Your thoughts deserve to be read and received. Creative expression of any kind is one the most profoundly satisfying experiences we humans can have, because at our cores we are all creators.
If you are someone who expresses yourself through the written word, you may know the pain of balancing your desire to write freely – to express your ideas wholly as they come to you – with the knowing that your piece does need to have some composition and form to be properly received.
Adding Some Structure
I know many creative people who feel stifled by the ‘rules’ of writing, feeling as though it places limits on them and their ability to share what is on their minds and hearts. The idea that moulding your article into something that fits a set structure may feel like you are butting boundaries on your expression – but that is simply only one way to look at it.
If you are finding that you struggle to find the balance between creative expression and writing with form, I want to offer you this simple re-frame that may make following the ‘rules’ of writing feel more comfortable.
Writing with structure does not have to mean you sacrifice the purity and essence of your thoughts and inspirations.
Writing with structure is simply a tool you can use to ensure that your insights can be received and understood by your audience. The truth is, the more clarity you bring to your work, the broader your audience will become, keeping in mind that the ideas you are sharing are worth being heard and remembering that the whole point of writing them down and posting them somewhere is so reach as many people as possible. Structure is simply a distribution tool.
Reach People Effectively
I would invite you to think of it like this: Imagine you are standing in a gymnasium full of people – your audience – and you are wanting to share apples with them – the apples represent your ideas. You could simply begin throwing your apples into the audience randomly, which may result in everyone getting an apple at some point, although some may get two and others will get none – and it will take you a long time to get to everyone.
If, on the other hand you were to pass out the apples in an orderly fashion, you would be able to ensure that everyone got one, and the task would be completed in a much shorter time span.
This is exactly what organizing your ideas and writing or presenting with form will do. It distributes your message faster, and enables more people to hear it.
Essentially, all I want you to take away from this article is the idea that form and structure do not have to be viewed as ‘rules’ or creative restriction. Following a few simple rules of writing can be seen simply as a tool to help you communicate with your audience in the most effective way possible – which is the goal at the end of the day.
Here is the process I use when I am writing that tends to give awesome results. This strategy allows me to fully express myself, to fully allow my ideas to flow through me without restriction, and then helps me to organize my thoughts so that others can understand them.
Step One: The Dump: Start by writing your article as it comes – allow it to be choppy and piecey – allow for grammar errors, spelling mistakes and incomplete thoughts. Simply create the judgment free creation space you need to bring your ideas forth. Whatever comes is fair game. This step is so important so please do not skip it. Unleash yourself fully from restriction and just write.
Step Two: Find Your Points: After you have let your article flow through you, you can go back over it and select out your main points. Every piece should have an overarching theme or main message, and then should contain supporting points that strengthen the main theme. Be sure to state your main idea very early on in the article, so that your readers know what you are going to be talking about. It can be helpful to go through and select your main points, and create subheadings out of them.
Remember that reading a wall of text is generally much more difficult than reading an article that has distinct separations and sections. This is where you will start to balance flow with form – by creating an overarching theme that is divided into readable, digestible pieces. Make sure your thoughts also flow in a cohesive order. Ask yourself if someone who knew nothing about what you are trying to communicate would be able to follow your writing, or if there are holes in your explanations that need to be filled. Read your work from the perspective of your audience to ensure that you are writing for them.
Step Three: Tighten Up Your Thoughts: Here is where you will want to look for sentences that are redundant, points that are incomplete and need more explanation and words that do not need to be in your piece. Remember that people have shorter attention spans than we would like them to have, so if you tend to ramble a little, there is a chance you will lose your audience half way through your post – which is not what you want!
Again, keep in mind that you are desiring to share your message with the greatest number of people as is possible, and creating something that is easy to read is the best way to do that. People are on a time crunch more than ever, so brevity where it is possible is always going to help you in your end goal of clear communication.
Step Four: Spelling, Word Selection and Grammar: Finally, go through your article and correct grammar, spelling, and see if you can add variety in your word selection. I like to save spelling and grammar editing to the end because you don’t want to waste time correcting it and then adding in new paragraphs or sentences, or removing a piece that you already edited. You also want to look for word variation, which helps to add an extra dimension to your work which tends to make it much more interesting. For myself I make sure I am not using the same word over and over again, and I make sure that I add in some extra descriptive words every once in a while. Once more, put yourself in the mindset of your reader – would this article hold your attention?
So there you have it! Four simple steps to help you create a highly unique but clear and concise piece of writing. Sharing your work with the world can be nerve wracking, especially if you do care deeply about the subject you are discussing in your piece. Adding some structure means that people are going to be much more likely to receive your work the way you want them too, making both of you happy.