Let's say you went to the gym to work with a trainer and you asked, "How long are we going to go at this?"
The trainer says, "We're going to go until you're ready to quit."
Ugh. How miserable would that be?
Yet when we write, that's exactly what most of us do: we start writing and just go until we can't stand it anymore.
Here's a more productive approach: set a timer. Work for 20 minutes. Or a half hour. Or ten minutes. Or do two pages. Whatever it is, set a goal up front. That way you'll get what human beings need when they work, the satisfaction of finishing.
Don't work without a clear and reachable destination. Set a goal -- of time, words, or pages.
When you hire somebody to remodel your house, this is how it goes: they know a lot about what will and won't work but you know what you want and, in the end, they give you what you ask for. No professional contractor ever said, "I put the window here even though you didn't want it because that's where I like windows." It's the same when you write a speech, op-ed, or anything else in collaboration with your client. Your expert counsel is required but in the end it's your job to give them what they ask for. Write for them, not for yourself. Put your ego aside. You'll get more clients, and the clients you get will be a lot happier.
We were on the receiving end of an angry review of a speech we'd co-written. The client rattled off problem after problem, even phrase after phrase, complaining about what he thought was wrong. I steeled myself for an all-nighter.
"Nah, I got this. Half-hour, tops. Go home," said my writing partner, a former White House speechwriter with years of experience on me.
"But he just gave us 20 minutes of complaints!" I said.
"And I wrote down every one," said my partner. "He told us words and stories he didn't like, he wants a new opening and closing, and he didn't like the quote in the middle. This is mechanical. I can fix it in a half-hour."
And he did. And the client called the next day to praise us to the skies.
When your writing client complains, write down the specifics. When the client is vague, press them for specifics. Then take out exactly what they don't like and put in something else. Usually they'll tell you down to the word -- if you're paying attention.
Don't spend hours...
Number One: When you have an idea, write it down. Text it to yourself or use an app, whatever, but don't let it slip, because you won't remember it later. Start doing this and you'll build a personal library of original ideas, and you need that because creativity doesn't come on command.
Want my other two creativity ideas? Click through below to read this week's newsletter -- it's free! (But I hope you'll subscribe while you're there.) Here's the link: https://us6.campaign-archive.com/?u=0609fcd33c658d02090de606f&id=7f32d19320