Ideas: What Am I Going to Write About?
I write about spinning. That’s a big part of my job and I feel grateful every day. When I first started getting more writing work I started freaking out about ideas – what am I going to write about?
I think writing about spinning is important, so I wanted to have IDEAS, and write about Big Important Things. When I approached my writing that way it made me feel tired, uninspired and unlikely to get any words on paper. I quickly shifted my thinking and have it down to a more or less 5 step process. I do these in any order and sometimes skip over or merge steps.
1) What am I curious about?
One of the main reasons I write is to learn. If something is knocking on my brain asking me to explore it there’s a good chance that I’m going to find a writing idea there. Especially if this something keeps circling around and kicking me in the shin. It happens a lot when I’m spinning, all of the questions start flowing in, what if I did this differently, why do I have so much trouble with this? I grab onto one or two or ten things that flow in and write them down. Then I keep moving through my process.
2) What are other people curious and excited about?
I don’t intentionally go looking for the questions or ideas that have made me curious, instead I listen to the spinners’ ether. I just keep reading the same blogs, magazines, boards, books that I always do, but now part of my attention is tuned to those idea seeds. It’s amazing to me how those threads always pop up. Everyone is curious, lots of times about the same thing, but not in the same way. This week I got curious about blending boards and I found so many words about different aspects of them – better overall blending of fibers, easier to keep color distinct, faster than handcards, easier than a drum carder, etc.
At some point the idea gets too big or confusing in my mind to write about easily or I start only thinking about one part of the idea and I know it’s time to focus. I distill the idea down like corn into moonshine. Again, it comes down to interest and curiosity, what do I want to know or what sounds fun or interesting? Do I want to do an overview of something or get deep into a single aspect? Thinking about woolen preparation can become an overview of three or four ways to do woolen prep or the difference flat-back or curved-back hand cards make to carding.
I like to think about how it will all look when it’s done. That helps me focus even more. What pictures do I need? What has to be shown, what would be nice to have if there is space. I don’t just think about pictures for this step, I also think about what could stand alone as a sidebar or box. It could be something to emphasize in the article or the answer to a frequently asked question. For an article on buying hand cards it could be Three Things to Think About When Buying Cards or Cotton Cards for Wool?
5) Be true to me
Back when I was trying to write about IDEAS I wanted to sound important too. But I never felt like more of a fraud than when I didn’t sound like myself, whether it was my approach to an idea or the actual words I used. Every spinning writer has their own unique approach and style. You can give four writers the article prompt Rolags for Woolen Spinning and get four very different articles back. Now I know pretty quickly if I’m veering from Jillian-style into Not-Jilian-Style. This has helped me say no to or reconfigure article pitches that really don’t fit my style. I wouldn’t write an article on Carding a Structurally Sound Rolag, but would love to write Carding Rolags for Beautiful Sweater Yarn.
Back to the wheel for me, I have writing deadlines!
Jillian! I totally know what you mean. When I first started writing for Spin Off, I feared using up all my IDEAS too quickly and then I’d have nothing else, fading into obscurity. I entertained that concern before starting the magazine, as well. For about a day. But you’re right, there’s a zillion things to write about regarding spinning. There’s a million themes and countless things that could be written about each one. We’re not going to “use it all up”, are we? Some of my favorite articles have been ones you’ve written that experiment, learning as you go. That’s something I don’t know if people realize, that they don’t have to know a subject inside and out to write about it, articles that teach the writer along with the spinner are so interesting!
Yes! Running out of ideas is a big freak out, but I think they are like our fiber stash, we use a little and then replenish with twice the amount.
I’m so glad you like the those experimenting articles they are my favorite to write!
Hey, Jillian–great piece! It was fantastic to catch up with you about the Borders days during Rhinebeck last fall. I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff in Ply (my favorite spinning magazine) and elsewhere in the future!
I so totally get the whole be true to yourself!
I firmly believe it will show in any kind of writing, if you just go through the motions, or try to be something you are not. I always try to imagine myself talking to friends, when I write. How would I go on about this in a conversation? It helps me focus my words and usually gets the point across much better.
Also: I know the fear of having nothing to say, once you have said it all.. lol SO BEEN THERE with my knitting and my pattern writing. But there will always be ideas in a creative persons mind. There will always be new inspirations around the bend. I have stopped looking at yesterday and I am focusing on right now. RIGHT NOW this pattern makes me happy. RIGHT NOW this is the right yarn to spin, or knit with. This may change tomorrow, and yesterday it would not have been true, but RIGHT NOW is perfect, the way it is. And so are the ideas and the things we care about and what we write about!
Love this blog and it is going on my weekly to read list! <3
I can’t even imagine trying to design and write patterns and am in awe of designers. I think it must take so much skill and talent to come up with new designs all the time. But I guess we feel that way about things that aren’t in our wheelhouse, right? (and even about things that are, sometimes).
I like the right now approach. I’m trying to embrace that more in my life.
Right now is a beautiful way to approach things, if we look back we’ll start going backwards in our thinking and creating.
Great list Jillian! I especially relate to “Step 3. Distill,” but I call it “percolate” in my little ol’ brain. I usually write-up general thoughts, an outline or even an opening paragraph and then walk away from the piece for a few days to let it filter through and work itself out. During that time, I take Bridgett’s advice and have conversations in my head about the topic. Once my imaginary audience is thoroughly entertained, I know it’s time to write 🙂
I find other writers’ processes fascinating; thanks for the insight!
Great post. Loved the analogy of four writers, four different articles from the same prompt.
First off you know we all love fibre or we wouldn’t be reading this so you already have something we are interested in. We love visuals. Be true to yourself, genuine passion comes thru in your writing. Yes articles on blending boards DH bought me one for my birthday:-)
Keep the articles coming:-)
This is such a good reminder. I want to write but whenever I thought about it I froze because I thought it wouldn’t be big enough and then where would I go from there. But just like knitting/crocheting/spinning there is always something to learn and one thing leads to another. Work makes work for every craft, writing too.