The Wacky Ass Way I Do My Writing


EP
EP

Kesha, in church.

The Rockies, in first place.

Me, saying, “hey, not so much cheese.”

They’re all things that don’t seem to go together. Or if they did, there might be a rip in the universe. No one wants that. A rip in the universe is worse than a fissure in a gas tank or a tear in your parachute pants (You 80s kids hear me.)

All three, though, are like elements in my writing process. They don’t always make sense.

Let’s take a break from inside of my skull today, shall we? Let’s just outline the wacky series of events that make up my writing process.

The spark in my eye

sketch by EP
sketch by EP

Or is that just spinach in my teeth? (Trick question. I’ll eat spinach in this or this only.) Blog ideas come mostly from other people’s blogs. Specifically, my comments on your blogs. Here’s an example.

Janine Huldie wrote an excellent post in Confessions of a Mommyaholic on how to explain death to kids. I wrote this comment:

You might remember an early discussion I had with Grace on this subject came after she asked, “would you die for me, daddy?”

You’re right about a child’s capacity to process the world. In this case, I believe that because there was an action for the rest of you, to honor and remember and think of his family, there was a way for kids to understand the big picture better.

It’s not only a tragedy, it’s  a time to support each other and work toward a community that doesn’t have to do this again.

A link to Janine’s post, that comment, go on a card in a board on a site called Trello. My Trello board houses all my story ideas (there are 70 right now).

I have four categories: Prospects, To Do, Doing, and Done. Trello lets you color-code tags, add links and lists, set deadlines, view in calendar style, attach documents (I attach the finished post in Microsoft Word) and archive cards.

Yeah, I do that: I always have my next guest post, Monday post, 6 words and Go Ask Daddy planned and on Trello cards. Yet, I don’t slide my debit card into the same slot twice in a row.

What say you, Universe?

photo credit: Guy far away on his own planet via photopin (license)
photo credit: Guy far away on his own planet via photopin (license)

How does a man pick from 70 post ideas? Randomly, of course.

I use random.org to select my next post. Why? I want to be pushed to write on a specific topic. If I wrote what I wanted all the time, you’d get tired of pizza, the Rockies and how awesome my girls are.

Plus, I think the universe is a kickass guide. She’s given me just what I needed to write at just the right moment before.

Yeah, I do that: I’ll also pick three prompts from the list if someone asks me to guest post, and let them pick the one they like best.

The process

sketch by EP
sketch by EP

I don’t use editing apps anymore.

My posts run 400-600 words, unless they don’t.

No strict rule there. I once ran them through two apps:

Hemingwayapp.com | Like my hero. This app adds boldness and clarity to your words if you’ll let it. It flags tough-to-read sentences, unnecessarily complex words, adverbs and passive voice. Sometimes, I felt it took the spice right out of my writing, though. I’ve found a balance.

Paper Rater | Poor Boy in the scuffed shoes uses the free version. I still do, for work. It flags your work for word choice and readability. It’s that polish, that glaze on the donut before you post.

I don’t use them anymore because it felt like they stripped out too much of my style. I don’t mind a run-on sentence now and then. I’m okay with some weak word choice. They both, however, taught me tighter, stronger writing, so thanks, y’all.

Yeah, I do that: I abhor paragraphs more than three lines, but even more, line widows. Newspaper schmucks know what I’m talking about. It’s a single word that breaks over to the next line. There’s always a word to cut and fix that.

Images

EJP
EJP

I hate when I fall in love with a site for creative commons images – and it disappears.

Photopin.com works well, although recent changes make it tougher to concentrate your search.

Now that I’m all smartphoned, I even take a few shots myself (like this one of a stormtrooper manning the corner flag).

Yeah, I do that: I try not to go more than six paragraphs without an image. Remnants of my days in newspaper design.

The quotes

breakfast quoteI get them from brainyquote.com and goodreads.com. I use quotescover.com to create the image to end my posts. They make good images to share on social media.

Yeah, I do that: I look for clean, san serif fonts and complimentary colors. Blackadder ITC in light pink on a mauve background’s not going to work for anyone.

Other rules

  • I always have 11 guest posts scheduled at any time.
  • I choose a six-words prompt the day after a six-words post goes live. If you’re a blogger in my inbox, you’ll get an invite. If I read a post on your blog that month, you’ll get an invite. If you send me an email to ask for the prompt, you’ll get an invite.
  • I’ll never write a non-paid promotional post again. Dollar Shave Club and other companies ask you to write a post and promise tons of social media love. After you’ve posted, you’ll find that your post must first be chosen for love. Feels like someone slipped something into my Coke Zero. And I’m not talking rum.

So there you have it

It’s enough chaos to make a disciplinarian shudder; it’s enough frivolous order to rankle the ENFP side of me. It works, though.

At least on a meager dad/food/thinker blog like this one.

quote about writing

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35 thoughts on “The Wacky Ass Way I Do My Writing”

  1. How did I not know about Trello?!! I think you know what I am now going to be doing today at some point now. Seriously though thanks for the shoutout here and I love the way your writing mind works 😉

    1. Trello’s the bomb, Janine. I think you’ll love it. And someday I’ll write again on a topic you’ve inspired in your work, from the post I mentioned here.

      Whenever the universe calls me to.

  2. You’re WAY more organized in your blog writing than I am! I tend to be more spur of the moment. I guess that comes from my original ‘thing a day’ blog, where I’d document each activity before I went to bed for the night.

    1. If only the rest of my life had such structure. I do like the spontaneity in blogging, and sometimes I’ll ignore schedule and go with my heart.

      How’d that “thing a day” blog work for you?

      1. Great! I completed something new every day (and blogged about) for the year leading up to turning 50. Instead of dreading the milestone my project helped me relish it.

  3. I’m impressed you have things planned out so far in advance… I have a calendar set up as a guideline, but I like to leave some wiggle room for when the universe says, “here’s a better idea for a post.”

  4. Fascinating look at your process! Truly love your wit and your style. I am a bit rebellious myself. I love people’s images on THEIR blogs but I stubbornly refuse them on mine. Just because standard advice says to have them.Yes, I know this is likely shooting myself in the foot. Lol. I occasionally plan certain posts, especially around holidays and such, but, mostly, my posts come from a naggy thought that won’t shut up. And I so couldn’t use any grammar or sentence structure helpers. I would drive them nuts with fragments and made-up words. 🙂

    1. Thanks! Glad you like what goes on over here. The cool thing about blogging is that you’re the design lead and editor.

      If you want something on your blog, you can add it. If you don’t, it’s your call. Blogging is loaded with personality and it ought to be conversational, in your voice and in your style – sentence length and grammar be damned.

  5. Always fun to read about someone else’s process. Love how you are able to think ahead so well in terms of future posts! And I agree with you, in terms of blog posts, short paragraphs are key.

    1. It’s mayhem, sometimes. A cool part about keeping an idea on the shelf a while is that time and life add to it.

      I even aim for short paragraphs in comments. Blame it on the ADD. But I think it works!

  6. What a fantastic and helpful post, Eli! Thank you soooo much. I loved having a peek into your writing process and plan to steal shamelessly. I didn’t even know about writing apps! Well, unless Gramerly for Word counts. I love that thing!
    You continue to amaze and inspire me. Thank you Eli!

    1. Thanks Michelle! Glad you got something out of it. After I wrote it, I wondered how much help it actually could be.

      Writing apps are great for keeping your words concise and strong. They helped me remember where to cut the fluff and make the rest of the words pop better.

      I’ve heard of Gramerly, but when it wasn’t free, the conversation ended. I’m all about the free apps.

      I’m humbled by your words. I’m just a dude with a blog who can keep his fingers (mostly) on the home keys.

  7. Des actually ate three bowls of rice today – and they all had spinach and mashed chickpeas. I think he’s Popeye. I won’t eat spinach.. nearly at all. Maybe in Italian Wedding Soup.
    I don’t do posts randomly but they often go hand in hand with the photos I’m editing – whether current or from eight months ago.

    1. Woah! Was he being punished? I kid, I kid. Life is different in your country for kids. What else is in Italian Wedding Soup? That would determine whether I could eat them.

      I like to see springtime pics in your fall posts, and the other way around, too. Makes you crave the season.

  8. Thanks for the insight into your writing process. And for the info about Trello. Organization and planning – actually the lack thereof – is my achilles heel.

  9. I always wondered how you picked your six words invitees!

    As a former high school year book editor, I know all about those line widows. I also have a love for short paragraphs, although I don’t always make them short enough.

    1. There’s the science to it, Ginny. Line widows were an easy way to trim inches on news stories, too, back in the day.

      Paragraphs on my old posts were not always so short – and neither were my sentences! I cringe sometimes when I see what I used to do.

  10. I am duly impressed – I could never be that organized – even when I know I should be organized. Planned chaos is always better than unplanned chaos, if you have to have chaos. I love the six word prompts – they are a hoot and a great way to see and read other bloggers. have a great week!

    1. If only I could organize my work bag this way. Why can’t I? This plan always leaves room for unplanned chaos, too.

      Glad you dig the six-words prompts – I’m going to make sure you’ve gotten your invite. It’s tough to keep track!

  11. I needed to read this today; I’ve been on an unplanned break so I like these ideas to help me get my mind-clutter in order and (maybe) start writing again.

  12. Wow. People actually organize their post ideas?
    I do not. I’m more of a whatever strikes my fancy kinda blogger. Perhaps that’s why my readership is so low. 🙂
    As for spinach, I have yet to see it made a way I won’t eat it.
    Popeye (with Robin Williams) is the first movie I remember seeing. I still love it.

    1. Right? If you could see my closet or desk at work you’d not believe it’s the same person who organized his post ideas.

      There’s something to be said about ‘strike my fancy’ blogging, but I do this because I want to challenge myself to answer a prompt – otherwise, this blog would be full of stories of my girls and love letters to pizza.

      Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And readership comes, and readership goes, no matter how much I plan. Or don’t.

      I don’t have the recipe, but I’ve had spinach with bacon and tomatoes with oysters that was heavenly.

      Back when Popeye came out, Brent Premer told our whole class that Robin Williams’ arms were injected with something that made them puff up like that. The thought of it made my arms ache even if I knew better!

  13. I am so haphazard fly by the seat of my pants when the moment strikes.. it’s awful. I need a Plan!! A structure. I say only because I will be talking to someone about something of interest, and they will say “did you blog about that?” and I’m all “um, no – I didn’t.” and then I am hitting myself in the head wondering why? why don’t you blog those thoughts?
    Well, I kinda have figured out the why of that, slowly … and once all that is released maybe I will come out the other side a little less asksdjdklfjfj!!d&$# 🙂

    1. That doesn’t sound awful, Rore. A plan is fine, but there’s something to be said about spontaneity. You just need a notebook to capture those “did you blog about that?” moments.

  14. Gosh,, I’ve never used any editing apps… I didn’t even know about them! I have some scribbles in a book somewhere about ideas… and I have no editorial calendar or any type of organization whatsoever… I write when I am moved to write about whatever moves me. The only time I am forced to program myself, is with a handful of sponsored posts I’ve done, and the book reviews I’ve agreed to do.

    It’s awful. I need to be much better at planning, scheduling, writing. I don’t even know how to schedule FB or Twitter shares…? I just share when- you guessed it. I’m moved to share.

    Talk about the universe leading ya…

    🙂

    And btw- you could write about dog poop, and it would come out with the usual profound wit and creative genius I always find here at your place.

    1. I wonder if I should write a white paper on how to keep ideas rolling for your blog, how to schedule it out, how to give your blog a kickstart, etc.

      The universe isn’t a bad guide to follow, Christine. I think you’re doing pretty awesome as it is.

      And thanks for the compliment … I just searched it. My girls have never asked me about dog poop. Yet.

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