I got to spend quite a bit of time with Chris leading up to and during Wordcamp Atlanta a few weeks ago and I quickly realized how much I like the way he thinks.
This might be an odd thing to say about another person, but it’s true, I really appreciate his perspective. His desire for clarity and his overall longing to be an excellent communicator is evident when you speak with him. He’s also pretty darn clever too, which never hurts.
Our conversation centered around Chris’ approach to writing and the ever elusive unicorn that is inspiration, while touching on other related topics and ideas. You can read the highlights from this conversation after the jump.
What Is The Reasoning Behind Your Methodical Approach To Writing?
Miscommunication is my enemy and when I write I place a high value on saying one thing simply. This plays a big factor in my professional life as a product manager where my goal is to be able to explain technical concepts with equal parts clarity and brevity. I want to be clear and concise; clarity and brevity are the pinnacle of communication..
How Does This Affect Your Writing Process?
I start with one concept and then I brain dump a ton of words to describe that one thing in many ways. Once all the cards are out on the table I’m better able to choose which word, or group of words, I want to use to make my point.
For example, I often write the same thing three different ways, compare them to each other and choose which way is the best way to articulate exactly what I want to say. This doesn’t always guarantee clarity and brevity in my writing, but it is a great exercise and over time I’ve found myself “getting it right” with less and less rework.
What comes first for you, the title or the body?
75% of the time the title comes from the body. 25% of the time the title comes first and the post is born out of that. I’m a fan of great titles, ones that show personality and prepare the reader for what is written, without giving too much a way.
What Specific Ways, If Any, Do You Gain Inspiration For Writing?
I collect ideas throughout my week and write them on notecards.
Anything that tweaks my emotions is good source material because I feel like it has a better chance at appealling to all the other yahoos out there cursed with emotions. I have it on record that this represents a significant portion of the population. Most of my inspiration comes through conversations and the experiences I live through.
How Have You Dealt With Writers Block?
Because I’m always collecting ideas, I have roughly 60 draft concepts available at any given time. If I’m feeling uninspired I can go back and read those draft concepts and drudge up feelings about those ideas and from that inspiration usually forms.
How Much Discipline Goes Into Inspiration And Writing?
There’s an old saying, you make your own luck. I believe you make your own inspiration. Inspiration doesn’t happen to you, you happen to inspiration. We are more responsible for creating inspiration than we think we are.
I think of Inspiration like a matchstick. If I give up after three strikes of phosphorous against box, I may never know that the match would light after 10. In fact, the first 9 scratches may have been critical in preparing, scoring, grinding down and ulrimately unlocking the success found in strike number 10.
Have You Found That There Is A Better Place And Time To Put Word To Screen?
I have to make a commitment and find a deadline. I’m more committed to people than writing so I’ll often agree to write for people or causes that I believe in.
Once I have that deadline I can more easily get motivated to start writing. Some of the things I’m most proud of were in response to a schedule and a promise. Yes, sometimes inspiration strikes and I write something amazing out of the blue, but not usually.