Work is capturing your brain farts

It’s neither rocket science, nor magic.

You put your butt in the chair.

You pick a task.

Today, my task was to write titles and headlines.

I didn’t write anything longer than a sentence. Sometimes I’d write a second sentence under the title, but only one, because the goal was to get down as many ideas as I could.

That was my afternoon session. About three hours of writing things like In defense of small talk and Inscriptions found in Don Lemon’s high school yearbook.

Will I write any of these?

Eventually.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

The key thing to remember is that there’s a really high burn rate. Okay, that sounds like science. Sorry. But it’s just a fancy way of saying, throw a lot of shit at the wall and see what sticks.

I do this for clients all the time, but it’s applicable to any kind of writing.

Here’s how it works for clients in easy-to-chew listicle form.

If I want to deliver ten good ideas, I try and generate as many lousy ones as I can. There’s no limit here. You go big on lousy, or you go home.

So now you have maybe fifty or so brain farts. Time to pick the best ten to send to the client. The winners are the ones where you see what the project will look like when it’s done, although usually it ends up being a little (or totally) different.

The client picks two or three titles for me to turn into pitches. The pitches are maybe five sentences, or less. Usually there are bullet points. It’s basically a sketch of what the thing I’m writing could look like.

Finally, we pick one to write! Ok, I’m using the royal we there. The client picks, at least in ghostwriting. But now we have one, so the writing can begin. Hurrah!

But what about those fifty or sixty brain farts?

If they were for a client, they’re probably dead. Kill your darlings is the name of the game. Except in ghostwriting, then you’re killing someone else’s darlings.

If they’re for me, I keep them. I never know which one I’ll pick when the choice is up to me, and me alone, so it’s good to have options. Lots of options.

So I get those brain farts down. I scribble them on legal pads. I put them on index cards. I type them into Word and Google Docs. Doesn’t matter matter where you put those brain farts, just as long as you put them somewhere.

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