“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” – Mark Twain

Praying about praying. Thinking about thinking. Meditating on meditating. Writing about writing.

Seems counterproductive or an oxymoron but I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately on my writing and thought it might make a good blog (writing about writing). In part, it’s because I have been asked to write a LOT lately.  An opening letter in our annual newsletter for Bellis.  The Presidents Update in the quarterly newsletter for Mount Olivet Rolling Acres.  A blog about international and domestic adoption trends for a friends new adoption website in India. Our family blog (which I will NOT share on this site for fear of grammar, spelling and syntax judgement) This blog….

I do like to write but as a math major it hasn’t always been natural or easy and…getting asked to write a specific article is nerve wracking!

So, its caused me to reflect on my process and progress over the years.

In college, being a good liberal arts student, I had to do a lot of writing. And, also being famous for having a very small vocabulary, I thought that big words and long sentences were impressive and sure fire way to the “A”.  I would struggle, write and rewrite and produce something borderline un-understandable. One day I asked my RA (an English major) “Why is this so hard?! Help me!”  His response was brilliant … “Tell me what you want to say…” I did.  He replied  “Write that.”  Seriously, could it be that easy?  Just write what you want to actually say?  I started doing that and it’s been my secret weapon ever since.

With the start of this website, I was looking for insight, advice and counsel on how to make it meaningful, compelling and unique.  I turned to two dear friends, Jim Fellows and Michael Sunnarborg. They both gave amazing advice.

I follow Jim’s advice every time I write.  He said two important things…

  1. Own your point of view – don’t use general pronouns like “you, they, we…” be specific.  Use “I, me”. Own your thoughts, learnings and insight. After all, we can only speak for ourselves.
  2. Have a trusted and honest friend read your work before you hit Publish –  Jim has been this friend to me. He reads EVERYTHING before I make it public, finds my spelling errors, fixes my grammar and makes sure what I’m writing actually makes sense.

Michael gave different but just as valuable advice.  Be inspired. It’s not about writing on a schedule, or publishing on a regular, calendar basis, it’s about being aware of your surroundings and present enough in the moment to capture them on paper.  Simple but not easy.  How do I get inspired?

An important part of my day is my morning walk, in the weather, with my dog. We go for an hour as the sun rises. Just us. No music. No friends. No kids. No distractions. I use it as my time to prep for the day, think about what’s happening in my life and be aware of my surroundings.  In fact, my best writing happens in my head during those walks. I think about what I want to say, how I want to say it, how to tee it up with quotes, photos, references, etc…  I actually don’t even put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) until I’ve thought about it for 2 walks in a row.

But, the most brilliant insight came from a St John’s math major that I was having a career conversation with last fall. He said “I think math majors get a bad rap. We HAVE to be good writers. We are explaining really complex solutions to hard problems and need to communicate our answers in a simple manner”.  Brilliant! He’s right!! (now, go hire a math major!!)

Finally, keep it short. Make your point and move on. I am learning this lesson in a big way as I need to communicate progress, encouragement, good news, bad news and basic daily updates to over 400 team members in my role at Mount Olivet Rolling Acres.  Our team has limited computer time, busy jobs and hard responsibilities. I need to be short, to the point and clear.  If I can also be encouraging and positive, that’s a bonus.

So, that’s my process and my progress. I’m proud of my writing but it’s not without internal effort and external help.

What’s your process?