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!