Preparing for flow; ghosted profiles; double-clickeration: Newsletter 10 July 2024

Newsletter 52: why stream of consciousness writing without prep is weak, TikTok #delulu trends, AI can’t do iteration, plus three people to follow and three books to read.

Prep is the key to writing in flow

Some writers are able to write in flow, effortlessly pumping out words, sentences, and paragraphs, as if the ideas in their brains are directly feeding their fingertips. The resulting text is highly readable and fluid, immediately captivating the reader and taking them on a journey to . . .

Hmm. There’s the rub. Where does the journey go?

I’ve edited several writers recently who harnessed flow and generated fluid text that just wasn’t doing what they needed it to do. When you write in flow without a destination — or a map — it’s easy to write yourself into a corner. The flow stops. The corners of the mouth turn down. The writer instantly goes from “Wow, I am a good” to “What the heck, this is hard, I stink.”

You don’t stink. You were writing in flow; good things were happening. You just didn’t prepare properly.

Here’s an analogy. If you’ve ever seen a professional painter at work, you can watch and marvel at the flow. They paint in long, effortless strokes, rapidly and expertly covering large areas.

But as every professional painter knows, the key is the prep work. A painter on a big job might take days to prepare surfaces, patching holes, covering windows and hardware and other things that don’t get painted, and ensuring that when it comes time to apply the paint, everything is ready. Only then can the painter get into a flow and efficiently generate a smooth result.

It is the same for writers. You must prepare properly if your stream of writing is to be effective.

That preparation includes these key elements.

  1. Know who your audience is and what your objective is. Your writing must answer a specific question for the reader. Keep that typical reader — and that question — front and center as you write. Answering that question is the purpose of your writing; everything you write must contribute to that goal.
  2. Assemble your raw materials. Do Web research. Conduct case study and expert interviews. Gather data. The painter in flow knows exactly where their tools and supplies are — so too must you know where your source materials are coming from.
  3. Write a fat outline, assembling the raw materials into a story. Structuring is hard; do it ahead of time.

Now when it comes time to write in flow, you won’t just be typing in a stream of consciousness; you’ll be turning a collection of information into the solution to a problem.

As a writer, you probably don’t suck. But if you don’t write with a plan, you may end up feeling like you do. It’s best to avoid that feeling and go directly to, “Wow, I am a great writer.” Writing in flow feels awesome. And reading something written that way feels pretty good, too.

News for writers and others who think

TikTok released a 2024 Trends report on the activity of its users including those engaging in a delusional and idealistic energy (#delulu, 489,000 posts). This is mostly convincing me that I am insufficiently delusional to understand TikTok.

Jessica Bross, ghostwriter, brags that she is is now ghostwriting dating profiles. It makes perfect sense: ghostwriters assemble information and present it in engaging ways.

In case you were wondering if our computing devices serve us or the reverse, the Wall Street Journal says latest trend is to describe asking for more detail on a topic in a meeting as “double-clicking” it (gift link). Think about how much time you spend on dealing with your tech tools. Then just give in. (Don’t double-click on me, please.)

Rusty Williams points out one of the biggest limitations of AI: it can’t iterate. Even if you ask for a minor change in an image or block of text, it starts over from the beginning again. “Just like this but a little different” is easy for humans, but hard for AI.

Three people to follow

🟦 Susan Rooks 📚 The Grammar Goddess , making correct English both fastidious and fascinating.

Pete Blackshaw , serial CEO, marketing wizard, and Cincinnati enthusiast.

Reineke Reitsma , Netherlands based expert in consumer research and surveys.

Three books to read

Radical Humility: Be a Badass Leader and a Good Human by Urs Koenig (Amplify, 2024). Leadership secrets for being tough on results and tender with people.

Growing Up in Public: Coming of Age in a Digital World by Devorah Heitner (Tarcherperigee, 2023). When it comes to our children using social media, should we choose advice and nurturing over surveillance and regulation?

Pattern Breakers: Why Some Start-Ups Change the Future by Mike Maples, Jr and Peter Ziebelman (Public Affairs, 2024). How big successes start from seemingly crazy ideas.

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