No one will accuse me of being a GOOD writer. In fact, my literary agent told me, "You're not a very good writer, but you are a great storyteller". My feelings weren't hurt. It's true. I have no English major. I use a LOT of run-on sentences and end paragraphs with prepositions or whatever you're not supposed to do. My vocab isn't huge. Though I've written eight books, no one will say "My goodness, her prose is stunning! Give her <some pretentious-sounding writing award>"
My writing PROCESS is however pretty good. Like almost everything I do, it's engineered down to a framework. I can churn out words on a topic like no one's business using this framework. This has come in super helpful for running Prima Dona AND doing my tech day job because you will be surprised at how much writing goes into a business. Your business plan, your product copy, social media copy, emails to customers, emails to partners...soo much writing. My fiction writing experience from my twenties comes in super helpful in these cases. Fiction writers aren't afraid of a blank page.
Someone on LinkedIn asked me some great questions the other day on my writing process and such and I'll answer them here:
1. Was your writing bursty or did you manage to get into a flow daily? There have been days when I've been able to focus deeply and write a bunch, but other times I get writing ideas and cannot make much meaningful progress.
My creative writing is bursty, but I also never wait for inspiration or flow or the muse or whatever because I am an impatient control freak. Instead, I just make it a regular practice. When I'm writing blog posts (like these), I'll set aside 90 mins a day to draft a bunch of posts. Usually about 2-3 post drafts. When I'm writing a book, I'll set aside like 2 hours of writing time a day (either morning or night--during the 5-8s) and I'll make *some* progress no matter what. Some days might be editing something I've written, some days that might be writing a TON of new pages. On the slowest of days when I have no ideas and I'm blocked and nothing is coming to me, and I just want to quit...I'll just make bullet point lists. Lists of things I want to cover in the next few chapters, people I want to interview, etc. This usually gets me unblocked and I'm able to fill in information that I can flesh out into paragraphs later.
I always start with a SFD (Sh*tty First Draft) like Anne Lamott encourages. Just write down everything you want to cover, in whatever order, bullet points or otherwise. No one will see this. A shitty first draft is supposed to be...shitty. Just get the ideas out of your head and onto paper.
Then I flesh out the bullet points into sentences. Then I turn those sentences into paragraphs.
In fact, one of my books, You Had Me At Hello World started off as a OneNote page and became a book. This was how I transitioned from fiction author to non-fic author--pretty much by accident.
2014 - I used to write the best advice I’ve ever put into practice in bullet point form to share with my mentees
2015 - I made it into a Word doc and published on Amazon for others like my mentees after enough people asked
2016 - I made a vague mention of it in an interview i did in Spain in La Vanguardia while speaking at MBA schools
2017- An editor at Penguin Random House sees interview and orders book for their new line for young professionals
2018 - Penguin acquires for their imprint
And it all started with a OneNote that became a document that became a book.
Important to know: I do *not* add filler to my writing. If a blog has enough content for two paragraphs, it remains two paragraphs. I don't need to make it 1000 words. If a book is meant to be 100 pages, it stays that way...not 100 pages and 50 pages of filler. People (including me) have incredibly short attention spans and the shorter and more to the point something is, the more they're likely to read it and remember it. My books are SHORT. Nothing is over 150 pages. I can't read that much and most people don't have the attention span to do so.
2. How did you manage to not get distracted by newer ideas, but instead focus on the current work at hand?
OneNote is my best friend. I keep a tab of "Future Ideas". When I get an idea (no matter how awesome), I DO NOT start doing research on it. Instead, I document the idea in my Future Ideas list with a new OneNote page with as much detail as I can think of in five minutes and move on. My Future Ideas tab is like 70 items long but I know I will likely never run out of topics to write about.
A lot of people don't know how long to keep at a piece of writing they're stuck on. I give my current work about 6 months. If this book won't finish, it's likely not the right time and I move onto the next project. Again, I stash the draft because you never know what it could go into next.
3. What's your writing setup like?
My writing setup is super basic. I have a personal laptop, Windows installed. Home edition of O365. I use OneNote to collect ideas and Word to write my drafts. I will often listen to various playlists on Spotify. I have a Coffeeshop Playlist that I reserve ONLY for creative writing time. Headphones, playlist, timer set on my phone for 25 minute increments for writing sprints and GO. I've been doing this for so long that when the headphones go on, the playlist comes on, my brain knows it's creative time.
I'm loving these questions on my various side-hustle setups--hope this helped!
Dona is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Prima Dona Studios, a fashion line that helps women achieve economic power. When you put on one of our pieces, we guarantee that you'll feel like the total bad@ss that you are and be compelled to pursue your wildest goals.
We also pay the woman who hand-tailored your garment Seattle wages no matter where she lives. To learn more about us, visit us here: https://primadonastudios.com/