blog posts.

Values clarification and setting writing goals

In this way, the Focused Flow approach differs from more traditional approaches to the writing process and writing coaching. With this approach, the first stage of the writing process should involve clarifying the values driving your writing and setting some short-term and long-term writing goals. While organising the conceptual framework of your writing project is necessary and important, that should come later. First, a writer needs to be clear about their motivation for writing, and the values that are driving their writing goals. Values steer our behaviour in chosen life directions, while goals are milestones along the way. If a writer isn’t clear about the values driving their writing process, they will be unclear about where they are heading and less likely to get there. They might set unrealistic or unachievable goals that set them up to fail.

Each and every writer will be driven to write by their own unique set of values that drive their motivation to write. For a further discussion of this, you can go to this blog post which is linked to other resources. One exercise that I suggest to help clarify the values driving your writing goals is to write your own review. Consider what you’d like others to say about your writing. This can also help you set realistic goals and understand what you want your writing to achieve.

Content production

After clarifying the values driving your writing goals, the next stage is content production. This means starting to write regardless of how you’re feeling about getting going. Sometimes people use ‘free writing’ to just get started. Once you begin, you have engaged with your writing process, and this in itself tends to increase the motivation to continue. Another way is to set small ‘snack writing’ goals- a page or two per session. I find around 500 words typing per session is enough. You could organise these sessions according to your schedule. I find I write best in the early evening, between 5pm and 8pm. You may find early morning is easier. I have clients who get up and write before everybody else in the family wakes up. I have clients who do one session first thing before their kids are up, and one session last thing at night after their kids are in bed. Whatever works for you, we’re all different. You might also want to consider using your word processor’s dictate function to speak into your device and have it typed up for you. I did this when writing a novel to draft out each chapter. I have also used this function to draft written content for educational platforms and blog posts.

At the end of each session, do something to reward yourself for five to fifteen minutes. It might be chatting to a friend, going for a walk, having something to eat or drink, watching a video, playing with your kids. Something that brings you pleasure. In behavioural terms, this is termed ‘positive reinforcement’ of your writing behaviour so that you come to associate writing sessions with a sense of achievement and reward. I find doing some yoga stretches and having a snack after my first session is a healthy option for me that works. If it’s an evening session, I might finish up by having dinner or a glass of wine. Anything is fine- whatever you enjoy.

During this process, you may find that you enter your flow state, or you may encounter some common obstacles.

Obstacles- the internal editor

One of the obstacles that often arises when we start to write is the emergence of the inner critic or internal editor. The Focused Flow approach is specifically designed to equip you with the skills required to distance and detach from your inner critic and drop into your flow state. We all have an inner critic who may interfere with our writing process. Editing your writing is essential, but not during the content production stage. If that inner editor makes an appearance when you start writing (almost always), then there are proven cognitive strategies that can help you to set that commentary aside and continue writing anyway. Subscribe to notifications to get the next blog post that will tackle this common obstacle in detail. I’m also developing an app to coach writers in these specific techniques that will be launched at the end of the summer.

Revisions, rewriting, referencing, and editing

Some types of writing do not require referencing, but all require revision and editing. Once the content production stage of the cycle is complete you have a draft. Editing of your draft is essential. It establishes the form of your writing, its clarity and structure. Often a draft needs two or three rounds of revisions, including some rewriting. To do so, return to the beginning of the cycle and set your rewriting and revision goals- a certain number of words a day perhaps. It’s at this stage you should start organising your content into a sound conceptual framework that makes your writing accessible to your reader. If you need to, references can also be added.

Proofreading and formatting

Many writing projects are required to adhere to formatting guidelines. Once you have a coherent and well-structured final edit, formatting begins. Finally, proofreading is essential. I also use some proofing software called PerfectIt once I’m happy with my final edit to check for typos and other formatting inconsistencies. ESL writers may find it useful to have a native speaker read through and check their work. You can also use a variety of grammar checkers in your word processor or on the internet. Finally, if you need total peace of mind, you can always pay for a professional editor and proofreader to check your work and ensure it meets all your structural and linguistic objectives.

Feel free to subscribe and join the forum on Focused Flow to ask any questions and share your knowledge and insights. It’s free of charge. I’m looking to establish a community forum for all types of writers and discuss helpful writing tips and techniques with my subscribers. I look forward to meeting you there!

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