October 7, 2013

5 Ways to Write Like Your Hair’s on Fire

writingI’m a very organized person. I like everything in its place, ducks lined up, no chance of interruptions, then I can get into my writing. I couldn’t find that sweet spot until my children had moved out because until that point, I’d drop anything when they needed me. I still do, but as adults, those times are more rare.

These days, I get a lot of writing done. My office is perfectly arranged. I have two monitors; one shows my writing, one my research. I have four back-up drives automated so I don’t worry about losing work. I have a fan I can turn on if it gets too hot. I have shelves of books right behind my chair–I swivel and I can find the description of Mt. Kilimanjaro I need for an article. To my left is a glass of ice tea, more a crutch than a thirst quencher. I was going to put a baby frig in a corner, but my husband sold it to a neighbor! Now, getting a snack is a mental break. My Labrador Casey regularly visits, or lies outside the door, keeping an eye on me.

What sets my hair on fire is deadlines. My modus operandi is to take on as much as I can until it’s too much, then I scramble to finish it. As a result, I’m always hurrying to finish one writing job so I can get to another. We could psychoanalyze why I do that, but today, I want to share how I manage to accomplish it:

  • I write everything as though I have a deadline that must be met. Think fast. Organize fast. Get ideas down and edit. Then, move on. I trust my skills. I hope I’m better than my inner muse thinks I am.

  • I write on a topic I’m passionate about. Nothing like emotion to get the words flowing
  • I write in my own voice. I don’t try to rephrase things according to rules and regs. My blog readers are used to my writing style–my choice of words. It’s probably at least part of the reason they visit. Ana Hoffman’s Traffic Generation Cafe is a great example of that. Every time I open one of her posts, I feel like we’re huddled over a table, coffee in hand, sharing the secrets of the world like best friends. Why? It’s her voice.
  • I let my muse speak. I don’t edit her. I don’t second guess her intent.
  • I trust my gut. Studies show that people who act on their gut are more likely to be right. Why? Because what we call ‘gut’ is our collective experience, skill, and knowledge. Our brain mashes it together for a fast decision when we need one–and that’s our 6th sense or ‘gut’. I trust it. I’ve gained a lot from life experiences. Might as well let them work for me.

That’s it. It works well enough. I’d love to be a better writer, but maybe that’s coming.

More articles about a writer’s life:

What I’m Insecure Writing About

27 More (Writing) Tips From Twitter

4 Tips for Writing Humor

Writers Tip #50: No More Casual Writing


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, CSG Master teacher, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.