Just write it.

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I’ve only been blogging for 13 months, but I’ve been writing on deadline for over three decades. Many of you servicemembers are keenly familiar with the system of “liberty-dependent routing” for point papers, requests, or other paperwork. But otherwise, you might find it difficult to write– especially on your own time.

You’d think that my years of experience (and a published book!) would have given me quite a bit of advice for us writers. Imagine what I could share to inspire us to all write more productively and efficiently. How could all of my hard-earned knowledge help us overcome writer’s block?

Well, you’re going to want to sit down for this advice:

Just write it. Stop whining and start typing.

Yeah, I didn’t like hearing that either. But I’ve spent a significant portion of the last five years reading what even more experienced authors have learned about writing and publishing, and that’s what works.

Sure, there are plenty of ways to “unleash your inner muse” and “unlock your creativity“:

  • Carry a notebook to record your thoughts. (This is a great party trick.)
  • Join a support group like WordPress’ “PostADay” challenge.
  • Doodle whenever you’re on phone hold or standing in line.
  • Take photos of your day and refer back to them for inspiration.
  • Create a clean, uncluttered room (good luck with that) to inspire you to write.
  • Block out quiet time every day to write.
  • Try tricks that worked for a favorite author. (Except for the alcohol & drugs.)
  • Set a kitchen timer and write anything for three minutes.
  • Use WordPress’ “distraction-free writing” utility.
  • Browse other blogs. (Better set another timer for this activity!)

The funniest (but probably apocryphal) writing advice I’ve ever read:

“A therapist told a struggling writer to get down on his knees in front of the computer, close his eyes, and pray to write the world’s worst sentence. Then start writing.”

Gosh, I don’t even have to pray to get that result.

Just write it. Sit down, open a blank document, and write whatever title is in your head. Ask a question. Add an opinion. Then write down phrases for an outline, or get on the Internet to search for links. When you have a dozen separate tabs open on your browser– and your third Google search screen– then you probably have enough.  Step back and take a deep breath. Now you really have something to write about, and all that’s left is fitting the words together.

All right, all right, maybe I do a little more than that. When I’m surfing the Web I’ll make notes on a “blog topics” document and just cross out the subjects after I write about them. Searching through that always produces a new idea, or at least an encore. The last financial book I’ve read is good for a thousand-word review. My spouse sends me e-mails titled “For the blog:“.  I’ll comment on a discussion board thread and realize that I’ve just written three-quarters of a blog post. But while those techniques certainly make me more efficient, they don’t always get me started.

A few mornings I’ll awake with an idea and start writing in my head while it’s still on the pillow.  I have to get up.  It’s dark out, the neighborhood is silent, the computer is booting, and the coffee’s still perking.  As soon as the screen brings up a blank document, I’ll start writing down the words. I won’t even read e-mail– I’ll just remind myself to check it in 20 minutes. That’s usually good for an hour.

But most mornings I’ll start the coffee, the computer brings up the blank document, and I’ll think “Ooh, look– Windows Solitaire!”

That’s when I have to remind myself: Um, no. Get yourself under control. Just write it. You have a deadline. Work on that for 20 minutes and then play the solitaire. Or reward yourself with that new library book.

Golly, I wish I’d had this personal discipline when I was in college. I could’ve made something of myself and retired early— uhm, never mind, bad example. But I would have avoided a lot of painful procrastination and self-imposed guilt.

When I was writing in the military, I always wondered if there was a better way. I was perpetually seeking the secret formula, the magic inspiration, the five-step checklist. After nearly a decade of retirement research, now I know what I probably suspected all along: the only way to get started (and get better) at writing is to do more of it.  Just write it.

This nugget of sophisticated introspection is what happens when you’re financially independent and don’t have to rush off to work: you have the time and the energy to get things together, to fully address the question, and to find your solution. If you’re still working toward FI, then I hope these 800 words help you find the shortcut to your own solution.

Writers write.

Now go write.

Related articles:
“So, Nords, how did you start blogging?”
Writing and publishing

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WHAT I DO: I help you reach financial independence. For free. I retired in 2002 after 20 years in the Navy's submarine force. I wrote "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" to share the stories of over 50 other financially independent servicemembers, veterans, and families. All of my writing revenue is donated to military-friendly charities.

2 Comments
  1. Hi Doug,
    I’ve always found there is too much writing and not enough editing.

    You have great advice to first get something — anything — on paper … but then the fun/work begins. One recurring theme in reading about the lives of great writers — for every hour they wrote they spent many more hours cutting, revising, and rewriting.

    I’ve also learned the hard way never, ever send any writing — especially email — until it has had the chance to lay around for awhile. Then look at it again. The result will almost always be how could I have written that?? Or this??

    Comment? Question? What's on your mind?