A Four Part Method to Distill A Complex Writing Project

Try this 4-part timed freewriting technique to gain clarity about the essentials of your current writing project

While we may look at the sky and think it is beautiful, we don’t go so far as to show someone else how it looks. One reason may be that we do not care enough about the sky or for other people. But most often I think it is because we have been discouraged into thinking what we feel about the sky is not important.

Brenda Ueland

First, let go of the fear of getting it wrong

Writers face many challenges:

  • Not feeling inspired
  • Being blocked or out of ideas, not knowing what to write
  • Lacking creative confidence or feeling overwhelmed by the competition
  • The big picture muddled by an overly critical writing process
  • Having tight deadlines and high expectations about how much to write and how quickly

I have a suggestion for one thing you can do that will address any/all of these concerns.

Claim your right to abide in clarity and discovery and flow. You have a ticket to the flow state you can redeem as often as you want.

The best way I know is to freewrite. It sounds simple and it is. It’s also remarkably rich. I have done it for years and it continues to impress me with what emerges when I do it, and I do it a lot.

Write without stopping. Don’t go back and make corrections. Hold yourself lightly to constant forward momentum. Trust the process and invite as much joy and play and curiosity as you can muster.

Don’t set any limits on how much is possible. The next half hour can be a complete game-changer for you if you want it badly enough.

Take the next half hour to

1 . Blurt [1 minute]

Take a minute to blurt out what your project is about. What do you want it to be? What is coming up for you right now? Think of this as a really shitty outline. The lousiest, laziest outline imaginable. If your blurted outline takes the appearance of a pile of driftwood, you earn yourself an A for this step.

2 . Grow [5 minutes]

Briefly look back through what you wrote — if you want. Remember the best parts and the high points. Forget all about it if you want.

Take what you know about your project and make it bigger. Let this material come in any order.

What now occurs to you that wasn’t mentioned in the first phase?

What missing pieces can you shed some light on? If you had a magic wand, what would you want to see more of?

Can you give a complete overview of what you’d like to see? Big picture plus specifics?

3 . Map [10 minutes]

Look back through your previous writing and keep in mind the interesting parts. Copy and paste a few sections if you want them.

Now is time to put things in order and fill in more details so that it is all evenly developed. You have only ten minutes for this, so you have to keep things simple, concise, direct, and blunt.

At the end of this ten minutes, you need to have a working outline for your project.

4 . Distill [2 minutes]

Read through your map, noting the parts that resonate most.

Write a concise distillation of the project, a tight and vital summary.

Here’s wishing you all that is good, beautiful, and true–

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