I’m big on the idea of removing “friction” from my life. Friction, if you haven’t heard me talk about it before, is anything that gets in the way of, or prevents us from reaching, a goal. If your goal is to log forty hours of client work each week, having World of Warcraft installed on your work computer might be a source of friction. If you run a restaurant and want to serve the most customers each day, unlocking your doors five minutes late every morning is a source of friction. Any place I can find friction, and remove it, is an area of my life or business that I can push closer to my goals. So naturally, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to smooth my processes and methods for doing things. And my writing time is no different. Over the years I have gathered a number of helpful tips for making the writing process as smooth and frictionless as possible. And it works – I published two novels in 2011 alone, and have multiple open projects in the works right now. So let me share with you the lessons I have learned over the years.
The mind is the womb where ideas are conceived, but they need to make an exit at some point in order to reach maturity. And if you are anything like me, you are hit with hundreds of great thoughts and ideas each and every day. Solutions to problems that have been bugging you for weeks. Story ideas. Phrases that say exactly what you need to communicate. Tasks that need to be completed. you name it, our brains spit out all manner of ideas all day long.
The key here is to capture what your mind creates. But you have a few obstacles between the thought and the captured idea:
Time: The more extended the time between conceiving of the idea and capturing it in some form, the higher the probability you will forget or misrepresent the idea.
Tools: The harder it is to get to your “capture tool”, be it a mobile app, a piece of paper or a digital voice recorder, the less likely it will be that you will remember what it was you were going to capture.
These two obstacles make it difficult for me to recommend one true and trued method for capturing your ideas. This means you have to figure it out for yourself. Look at your work environment, or the places you spend the most time each day. What would the easiest solution be to getting your thoughts captured in the shortest amount of time? Many people prefer to have a stack of index cards or scraps of paper on their desk, but maybe you don’t spend a lot of time at a desk. Perhaps you drive a lot, or spend the day chasing children and preventing the destruction of your living room. For you, the solution might be found in a simple app for your mobile phone.
But this brings the second obstacle to mind: tools. If that app is in a folder, and positioned four pages back in your phone’s home screen, it will probably take you a moment to find it and open it. Put the app in the most useful place possible. If you are an iPhone owner, that might be the Dock at the bottom of your phone’s screen.
You also need to pick the right apps though. Some open slowly, while some open up to lists of notes or a splash screen first. Find a capture tool that opens right into the capture function. Removing steps, and seconds, will remove friction.
You can capture all the ideas, solutions and tasks that you want, and become a pro at it in the process. But until you start to do something with your ideas, you’re just making lists and piles. So, managing these things is a big key to a smooth, frictionless writing process. And my years as a writer (fantasy novels are four parts planning and one part writing, so I’ve really been doing this for about 15 years) have taught me a few tricks:
Organize: Get yourself a binder of some kind, and break your writing into projects. Maybe you write short stories. Sort your binder by story. If you write long narrative novels, you might consider giving sections to items like characters, terminology, timelines, and backstory. Sort your writing into categories, and then put a few blank pages at the start of each section in the binder. At the end of a day, or week, of capturing ideas and inspiration, open up your binder and transcribe all of those items onto the blank pages at the start of the appropriate section.
Save: Some ideas aren’t ready for prime time yet, but you have to capture them when they pop into your mind. Find a system for saving your ideas that is fool-proof and timeless. Storing them digitally in a system such as Dropbox, Evernote or Simplenote will have invisible, seamless backups taking place in the background. No writer wants to lose a decade of inspiring ideas and plans to a hard drive crash or house fire.
I think many writers let ideas die because they don’t care. I know, that’s a bit harsh. But honestly, life can get in the way of even the noblest of passions. Married couples who love each other dearly can look up one day and find that twenty years have flown by while they raised their kids. Life happens.
So after finding the best method for capturing your ideas, and building the right system for managing all of it, the final key is to install a sense of urgency and priority around our ideas. To grow as a writer, it is important to write. And it is easier to sit down to write with a nicely collected tome of ideas and sketches than it is when you can’t remember the great ideas you know you’ve lost.
Make this important. Build it into your DNA. Fight for your creations and pour effort into getting better at it. Capture, manage and prioritize those ideas, or else the friction in life will drag you down and hold you back. That’s the best advice I can give anyone wanting to write more, write better and write frictionless.