Writing Is Discovering Your Ideas

Yesterday, I sat down to write a post about perfectionism. Being a recovering perfectionist, I have some experience with the topic, so I thought the post would write itself.
I was wrong.
After a half an hour of writing, producing three pages longhand, I realized I was rambling, flitting from one topic and story to another. I had started with a fairly clear idea for my post — at least that is what I thought. But I quickly lost track and started off on various tangents.
So I took a break, had some lunch (it was that time), and took a short nap. While staring at the ceiling during my “nap,” I suddenly had an “ah ha” moment. I realized that perfectionism really occupies the two extremes of the revision continuum. Some people do not revise at all, and some writers, such as myself, revise too much. The result is the same: a lack of quality writing being produced.
With my new focus, I wrote the post in about twenty minutes. I had an extensive outline of points I wanted to cover, all thought of while “napping,” but I realized I could leave those other points to another day. I wanted to discuss the “two extremes” idea for my post. It is good that I focused because the post is about 975 words.
As I finished writing the post, happy with my results, I was annoyed at the “wasted” time in the morning with all that rambling. But I realized that I had needed to do that rambling “to clear the pipes,” so to speak. I needed to discover my real ideas about perfectionism. I had to write down several personal stories, only one of which I used in my post. I had to discover my ideas about the topic.
The point is that sometimes we just need to write: write anything, ramble or freewrite, to discover our ideas about a topic. Get on the computer and just start typing about the topic, your ideas about it, your needs for discussing it, and so on.
Mark Twain said it best: “The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time, you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.”
So if you find yourself rambling with a topic, drifting in and out, count that writing as part of your discovery process. Go back and read your writing to see if somewhere embedded in those words is the idea you really need to write about. If all else fails, take a break or take a nap.
Good luck and keep writing.

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